Love & Anxiety: Part one
It is no wonder that sometimes love & anxiety can walk hand in hand, like two very different people on a bad blind date. Emotions related to early attachment (how much and well we were loved by our first caretakers), and the amygdala, that tiny group of nuclei in the brain- sometimes referred to as the brain’s smoke detector, both reside snugly in the limbic system.
Love can send us spiraling into intense anxiety (ask a teenager on a first date, or someone unlucky enough to be insecurely attached). Or love can bring us back to bliss, and the body sensations of safety and relaxation from a place of frightened fear. The following three things swing the moment-by-moment pendulum that determines whether love causes us anxiety, or whether love calms our anxiety: Where we focus our attention, our early attachment history, and any subsequent traumas we may have endured.
Love is more powerful than anxiety; watch any loving mother with a hurt and terrified child. The message of peace the mother’s touch and her love send into that child’s body, eventually triumphs over the child’s state of fragmenting fear and he calms down. However, experiencing too much anxiety, can block out the messages love sends: Like an abused child meeting a teacher who tries to be kind and care for her. The child will often be so suspicious, her anxiety becomes a fog of fear blotting out the teacher’s messages of love, the way a dense fog covers the sun.
If love causes you a lot of anxiety, you can do some research on your attachment style. Diane Poole Heller has a wonderful website to help people learn about this subject. Many well-trained therapists also understand attachment issues, and can give you some guidance. If you have trouble loving others or being loved, you may have experienced a traumatic event(s) that has twisted your previously safe worldview into a view from a funhouse mirror. Love then, feels terrifying, or insubstantial and unable to reach your heart.
So how do we use our ability to love and be loved, to blow away the messages of fear and anxiety that have been programmed in many of our brains, like messages from a crazy radio station? Stay tuned to the next blog for some answers….
- How do love and anxiety interact in your own life? Are you aware of the ways your past history of love impacts your current love relationships? If so, write down what you notice.
- Think about some ways in which your loving relationships can help you counter or decrease anxiety when it hits.
Evict the anxiety from your life. Join one of my 3 wk Anxiety Reduction workshops. See http://www.sdtraumatherapy.com for details. Mention this blog when you sign up and receive a 10% discount.