The REAL Cause of your Anxiety. (And it’s not what you think!)

Jan 16, 2023
The Anxiety MD
The REAL Cause of your Anxiety. (And it’s not what you think!)
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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 recommend should be construed as medical advice, because none of the methods I use to alleviate anxiety have anything to do with 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. Today on the Anxiety Rx podcast, we're gonna talk about the real cause of anxiety.

And it's not what you think, it's not your worries. Most people, when you ask them what's causing your anxiety, it's like, I worry too much. I worry too much. And that's really not the cause. And I think that's the reason why we're not healing anxiety in the medical and psychiatric professions is because we are considering it as a thinking problem rather than a feeling problem.

The truth is anxiety is really a state of alarm that is stored in your body. Now, this isn't true for everyone, but it's true for the vast majority of the people that I see as an anxiety specialist is that they had childhood trauma of some kind, and that trauma hasn't resolved, and that trauma creates this state of alarm that is still stuck in their bodies.

And their mind, through this process called "interception," is constantly reading the body. And if you have unresolved trauma that is stored in your body, your mind picks up that energy, and it's not going to make up stories about picnics, cookies, and kittens. When it picks up this negative energy in your body, it's going to make these negative stories because this alarm feels negative, it feels painful.

So your mind makes up these worries, and this is the ultimate cause. This alarm in your body is the ultimate cause of anxiety. So we're spending all this time trying to change people's thoughts to get them to think better, and there's nothing wrong with that, it's just that it, that's only gonna help you cope.

It's not gonna help you heal because you don't have anxiety. You have, in fact, I don't even really like the term "anxiety" so much. When people are anxious, people come up and say, oh, I'm feeling really anxious today. And then they'll look at me and they'll go alarmed. Cuz they , they know that I don't like the term anxiety.

I'm feeling an, I'm feeling anxiety or I'm feeling anxious. I get them to say, "I'm feeling alarmed, because that's exactly what's happening. Words have consciousness to them. And when you say, I'm feeling anxious. Anxious doesn't really have a lot of consciousness to it, but alarmed, everyone knows what ALARM is because everybody's felt alarmed.

So you don't have anxiety, you have alarm. And that alarm is the stored energy from the traumas of your childhood, and that child is still stuck in you. And until we bring that child into belonging, you're always gonna have alarm and anxiety. And in many ways, that alarm is your wounded younger self. And we can use that alarm energy to find that alarm in your body and use that to connect to the wounded child that still lives inside of you.

So I often say you've got to feel it to heal it. And that's why we don't heal, is people, people don't wanna feel it. They don't wanna, they don't wanna feel the. Because chances are the alarm has been in them since childhood, and they've learned really clever ways to go into their minds and not stay in their body because that's where the alarm sits.

But, in order to heal, we must connect with the younger, fearful child in front of us and soothe their underlying alarm, rather than simply changing our thinking and being just. And I've had count countless patients get worse as they get older because they widened the split from their traumatized and alarmed younger self because they didn't wanna go back there and feel the alarm that that child carried from those old wounds.

And, while it may appear that separating from the wounded child by adapting an inner critic or judging the child—abandoning, blaming, or shaming the child—may have appeared to push the child and their pain away in the short term, In the long run, it increased both the separation and the alarm, and the alarm increased.

The anxiety's just gonna get worse. So when we reject the pain and alarm of the child, we are ultimately separating from ourselves. And that split is probably what happened when we were younger and we were going through this trauma that was too much for us to bear. And we get split from ourselves because there's that old saying that says, if you abuse, abandon, or neglect the child, they don't stop loving the parent, they stop loving themselves.

And when we stop loving ourselves as children, we start creating all these, like, I'm wrong, judging ourselves, abandoning ourselves, blaming ourselves, shaming ourselves, which creates this split in our psyche. And it is this split that causes the alarm in the first place.So, ultimately, ALARM is the result of a split in our psyche caused by a traumatized child who has no way of resolving that trauma and instead blames it on themselves.

And we didn't reject the child inside of us on purpose. In most cases, we are unaware that that child, that wounded child, is still within us.It's still there. And as a result, we don't know that the pain of alarm in our bodies is this child's. We don't even know that the pain of alarm in our bodies is there.

Most of the time, until people read my book, they think that their worries, and what's going on in their heads is the cause of their anxiety, and to find out that it's actually an alarm state in their body is quite liberating. I get messages every day saying, now that I know that this is an alarm state in my body, I can handle it so much easier.

