A Different View of Anxiety: How to See it, Feel it & Heal It

Jan 12, 2023
The Anxiety MD
A Different View of Anxiety: How to See it, Feel it & Heal It

Transcript version of this podcast episode:

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Hello and welcome to the Anxiety Rx podcast, a show created by an anxiety specialist and neuroscientist (me) that offers unique, practical, and actionable advice to help you understand what anxiety truly is and exactly what you can do to empower yourself to resolve it. I'm your host, Dr. Russell Kennedy, an MD who suffered with crippling anxiety for 30 plus years, and traditional therapy from psychiatrists and psychologists really didn't help me feel better, and I also didn't like being on psychiatric medications.

In 2013, after burning out and leaving medical practice, I came to the conclusion that if I was ever going to heal my anxiety, I would have to do it myself. And that's exactly what I did. Drawing from my experiences with psychedelics and holistic healing and combining those modalities with my scientific academic background in medicine, neuroscience, and developmental psychology.

Here on the Anxiety RX podcast, I offer a distinctly non-traditional and non-medical approach to understanding and healing anxiety. So, despite my training as a physician, nothing I say or suggest should be construed as medical advice. None of the methods I use to relieve anxiety are related to traditional allopathic medicine.

Because of my own healing, I've developed a distinctly non-traditional understanding and approach that has helped thousands of people all over the world understand and relieve chronic anxiety. So if you're ready, let's get into today's episode.

So welcome back to Anxiety Rx. I've had some family issues, I've had some book issues, and now I'm back to really get into the podcast, and I'm changing the format a little bit, and I'm just trying to have more fun with it and give you more practical advice and really help you navigate this thing that we call anxiety, which I call alarm because I think that's what it really is.

And today's episode is a new way to understand and heal anxiety, because if we don't understand what anxiety truly is, if we don't know the cause of it, we're not going to be able to fix it. And that was true for me as a medical doctor. If I didn't know what I was treating, the chances of me getting the right treatment were not very good.

So, from the ground up, here's how I believe anxiety starts and how I believe it should be treated. So in most cases, not all cases, I take a lot of flack for, you know, saying everything's about childhood trauma. It's like, well, 99.9% of the people I see as patients have experienced childhood trauma, and there are other causes of anxiety.

Absolutely, there is a separation from your parents. It's amazing how many clients I see, say, "Oh, I had a great childhood and everything was fine." And then I say, "Okay, well, were you separated from your mother or your father when you were younger?" And they come back like a week later and say, "Oh my God, my mother went into the hospital when I was like 18 months for two months because she had gallbladder surgery or whatever, and I was separated."

It's like, "Okay, well, you know, that's one of the reasons." You're anxious because you were separated; you just didn't know it. So we can have great parents, but if we were separated from those parents at a young age, we could show up with anxiety and abandonment fears and all that stuff that goes with it.

Another thing is inherited family trauma. I see this all the time I see a certain type of trauma being handed down from family to family, and as a family doctor, that was my job for 20 plus years. I would see trauma running through families. The same type of trauma would run through families, causing anxiety.

Causes that aren't specifically childhood trauma, but the vast majority of people I see with anxiety have suffered some kind of trauma. And here's the other thing: I don't think that we are born with a genetic predisposition to anxiety. What I think we have is a genetic predisposition to being sensitive.

So temperament is one of those things that may well turn out to be genetically determined. So if you have a very sensitive temperament and a very loving, attached family, you'll probably do just fine. But if you have a very sensitive temperament and you grow up with an alcoholic father, an abusive mother, a narcissistic mother, or just general trauma in your family, you're probably going to wind up with some kind of mental dysregulation.

Now, it may not be anxiety; it could be depression; it might be an eating disorder; it might be a personality disorder. However, the people I see who exhibit anxiety were almost always born sensitive. And again, if you're born sensitive in a loving, caring environment, you're probably going to do right.

