Have you done any of these things?
This guy isn’t good for me, so I’ll just decide not to develop feelings for him. Easy!
I want to lose weight so I will just stop eating anything that isn’t healthy. What a cinch!
I am terrified of public speaking but I don’t mind that I have to give a presentation to the executives next week. I’ll be fine!
Today I’m going to stop smoking. I know it’s not good for me so I’ll quit immediately and never think of it again. Totally effortless!
That co-worker is constantly talking behind my back, but does it make me angry? Heck no! I ignore her. It’s so straightforward.
When feeling a panic attack coming, I will just merely tell myself to calm down and it will disappear. So simple!
OH PLEASE! NONE OF THIS EVER HAPPENS. This list could go on and on. But let’s be real for a minute.
If you could use your logical brain to control your emotions and triggers you would have done it already.
When there are things hiding in your subconscious basement, they are always there and they do not like the dark. They remind you every chance they get that they might be out of sight, but they are definitely not out of mind.
I’m going to be very vulnerable here for a minute and tell a story of how this played out in my life a few years ago. Let me set the scene.
It was September 2010, and my husband and I were in Las Vegas on our first vacation in 2 years. My kids were 4 and 1 at the time and I was looking forward to being off duty for 4 days to take a breather and recharge. This was my intended schedule:
1. Sit on a lounge chair with a margarita and a book and work on my tan.
2. Repeat margarita. Continue reading book.
3. Go out to dinner at a ridiculously priced restaurant, eating food I never get at home.
4. Order dessert.
5. Put $20 in a slot machine.
6. People watch for hours while we wander around and/or go to a show.
7. Repeat steps 1-6 the next day.
Pretty simple itinerary, or so I thought. On day 2, somewhere between step 3 and 4, something went horribly wrong. Whatever happened in that in-between time affected my life for the next THREE YEARS.
We’re all dressed up and out to dinner at this fancy Asian restaurant. (After how pivotal this meal would turn out to be, you’d think I’d remember the name, but I don’t.) We’re having a great time with our friends, eating, laughing, just enjoying our time as couples. Our drinks were colourful with little umbrellas and the apps were exotic and delicious. We are super excited for our dinner to come and what the night would bring.
Then, all of a sudden, I didn’t feel so great. It started with “stomach issues” though it came with a foreboding feeling. Thinking I just ate something that didn’t agree with me, I tried to ignore it, but it would not be ignored. (And no, this wasn’t after a day of drinking – I know you were thinking it! <wink>) We had to leave.
We take the first taxi we can find, and I spend the whole time in the back of the taxi hunched over the take-out bag jammed between my legs. I’m using every ounce of energy to not get sick in the taxi, and let me tell you, that was the longest 10-minute taxi ride of my life. Perhaps too much info, but once in my room, I went back and forth from bed to bathroom. I had no idea what was happening. I’m still attributing this to bad food at this point – though not a single other person who we were with was sick. Red flag #1.
So, the next morning comes. I get up. I feel “off” but at this point, I’m thinking that it’s just because I’m hungry. I decide that I need a coffee, maybe a muffin and a lounge chair pool-side. I pick at the muffin, take only sips of the coffee and nap frequently on that chair. Red flag #2.
By this point, my husband is gently asking me what the plan for the evening is. Dinner? Go to a show? Am I feeling ok? What’s happening? FOLKS, this was my first kid-free vacation in 2 years and I was not letting the “off” feeling beat me. I decide that I’m going to “will” myself better and that I’ll be fine for the evening festivities. (The irony that I thought I could “will” myself better at this point is not lost on me now…) We land on dinner at an Italian place followed by a Pen and Teller show. Tickets were purchased. Reservations were made.
Cue restaurant two…
My hubby and I sit down to dinner in this nice Italian restaurant. We each order a glass of wine (I skipped the margarita pool-side that day, sadly). I’m perusing the menu. I pick something and order it – not overly enthused because I’m still a little “off”. Suddenly, “it” came back. With a vengeance. I head to the washroom. This time I’m sitting on the lid of the toilet trying to breathe. I feel sick. My heart is racing and now someone is knocking on the door to the washroom because THERE IS ONLY ONE STALL!!! [Side note: If you’ve never been to Vegas, you might not know that many times the restaurants are kind of built in seamlessly with the casino so if you need a washroom, you often have to leave the restaurant and find one in the casino. TERRIBLE IDEA.]
Now I’m feeling sick and trying to collect myself while also trying not to be embarrassed that I’ve been taking the washroom hostage for the past 10 minutes. My poor husband is still at the table wondering what the heck happened to me.
I barely pull myself together and walk back to the table. I say to him, “We have to go. I can’t stay in here. I need out of here.” Now I have the second take-out bag in two evenings and it’s quite clear that there is no way I can go to that show. I have no idea what the heck is wrong with me, but it’s back to the hotel for repeat of the previous night. Red flag #3
Perhaps by this point, it’s obvious to you, the reader, that I was having a panic attack, but having never had one in my life, I didn’t know that’s what it was. I had no idea what brought it on, or what was happening to me, but it pretty much ruined the rest of my vacation. On the plane home I was stressed that I was going to be sick or worse. I think we can all agree that having “stomach issues” on a packed airplane is NOT an ideal situation. I took a big dose of Gravol and tried to sleep on the plane. I was exhausted. And to this day, I still want to haunt the people who sat 2 rows behind me with a mountain of Coney dogs…<barf> Coney dog smell and feeling sick DO NOT MIX.
