Anticipating Catastrophe–Living in Fear
Anticipating catastrophe comes all too easily to those of us who have addictions or codependency. This frantic state of mind and expectation is the result of deep despair as well as feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Both addiction and codependency foster these difficult emotions and permeate our thoughts and beliefs with their own equivalents of that pain.
A Traumatic Reaction
Anticipating catastrophe is also a residual of trauma. When we have been traumatized, it is difficult for us to believe that anything good will ever happen again. The course of both active addiction and active codependency involves a series of traumatic events and responses. Typically, during either of those conditions we have no time to recover from one before another happens. Consequently, we live in a state of unresolved trauma until we get to treatment and into our own recovery processes.
A traumatic response is one triggered by intense fear. We are overwhelmed and our coping mechanisms are not adequate to return us to a state of calm easily. It takes time for our innate alarm system to quiet and let go of the intensity required to fight for survival. Traumatic situations may be a fight for psychological survival, or those actually involving physical safety, integrity and life itself. Both addiction and codependency can take us from one type of survival situation to another in a flurry of various crises as the chaotic lives we live in active phases of those conditions unfold over time.
Fear’s Deep Impact
Fear of all types has a deep impact upon us on various levels. Our brains and nervous systems are activated into a heightened and unusual experience, for example. Though we may be familiar with fear, intense fear is typically reserved for experiences outside the normal realm of everyday life. It is there to serve us like a fire alarm, to be pulled when biologically our bodies need to take over, dump their emergency chemicals to strengthen us, and alert our senses to hypervigilance for danger. Psychologically, too, our internal fire alarm overrides our usual thought processes and emotional stability to accommodate what has happened. In short, trauma and its intense fear, has a dramatic impact upon us in a holistic way.
Reducing Fearful Expectations
When we live in a heightened expectation of catastrophe, we also live in a biological, neurological and psychological state of alarm. Alarm is a pinnacle of stress. It is the ‘call to arms’ when danger is imminent. We can begin to disconnect the alarm and its impact by directly targeting the body’s need to relax. Alarm cannot co-exist with a state of relaxation. Consequently, we can learn and practice relaxation strategies routinely to great benefit. Our bodies and brains learn to enter relaxed states more easily as we practice such techniques as deep breathing, meditation, visualization and stretching.