But if you're born sensitive and your environment is very challenging, it's likely you're going to wind up having some mental dysregulation from that. So this is what I believe happens: we have some kind of trauma as children that's too much for us to bear, and it changes our nervous system. It doesn't allow our nervous system to bring us back to that state of what's called homeostasis, which is, you know, a flat baseline state that we can return to over and over and over again.

And that is commonly what happens with, you know, sugar regulation in our bodies. Heat regulation in our bodies.same kind of thing, but with emotion. So if you grow up in an attached, loving, attuned environment, you learn that your parents can get mad at you, and you can kind of go back to a normal state after that.

However, if you grow up in a traumatic environment, your emotional regulation is likely to be poor because it was not practiced and was not something you were exposed to and demonstrated that you were good at.that you could express yourself, that you could be angry.That was one thing about me; since childhood, I couldn't be angry.

My mother grew up during the Blitz in Britain, and if I made noise, my mother would freak out at me. She'd be like, "Stop that, stop that noise." You know? So after a while, anger was part of that too. If I got angry, if I started throwing stuff, because I do have a bit of a temper to this day.

I am great with people, I have infinite patience with people. But if I'm putting together an IKEA desk and it's not going well, I'll start throwing my toys. Because I'm just like, "I can't," and "I have a temper." I really do, and I think it comes to I was angry at the time, and I was loud, and my mother shut me down.

And that's another, that should be another podcast topic, you know, if your parent shuts down your anger. You become a victim, and I believe I've mentioned this before, possibly on previous podcasts, but it's all about trauma. Going back to where we were, having a trauma is too much for you to bear.

That changes your nervous system, so it doesn't go back to normal anymore. And often these traumas are so intense, especially when we're younger, that we stuff them down and out of our consciousness. So we push them into what's called the unconscious because it's too painful to think that your father's going to hit you, that your father's not going to be there, or that your mother's going to abuse you in some way.

It's too painful. So we stuff that down into the unconscious. And I believe that the body—and I'm not the only one who believes this—is a representation of the unconscious mind. So first you experience trauma. Say you're seven years old and your parents get divorced. Trauma, that's too much for you to bear.

So you stuff that down into your unconscious, and then it will show up in your body, and that's what I do with people. I discover these traumas by discussing them.Like, what happened to you? It's like, my parents divorced when I was seven, and I said, "Okay, well, where do you feel that in your body?" And they go, "What?"

What the hell are you talking about? I thought you were, you know, a legit therapist. And you're talking about my body. For example, where do I feel my?Like, are you nuts? Where do I feel my parents' divorce in my body? And I'd go, "No, no, just, you know, close your eyes, relax your jaw." You know, take a couple of breaths, and then I'll take you back to that place where you were riding your bike around the corner and you saw the for sale sign on your front lawn, and you knew that meant that your parents were getting divorced.

and then people will say, "Oh, I know now that now that I really focus on my body, I can feel this real tightness in my kind of solar plexus area." And then I'll go into it. It's like, how big is it? You know? So about the size of my fist, I guess. Um, does it have a color? Does it have a shape? Does it have a temperature?

Now I'm shortening this quite a bit, but people will come out and find it. in their body, and I'm going to do a future podcast where I take people right from the start and get them to lie down. And I do this in a meditative way, so I find your alarm because this is the part of you that you really need to fix.

If you have anxiety, you really need to address this alarm. So I'll find this alarm in their body. And then we'll put our hand over it and try to connect with that alarm. Because a lot of what anxiety is is this state of alarm that got stored in our body from trauma that was too much for us to bear when we were children.

and we sublimated that. We pushed it down into the unconscious, and then it showed up in our bodies, but we didn't realize it was in our bodies because then we started to. And when we start worrying, it takes our attention away from the pain, the trauma that we've stored in our bodies.So we get into these exaggerated worries.

and irrational worries. You know, I have patients who come to me convinced that they have cancer. They're like 25 years old. They're convinced that they have cancer, and basically what they had was some kind of trauma that they didn't recover from when they were younger, and it's manifesting because energy has to go somewhere.

So, instead of remaining in the body and allowing it to process, we move into our heads and begin to worry, which is what happens.We start to worry, and then when we worry, we go and try to fix the wrong thing. So we start trying to fix the worries, and most traditional therapies are like this.