I don't blame myself so much because most of us numbed our pain with distraction and addictions because we didn't know that child was there. We didn't know that that connection was even available. We just hoped the anxiety would go away. I remember having a lot of relationships when I was younger, and I didn't have much anxiety during the first flush of a new relationship because I had all this oxytocin and serotonin and these chemicals running around in my system that numb my anxiety.

But it was always there. That wounded child, that 12-year-old who saw his father loaded into an ambulance and driven away to a mental hospital, lives on in me.And unless I connected, until I connected with him, my anxiety didn't get a whole lot better. But here's the catch: you can't reject your pain without also rejecting the child who carries it.

So when we reject the wounded child in us, that child gets louder, and the pain of alarm gets louder too because that child just wants to be seen, heard, loved, and protected, but we don't see it that way. We see it as, I'm feeling really bad, I'm feeling really anxious, alarmed, and they wanna push that pain away.

So, but when you push the pain away, you're also pushing that younger child away as well. So here's the story I probably told before: if a child comes up to you with their hands up and asks you to pick them up, you'd pick them up.But for some reason, we don't do this for ourselves.

We wind up rejecting these younger wounded selves, which only creates more alarm, which creates more of our problems. So when we try to soothe ourselves by turning off the alarm, distracting ourselves, getting into relationships, getting into addictions, we are actually rejecting this child within us with our hands up.

See me, hear me, love me, protect me, but we're like, no, no, no, no. I've got some cocaine to do. I can't help you today. And a lot of us, like I said, we don't know this is happening, but as we are unaware of it, that pain just gets worse and that child just gets louder. And I can't really say I blame my patients for wanting to stay in their heads and not go back into the old alarm in their body.

Some of my patients have had horrendous childhoods, and who the hell wants to go back into that? Who wants to go back in time and revisit that old intense pain at a time that, you know, we feel like a hurt, defenseless, and powerless child. Nobody, nobody. The truth is we were defenseless and powerless back then, but what we didn't realize is that we aren't that defenseless and powerless child now in the present moment, despite the fact that our anxiety and alarm makes us feel exactly that way.

It mentally time travels us back to the time of our original trauma. And I've talked about the amygdala before, so the amygdala has no sense of time. And it will detect anything that's even remotely close to what hurt you in the past. And it will transport you through your body—through the autonomic nervous system, through the fight or flight nervous system, back to that place where you felt helpless and powerless.

So oftentimes when we are quote unquote anxious, alarmed, we are transported back to a time that we felt helpless and powerless. And that's exactly how we feel in our body and in our mind. And we can start changing that feeling of alarm in our body. And when we do that, we start gaining control of our mind.

And this is what happens is as children, we develop this sort of sense of worry and hypervigilance as the coping strategies of the alarmed. Because it assists you when you go into your head and access when you are hypervigilant.When you're worried, you're in your head, and you don't feel the pain in your body as much.

So worrying and staying up in our heads was a way to avoid the pain of alarm we had stuffed down into our bodies, and that worked when we were children. That worked. It actually made us feel better, if only temporarily. But as we get into our twenties, thirties, forties, that coping strategy of worrying rumination, hypervigilance stops working, but we still go to it.

We still ride that sucker until the wheels fall off because it's all we know. When something works as a child, you will continue to use it. And unfortunately, we train ourselves, we condition ourselves to. as a way of avoiding this alarm in our body. So to heal, we have to address this alarm in our body rather than getting stuck in our heads.

So we've gotta begin to abandon the coping strategies of worry and hyper vigilance that characterize our childhood and really embrace that child who still lives deep in our unconscious and consciously choose to revisit and resolve the old alarm that's still stored in us. So connecting with the alarm in our body with love and compassion for all parts of ourselves, especially the parts that we blame, abandon, shame, and just separate from, and judge, that's how we begin to fully heal.

We're split from ourselves, and when we're split, we create this alarm. But when we rejoin that split, that alarm resolves, and I'll talk more about that. I talk more about that in my book and I'll talk more about that on the podcast. But we can choose to embody the present day adult in us, and simultaneously go back in time and rescue that child in us.

We can show that child that we see them, hear them, protect them, and love them. But first we've gotta be aware that they're there. We've gotta be aware that they're creating the alarm in the first place. So this is why we worry and get stuck in our heads, it's because we overthink, ruminate, and worry as adults because that keeps us in our heads, and that's still seen as a better option by our protective, unconscious than to risk going back down into the body, back into feeling town, and facing the pain of that child because it's still there. So that younger wounded part of ourselves stored in our body is often shunned and banished to the unconscious because the child in us holds our pain and to prevent us from accidentally visiting that old pain stored in our bodies, we construct evermore intense worries and rumination to keep us stuck up in our heads so we don't risk falling down into our body where we might encounter that old.