In case you thought this is where the story ended and I get to my point, you’re wrong. What’s the expression? “Third time’s a charm?”
Fast forward a month or so, and we make plans for dinner with friends of ours in the city. I’ll spare you the details since it pretty much followed the playbook of the last two times. Order drink, look at menu, have panic attack, hyperventilate in my car, text my husband that we need to go, never eat in a restaurant again for 3 years.
Take a second to fully comprehend that statement. I didn’t go out on my birthday or anyone else’s birthday. All social events at restaurants? NOPE. Lunch with colleagues? NADA. Long day at work? Takeout only. Date night with the hubby? Never included dinner.
Of course, since I was now familiar with the sensation of panic and anxiety, it crept up everywhere. Even normal situations that make people nervous – say a job interview – brought up worry that I was going to panic which would almost lead me to panic. It was a vicious circle.
And here’s where I get to my point. If I could “logic” my way out of panic, I would have. I don’t know how many times I said to myself or others, “I know it’s strange and odd to be scared about eating in a restaurant, but once I get there and the anxiety takes over, I cannot control it.” I can talk to myself and say all the things: breathe, pick out certain items or colours in my environment, tell myself it’s only food, but none of it worked.
I could not rationalize the panic away.
This is what happens when we have subconscious triggers hiding in our basement – known or unknown, severe or relatively harmless. When the trigger from the basement feels threatened, it decides to come upstairs, and when it does, it dominates. In highly over-simplified physiological terms, your trigger is living in your lizard brain, which is designed to keep you alive. If it perceives a threat, it completely disables your logical brain. In a fight to the finish line, the lizard brain wins. The lizard will hang out in your basement, but if it thinks it hears intruders, it’s coming out in full force – like it or not.
So, if this is the case, how do we change? How do we get better? Are we doomed to a lifetime of panic attacks? Will we ever quit smoking or drinking or overeating? HECK NO!
You need to tame the lizard.
You need to bring the lizard upstairs and show her that you’re okay; there are no intruders. Perhaps you want to have some tea (or a margarita) with the lizard. Talk to her and let her know you’re on her side. Tell her that she was really useful to you at some point in your life, but you’re okay now. Once she knows that she’s safe, she might realize that she doesn’t need to go back to the basement anymore. Heck, maybe she’s done with your house altogether and asks for a ticket back to the jungle.
In this analogy, the lizard is your fear, your panic, your feelings that encourage you to do things you know aren’t good for you or that are no longer serving you.
When you learn what the root cause of your fears or emotions are, you are freed of them.
They no longer take over and start fighting for you. You cannot do this with logic. The lizard is a creature that pre-dates language. It doesn’t understand “calm down” or “it’s just food” or “your colleague is talking about you because they are jealous of you”. It runs on instinct and conditioning. To “talk” sense into this part of your brain, you need to access it first.
This is where hypnosis excels! But it’s more than just getting into the hypnotic state. Once you’re there you need to do a reframe about what happened to make you manifest the trigger in the first place. What’s the trigger that initiates a panic attack? What’s the belief that pushes you to act in a way that allows you to self-sabotage your goals and dreams? This belief might be playing a role in your life and stopping you from having something you want because it thinks it’s trying to protect you or help you. Many times, things happen to us as kids (good or bad) and because our brains aren’t mature yet, we interpret them oddly. Then we believe our inaccurate interpretation, and this is where things go wrong.
After the three red flags that prompted me to realize that I was having panic attacks, I suffered for three years. I didn’t get help. I didn’t know what could help me. I knew I could get medication to control the anxiety, but controlling it didn’t solve it. [Note: I AM NOT SUGGESTING THAT MEDICATION DOESN’T PLAY A VITAL PART. Always seek advice from a medical professional if you are experiencing issues. This is just my story.]
I wasn’t trained in hypnosis or RTT at the time and so I had absolutely no idea this was an option for me. I suffered. I put my life on hold. If I knew then, what I know now, I would have signed up for a session immediately. Instead, I slowly, with people I trusted (ones who would ditch the meal and leave immediately), took baby steps to eat out. A fast-food place, a slightly more upscale fast-food place, a sit-down restaurant for apps only, etc. This took years to accomplish. I wish I hadn’t suffered for years. I wish I knew about RTT in 2010 when this happened to me. I wish I was able to have a session and find out what the root cause of those panic attacks were and get over it much, much faster. Why restaurants? Why then? It was so sudden and life altering that I truly believe that having the awareness that RTT brings would have changed my life. Maybe this would have been a completely different story.
In any case, I’m sharing my story today with the intention of letting you know that there are options and you don’t have to suffer. You can take control over those things that you feel you have no control over, or that you can “logic” your way out of. I’ll say it again because we learn by repetition, “logic-ing” your way out of emotional triggers is probably not going to work – at least not permanently.
So, whether you prefer a faster, direct way, or the slow, gradual way, there are options to help you tame the lizard. Only you know what is right for you, but just know that taming the lizard IS possible and you can take back control over your life. I took the slow way and I really wish I knew there was a faster way.