(Gene is a fellow agoraphobe who will be reporting in from time to time on his long struggle and his recent successes)
Going Far With the Right Connections
Rack up another victory in the travel log! (FWIW I keep a journal of my trips for several reasons: it’s a tangible record of my successes, thoughts and feelings; it inspires me to keep up the momentum of my exposure therapy; and it serves to remind me, when I get discouraged, that I am making progress, however fitfully, towards freedom from unfounded fear.)
To continue . . . am back home from my latest “road work” today and thought I’d share a few insights on the subject of connection in the hope you find them helpful in your own journeys.
I can distinguish between three kinds of connection in this regard. (BTW now I know why Hal stresses “connection, connection, connection is so important” in his book! The first kind of connection has to do with staying connected to your physical surroundings while you’re traveling. Why is this critical–and potentially even curative? Because observing and studying your surroundings in an objective way, taking in and enjoying or at least experiencing the passing scenery and your place in it, greatly helps to ground you (literally!) in the here and now. And why is this important? Well, for one thing, for me the feeling of being dangerously “way out here” arises from the belief I’m disconnected from my source of perceived safety “back there.” Thus my mind, courtesy of the Amygdala & Co. outfit in my brain, wants to fixate on getting me back home, back to the comfy Land of the Familiar. Replacing or eclipsing that location with the current view in front of me–be it persons or places of interest–helps to anchor me in objective reality while at the same time disconnecting me from the unreality (that is, the delusion) inherent in aggie. In other words, paying attention to my suroundings turns my mind towards what is really real, as opposed to what only FEELS real–that crazy aggie fear.
The second kind of connection, intimately related to the first kind, is staying connected in a time sense. It is practicing being wholly present in the holy present. More and more I find it’s an effective antidote to the “what-if” bug that spawns so much of the futurizing and attendant catastrophizing that plagues us agoraphobes. “What is happening right now?” “Am I alive and breathing and functioning OK right now?” “Right now, am I in danger or just in discomfort?” “Am I remembering to recite my affirmations to myself, stay loose, stay distracted, and breathe properly in time to defuse any mounting anxiety or at least ride out a panic attack?” I think these are the kind of questions that we need to ask ourselves and keep asking ourselves every so often as we’re traveling.
The third kind of connection I can see is connection to one’s self. Each victory increases my self-confidence, which increases my self-esteem, which further increases my self-confidence . . . in a virtuous circle. The more self-confidence I exhibit in my willingness and ability to do the work of recovery (via exposure therapy) the better I feel about myself and the stronger and freer I become. And the closer I get to uncovering the real me, the person presently “behind bars,” so to speak, imprisoned by fear. For me this person is–or has been–a frustrated world traveler and explorer. An intelligent risk-taker, a curious discoverer, a confident adventurer. It’s the me who growls, “My brain got me into this mess in the first place (for whatever reasons of self-protection) and it can just as well get me out of it!” Amen to that.
So connection to the environment we’re in or traveling through, connection to the here and now, and connection to our real self are some of the “right connections” that can help us to move forward in our quest to live an aggie-free life.