They use cognitive behavior therapy and psychotherapy to try to alleviate their anxieties.They try to fix your thoughts, which helps. I'm not saying it doesn't help, but in my opinion, the root cause, and what's allowed me to heal after 35 years of crippling anxiety, is realizing that the source of my anxiety isn't my thoughts.

My thoughts are a byproduct of this old alarm energy, this old trauma that has been lodged in my body for years.So if I can find that alarm in my system, as I write in my book Anxiety Rx, it's stuck in my solar plexus. If I can connect with that alarm, I should really breathe into it.

Allow myself to feel it and process it because, you know, as a medical doctor and neuroscientist, I sometimes want to have a seizure because this sounds so spiritual, it sounds so non-scientific, but this alarm in my solar plexus is my younger self.

and I believe it's my younger self asking for my love and attention that I didn't get when I was younger, that I didn't get that from my mother when I was angry that, "Oh, okay, you're clearly upset about something." What are you upset about? Let's work on this together. Let's join together. Rather than say, "Stop that,"

Stop that. Even when I say those words now, it triggers me. It triggers me, like I feel the alarm because of you. One of the characteristics of anger is that it is a protective emotion.And by suppressing our children's anger, we are effectively making them victims.And that's another, another podcast I'm going to do soon about how anxiety makes us victims because it just reinforces this victim mentality that we don't have.

have agency over our lives, which of course makes us feel more anxious and alarmed. So, returning to my original premise, here's the story and how it goes.When a child experiences a trauma that's too much for them to bear, it changes their nervous system. They buried that trauma in the unconscious because it was too painful to stay in conscious awareness.

As the body is a representation of the unconscious mind, that trauma gets stored and offloaded somewhere in the body. And because we don't want to go back into that old trauma, we stay up in our heads, and this is one of the things that I think anxiety does to us that creates so much of a problem: it divorces us from our body.

Anxiety makes us afraid of our body because that's where the trauma is stored. So of course we're going to stay in our heads. Of course, we're going to ruminate, and of course, we're going to make up the worries that are more and more complex and more and more scary because our egos want us to stay in our heads because they don't want us to go back down and experience the old.

Now, in a nutshell, I'm giving you a lot here in this particular podcast because I want to change the complexion of the podcast to something a little more, well, a lot more practical, actually, a lot more practical, so that we can really understand. So once you understand exactly what's going on, then we can do something about it.

Then we can start healing it, rather than just coping with it. Yes, you can do breathing exercises. Yes, you can tap. I have nothing against either one of those things, but unless you find the alarm in your system and treat that alarm as the wounded, younger version of you that it is and resolve it, metabolize it, and integrate it, we will not heal.

But if you're just fixing thoughts, it's like my rowboat analogy. You know, you're out in a rowboat; the rowboat's got a hole in it, and it starts filling up with water. Now you can start bailing water out of that rowboat while you're sitting in it, and it's going to make you feel a little better because the water level's dropping a bit.

But it's not fixing the hole in the boat. It's not fixing the underlying problem, which I believe is this alarm that's stored in our system from unresolved trauma when we were younger. And again, not everything is about trauma, but in my population, my anxiety peeps that I see, 99.9% of people that see me, it's because they had childhood trauma.

It's still in them. They haven't really addressed it. You know, they may have done hours and hours and hours of talk therapy, but that's the thing. Talk therapy involves conversing with an unconscious process within yourself.You're talking to a part of you that actually doesn't understand words. It communicates through feelings.

So to heal that, we also have to communicate our feelings. We have to find that alarm first. We have to put our hand over it. We have to treat it with compassion, love, respect, and protection. We have to find that source of alarm and heal that source of alarm. And the reason why I believe that most traditional therapies miss the boat on this is that they're so fixated on trying to fix the mind with the mind, which is impossible.

We just wind up chasing our tails. People go to therapy for 5, 10, 15, or 30 years and don't get much better because you're chasing the mind and the problem of alarm and anxiety isn't in your mind.Your mind is a byproduct of this alarm that is stored in your body from old trauma.

