Worry About The Unknown

Wonderful website. Thank you for taking the time to put it together. I have a problem I call "worried limbic system". I'm often anxious without knowing why. It seems like my limbic system is always worried about some terribly painful situation that lies in my future, but which is presently unknown. I wonder if you could offer any advice to help reassure my limbic system that everything is going to be fine and no matter what happens in the future, no matter how horrible, it will all work out in the end and everything will be fine.

thank you,

Erik

Erik,

Your “worried limbic system” is an overactive amygdala, which is repeatedly triggering fear messages. Inherited memories (a fear of snakes), acquired memories (your painful worry experiences) and the unknown are the customary system triggers for fear.

You experienced fear at some point in life, without discovering the cause of it. The amygdala triggers fear for any disturbing event, (a loud sound) with an unknown cause. Your RB (rational brain) searched for the cause and came up with nothing. Unfortunately, the amygdala then acquired a new fear of the unknown.

Whenever the fear emotion is triggered, your RB searches for the cause to take evasive action. When the cause is unknown, the amygdala heightens the fear. That is a nasty experience. So, now you have a painful fear experience to be feared. Over time, LTP creates a rising spiral of fear.

You can halt this painful subconscious cycle. When you feel the fear coming on, your RB should focus on its symptoms and identify them as mere physical sensations. With a little practice you will be able to stop your RB from searching for the “cause” of it. There is no “cause.” It is just an LTP circuit in your amygdala, which is misbehaving. After a few successes in identifying the physical symptoms, your “worried limbic system” will shut down.

You will also need to work on your fear of the future. Life throws us all kinds of things. It will never be “fine” all the time. What you need is the ability to face whatever comes, without a sinking feeling. Your goal should be to be calm and composed, whatever happens. Work on getting rid of your fear and you will reach there.

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NEED MORE?

For my peace of mind, I earmarked 20 minutes for meditation on the terrace. With my eyes closed, I sense my hands on the chair and feel the numbness in my feet.

I feel my breath flowing through my nose, my throat, my chest and my stomach. I can hear the chirping of birds, the phut phut of auto rickshaws, the occasional roar of a truck and the insistent hooting of horns.

When I open my eyes, I see a pale moon over two hundred thousand miles away. I see the nuclear fires, blazing for millions of years in the pale globe of the setting sun. A star millions of miles away in space.

I can see green shoots coming up on a tree, watch the dives and swoops of birds, the great circles of the hawks and flocks of birds flying home for the night.

Diffused light from the sun reflects off a parrot on the tree and enters my eye through a pinhole opening. I sense the bustling mood of the bird, even though it is smaller than a drop of water in my eyes.

All these things are seen and felt by me in a few brief minutes. In the distance, is the head of a man seeming to be no bigger than a pea. Yet, that head too sees and feels such things. Ten million people in this great city see and feel in ten million ways.

My mind wanders to a misty view of postwar London; an exciting glimpse of Disneyland. An awed view of Tiananmen Square. The looming Himalayan ranges. My mind takes me to distant galaxies.

It carries me into the heart of millions of invisible neurons, where electrical charges flash thousands of times a second powering my contemplation. I see the campaigns of Julius Caesar and Alexander. I feel the longings of Jehangir.

Already my mind has taken me to palaces, battlefields and even the stars. And yet, the 20 minutes hang heavily on me. If I lost everything, but can just see and feel, in just a few brief minutes, my mind can travel the world, or imagine the cosmos.

Life has already blessed me with over twenty million waking minutes. I have an infinity of time on my hands. Have I a right to expect more from life?

COMMENT:
I really loved the self improvement plan post. Its great food for 
thought and the steps are actually actionable as compared to many other self help sites out there.
Joe Glen USA.

COMMENT:
As a clinical therapist, I have found your site very useful!
I love it. ...
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