Coping With Anxiety

If the following defence mechanisms are used too often or even incorrectly, the anxiety defence can turn into the opposite, against ourselves, and intensify our fear. It is therefore important that we use it in a targeted way and make sure that we have the fear that we are trying to overcome. According to psychologist Verena Kast, this wrong use would first lead to anxiety disorders, phobias and depression.

When we are afraid, it is mostly about losses and failures that we fear, especially when the cause or the person is close to our hearts, important to us, plays an important role for our well-being. There are often worries about the future, what it will look like, if… what would change, if… what we would lose. Everything that seems valuable to us right now threatens to go.

This fear of loss goes hand in hand with separation, a feared surgical cut for which we are not prepared, for which we believe we have no answer. In this victim role we lose our connection to ourselves, our identity is lost with it, and the thought that we are motionless, that we can only watch powerless causes fear.

According to Kast, anxiety management, a defense mechanism, also sets in immediately with the anxiety that occurs. The most important coping mechanisms are :

Distance: When we pull ourselves out of fear by means of distance, we usually say sentences like: “Calm down! Relax! Breathe calmly! First come to rest and think!” This relaxes the body and works against the physical fear reaction. By this reduction of the symptoms we are then able to distance ourselves from the fearful situation. We look at things from a different angle, with distance.

Rationalize: We often associate distance with rationalisation: You don’t have to be afraid, you shouldn’t be so afraid, you should calm down and not go crazy right now… If you take the opportunity to do something about your fear yourself through too many worries, we usually “get” someone else, be it just for advice or for a responsibility that we can’t bear right now.

This person then undoubtedly becomes the saviour in need, and although we would never have confronted the person with this or that situation before, or that person was never more energetic than we, we entrust ourselves to the one with our circumstance. Rationalizing also means analyzing a circumstance that is filled with fear. The point is that we no longer want to feel fear.

Projection: If a fear is not tangible and we cannot say exactly what we are afraid of, we often unconsciously reach for the projection and project our fear onto someone else. If we are afraid of a relationship, we usually hear ourselves say that he/she doesn’t love us anyway. Professionally, we focus on colleagues who “mob us” and only want bad things.

The private money problems are projected on the landlord or someone else. Thus one has on the one hand an anxiety existence authorization. On the other hand we make our fear plastic and easier to handle. If we can name the fear, we can cope with it more easily. For Kast the difficulty is that you can look at yourself and stand by your fears instead of putting all your weight on someone else. The real fear comes from yourself.

Devaluation: If a possible devaluation makes us afraid or we fear that we will experience a loss, we often devalue the situation or the person. We then say that the person with whom we have applied has little knowledge anyway or the potential employer would have paid poorly anyway or the sought-after partner would be this and that anyway, which one could not live with.

Psychotropic drugs: Drugs that reduce anxiety are also part of a defense mechanism.

When circumventing fear, it is especially important that hope, inspiration and joy are considered as the opposite pole of fear. Fear would be accompanied by an entire emotional field consisting of tension, fear, panic, anxiety, sorrow, anger, aggression and rage.

Especially the last two go hand in hand with a frequent fear defence, only in the sense of attack through aggression and anger. But if this is only directed against oneself – so anger and aggression is only in our head and does not come to the place where it should / belongs – the reversal or the wrong use of anxiety management takes place.

Anxiety and panic attacks

Fear has many causes. On the one hand there is anxiety about physical symptoms such as angina pectoris, heart attack, accelerated pulse and others.

However, fear usually has a psychological aspect.

Fear itself is basically a reaction of our autonomous nervous system (subconscious). This means that if our autonomous nervous system becomes insecure or suspects danger, biological processes are set in motion. The body releases stress hormones that make us feel fear.

Fear is therefore a chemical reaction that triggers feelings of powerlessness and helplessness in our bodies. Since one has usually never learnt how to deal with such stress situations, panic arises in the next stage. Panic or panic attacks are a very fast rising fear, which could not be understood or solved. Panic attacks only occur when the body imagines to die at any moment.

Therefore, it is important and essential to understand that fear only becomes a problem if a person has never learned and understood that it is a biochemical process that arises and continues to occur due to unconsciousness.

One example:

If a person has learned that fear brings with it physical sensations, such as pressure in the stomach area, nausea, pressure on the chest, flat and fast breathing, lump in the throat, etc., then he will identify these symptoms and understand that his body now obviously suffers from fear.

If you were to open your eyes particularly wide to see if this fear is justified and realistic, such as when you are standing on train tracks and a train is approaching, it would have been worth taking your fear seriously and walking to your side.

But if there really is no external danger, you have to realize that this fear runs in the subconscious.

This means that our subconscious has discovered something that it considers to be real and life-threatening, and is now starting physical processes such as the release of stress hormones. Whether it’s fear of a test, fear of a presentation, or fear that suddenly arises in a quarrel or after a quarrel is irrelevant, because our autonomous nervous system assumes a real danger, and will start at least one of the three mechanisms that are only feasible in such a situation.

These mechanisms are controlled by the brain stem (reptile brain).

These are autonomous reactions such as fleeing, attacking or freezing.

Once one has understood that these are unconscious autonomous reactions of the body that are totally unrealistic and exaggerated, that one knows one’s anxiety symptoms and is no longer misled by them, one has the possibility to intervene immediately:

A controlled respiration (deeper conscious respiration) immediately informs the organism that it is taking command and that it can stop the stress. Very helpful as a crisis intervention!

Of course it is important to understand that these fears are caused by old injuries in the past. If one wants to be fear-free or to be able to handle fear better, these fears have to be worked up and solved in a therapy.

As written above, panic attacks only occur when the underlying fear has not been taken seriously or the underlying trauma is very strong.

Panic attacks always mean an unconscious, strong trauma and fears that have not yet been resolved.

Persistent anxiety inevitably leads to illness.