That was never the case.So how do we heal this? Well, first we find the alarm, and I'm going to create, uh, something on my podcast that helps you, almost like a meditation. Find the alarm in your own body. And then, once we find the alarm, we focus on it. Then we breathe into it, and then we, you know, touch it. Self-touch is so important.

We really develop a connection with that alarm in our body, because, as I say again, that alarm is our younger self asking for our love and attention. Let me give you an example.So say you're out at a grocery store and a little three-year-old comes up crying because they've lost their parents, and they're holding up their hands to you to pick them up because they feel unsafe.

Well, of course you'd pick them up. You know, I suppose these days you wouldn't because of all the dangerous stuff for kidnapping and such.But in general, this is a metaphor. Just imagine it's a metaphor. So you, of course, would pick them up and sue. But we don't do that for ourselves.

We don't, you know, find our own crying child, which is the alarm, and we don't soothe it. We try to talk our way out of it. We try to talk our way out of a feeling problem, which doesn't work. You can't talk cognitively to an unconscious, uncognitive problem and expect it to heal for good.

You can feel better when you change your thoughts. You can feel better when you develop gratitude. Nothing against gratitude either, but it's really about how you're not going to heal until you find the alarm, which is that younger version of yourself, which is that child in you that's still hurting, and give them the love of hearing them.

protecting them and connecting with them. All those things that they didn't get at the time of their original wounding, you have to give them now. That's how you heal, and that's the only way to heal. Every other way is basically a form of coping, and it's mostly short-term. So, if you want to heal in the long run, if you really want to get to the root cause of the problem, as I mentioned at the start of today's podcast, if you want to get to the root cause of the problem and treat it, you'll be able to fix the problem in the long run.

If you just fix the byproduct of the anxiety, which is the thoughts, you're only going to feel better in the short term. So I'm going to talk more about this theme, but really, I want you to understand that if you want to follow me, if you want to follow the podcast, and if you really want to heal, this is the premise that I use to heal myself.

I used to heal my anxiety, peeps, as I talk about on Instagram. This is what I use. This is the main thing that helped me heal after 35 plus years of seeing psychiatrists, psychologists, and EMDR, and again, I have nothing against these things. It's just that they didn't address the root problem, which is this alarm in your system.

which I saw and found on LSD. This is how I found it. This is how the medical doctor or neuroscientist in me found the real cause of where my anxiety was: LSD. And that's another podcast, and I'll do that too. But really, my goal is to help you sort out and find the root cause of your anxiety so that you heal the source of the problem and are not chasing your tail by bailing water out of the rowboat.

You must undergo surgery.Heal the hole in the hull, and that's how you heal in general. That's how you deal with anxiety. So this episode is a new way to understand and heal anxiety. To understand anxiety, you must first understand that it is not in your mind.Anxiety is caused by old traumas that are stored in your nervous system, primarily in your body, and you can heal them by addressing them.

The root cause of the problem is this old alarm that's in your system; you can't heal a feeling problem with a thinking solution. So thanks for listening today. This year, I plan to be more consistent with podcasts.I am devoted to giving you the best, both practical and scientific, both science-based and ethereal-based, because science, you know, as much as we have learned from science in neuroscience in the last 20 years, and there has been tremendous growth, not a lot of it has really translated into the clinical.

So I try to take neuroscientific concepts and combine them with the mind-body-spirit connection to bring them all together.So I have my science brain and my more ethereal brain, and I really like putting them together because I believe that healing is a combination of both art and science.

So I'll see you next time, and thanks for joining. So that's it for today's episode. Thanks for listening, and if the Anxiety Rx podcast resonates with you, consider getting my book. You can also call the Anxiety Rx or follow me on any of the Anxiety MD's social media platforms or on my website, www.the anxiety md.com.

Thanks so much for listening, and I'll see you next time on the Anxiety RX podcast.

If you would like to ask me questions about this episode, please message me on Instagram by clicking here: @theanxietymd

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