As a result, staying in our heads and out of our bodies, that wounded child feels more isolated and abandoned because we're not connecting with them, which of course increases their alarm, which increases our need to stay away from their pain. And we redouble our efforts to stay in our heads with even more intense and elaborate worries.

And so we, we redouble our worry. When our worry is just creating more alarm in the first place and in this way when we keep the present day adult and the wounded child separate from each other, both alarm in the body and the anxiety in the mind increase like a one-way valve. More alarm gets in, but none can be let out.

I remember, I'm old enough to remember these commercials in the seventies and eighties called the Roach Motel. And they're basically, they would catch roaches. They were these like cardboard, tiny cardboard boxes, and they would trap roaches and the, and the, the slogan was, roaches get in, but they don't get out.

And when I was writing my book, I remember thinking, you know, alarm gets in, but it doesn't get out. So our pain and our worry just gets worse. So it's the alarm in our system. That's trapped there from unresolved wounds, typically from childhood. That's the real cause of what we call anxiety, quote unquote anxiety.

That's the real cause. So to heal, we have to address the alarm. We must return and feel it in order to heal it. We've gotta find that wounded child in us and show them that we see them, hear them, love them, and protect them. That's how we can do other things. We can assess the worries, we can think positive, we can be grateful.

We can do all those things. That is helpful. But until we go back and we find that wounded child and we show them that we see them, we hear them, we love them, and they know that we are gonna protect them. One of the things that I get people to tell their children is that I will never leave you. I can never leave you.

You contain the very best parts of me because a lot of us, what we'll do is we'll judge the and abandon judge, abandon blame, and shame that child, in us, and of course we're gonna feel separate from them. We're gonna feel separate from ourselves. And in that separation, anxiety and alarm just form a cycle.

You know, the alarm in the body creates the anxiety of the mind, the anxiety of the mind. All the worries aggravate the alarm in the body. And as the alarm increases, it paralyzes our ability to think clearly. It paralyzes our prefrontal cortex, our rational mind. So the worries that we create appear more real to.

Because the rational part of our brain that would tell us, Hey, this is irrational, this is, this is worries that just aren't gonna happen. That part of our brain, paralyzed by the alarm and physiology, survival physiology in our system, so we get this double whammy of creating more worries and then believing the worries, which of course makes the alarm worse.

But my point is through this whole thing, is that your anxiety. Is basically a state of alarm that's held in your body. And if we're going to heal from anxiety alarm, we need to deal with that alarm. We need to find that child and make sure that we show that child that their alarm is okay with us, their pain is okay with us.

We are going to help that child through the pain. That's how we resolve the alarm, and that's how we. So with this podcast, I really want to create a place where you can find your alarm and I will create a meditation and that kind of thing on the podcast that you can listen to. Hopefully not while you're driving or whatever, that will help you find this alarm in your system.

I, I've done this with hundreds of people and I can help you find where your alarm sits. And I do that by creating this calm, relaxed place and bring you into a little, you know, dip your toe in your trauma a little bit and then just sort of see where it lights up in your body. And as a preliminary, you know, you can do that.

You can, when you feel anxious, and you know what I'm gonna say, alarmed. When you feel alarmed, say, where am I feeling this in my. Because most people don't, most people get wrapped up into their heads and their worries, and that's winds them outta control. They don't even think to look outside of their, their thoughts, their worries for their anxiety.

But I'm encouraging you. Right here, right now. From this point on, when you feel alarmed, look in your body. Where is it for me as I write in my book? It's right in the middle of my solar plexus. It's hot, it's sharp, it's purple. It presses into my heart, it presses into my back. That's my alarm. That's my younger self.

Looking out, watching them load my dad into an ambulance. That's where it is. And what we can do is we can put our hand over it, we can breathe into it. There's a bunch of things that I'm gonna talk about in the podcast and I talk about in my book and in my other podcast interviews with, with other people, is how to find this alarm and how to resolve it.

Because this is the real cause of your anxiety, is this alarm that's stuck in your body. And like I say, you can try and fix the worries and it will help. It will help you cope. But coping with your anxiety is very different than healing your anxiety. And by anxiety I mean alarm. So that's it for today's episode.

Thanks for listening, and if the Anxiety Rx podcast resonates with you, consider getting my book. Also coincidentally call Anxiety Rx, or you can follow me on any of the social media platforms at the Anxiety MD or my website, www the anxiety Thanks so much for listening, and I'll see you the 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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