In his Mental Toughness series, Dr Steve Harris, motivational speaker in South Africa, recently discussed that the drivers for hyper-anxiety are usually the negative legacy emotions of shame and guilt. These self-defeating emotions are triggered opportunistically after you experience the consequences of trauma.

Tragically, hyper-anxiety is also associated with constant rumination about negative events in your past or about events that could happen in the future. This causes you to perpetuate depressive behaviours because you find new, imagined problems to be anxious about.

In this state your reasoning capacity is impeded, and you become governed by a melodramatic, as opposed to a fact-based world view. Thus, instead of rationally recognising and logically analysing your feelings of regret or remorse caused by the trauma that could catalyse a change in your behaviour, you end up searching for reasons to justify your feelings of guilt and shame. The result is blaming others or being angry with them as you try to navigate a constant sense of crisis.

People suffering from hyper anxiety tend to mix up what is a frightening or perceived threats, with a dangerous and real threat. This results in a conflict between the life they expected and the one they have and is mostly accompanied by a notion that they have less, if not – no choices. They often see bad over good and become prone to conspiracies while blaming others. They then struggle to accept responsibility. Their flight or fight response is on high alert which causes exhaustion and burn-out.

Substance Dependence Behaviour

In such circumstances, your brain depends on a pain managing or recreational substance that you see as a medicating, soothing or a stimulating solution – without considering that the substance may be problematic. The misuse of cell phones and social media dependency are also included in dependency behaviour.

The overuse of substances is particularly hazardous when combined with a predilection for addiction. You often become righteous, polarized, irrational, have mood swings, renewed anxiety, fear, distrust, and extreme bouts of anger. When challenged about irrationality, you revert to denial and counter accusations. Anti-social behaviours like lying and stealing manifest and personal hygiene deteriorates.

Extreme Grief can Contribute Towards Depressive Behaviour.

During a state of severe sadness, you may experience anhedonia – a lack motivation, a feeling of being left behind, experience chronic remorse, loneliness, irrational hopelessness, and despair. You become a ‘baby doomer’ dominated by the belief that you have lost touch with happiness.

In my opinion, the concept of chasing happiness opens a can of worms. Firstly, we often confuse excitement and goal achievement with happiness. Secondly, the suffering and sacrifice endured in the quest for this goal achievement highlights the opposite, i.e., it magnifies what you are not achieving.

You need to allow room for reflecting on the role of lofty goals and consider cutting back on your expectations if they are at the root of your suffering. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “the purpose of life is not chasing happiness. It is to be useful, honourable and compassionate”.

Should Happiness be our Default Position?

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The cumulative effect of these states can trigger psychosis or psychosis-like symptoms. In this condition your brain seems to disable your ability to recognize your negative behaviours. You lack insight, you feel no sense of purpose, a loss of meaning and your once dearly held values are cast aside. This loss is often combined with persecution paranoia where you lose your grip on consensus reality.

Such is the consequence of your behaviour that you blame, demonise, and reject those who love you, and are trying to help you. Family members are accused of being the co-creators, or even the architects of your distress. You become hypersensitive to a range of contexts or words which trigger a default paranoia, i.e., these contexts and words make you think someone, or something is judging you and out to harm you. You are constantly scanning for the next bad thing that is going to happen to you. Such false beliefs prompt you to self-stigmatise. In this risky state, you do not need others to torture you because your mind is already doing it for you. You inevitably develop hypochondria and are often convinced that you have contracted a dreaded disease.

Worsening Behaviours are Seldom Apparent to the Victim

No matter how obvious the behaviours are to others, the decline is not apparent to the sufferer who often refuses assistance – whether medical, psychotherapy, community support or spiritual guidance. In extreme cases this leaves families with concerns that the sufferer is not the person they knew.

Having to accept these circumstances draws heavily on unconditional love. The conventional approach pushes family members, who feel compelled to help, towards involuntary hospitalisation with medication as a lifesaving solution for their loved one. This, despite the heart-breaking prospect of a “revolving door” or “Groundhog Day” scenario. It means that the affected person may recover partially and get discharged but will relapse and be readmitted.

An Exercise in Awareness – The Frog in Hot Water

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I have no doubt you have heard about the frog in hot water, which is great imagery regarding the importance of awareness. It is claimed that if a frog is placed in a pot of boiling water, it will immediately jump out – but it will not jump out of a pot of cold water that is heated slowly. Apparently, the amphibian does not notice the incremental changes in its environment until it is too late.

We need to be aware of the analogous changes in our situation before we find ourselves in boiling water. Of course, it also implies that it’s insufficient to merely notice the metaphoric increase in temperature. You need to act on it.

I recall an international limited-overs cricket competition where the favourite team adopted an overtly aggressive game plan. Despite the game plan patently not working, they were determined to stick to it rather than adapt it to respond to the current conditions. It is not clear whether this team had simply not developed the awareness skills to recognise their plan’s weaknesses at the time, or if they were just ill-prepared and had no alternative plan. They stuck to a sub-optimal plan and exited the competition because they did not have the awareness to adapt to their situation.

Do you Have the Awareness Necessary to Adapt to Your Situation?

Motivational Speaker Dr Steve Harris translates a powerful combination of real-world experience, business success and academic insight into a language we can all understand. He has an impressive toolkit to provide the sharp insights and turnkey observations to empower your team, company, or conference to unlock their true potential.

For more information, contact Dr Steve Harris, the Mind Doctor.