Exposure Is Like A Four-Letter Word

exposureOr at least, it should be, and that’s the word fear. In the book I’m reading about social anxiety disorder, Dying of Embarrassment, there is lots of talk about exposure as the main solution to dealing with most anxious and troubling situations.

The first part of the book helps one figure out what exactly is distressing and anxiety provoking. It’s all very individual, of course. Then we’re supposed to put it in a hierarchy, like from least anxiety-provoking, to moderately anxiety-provoking to severely anxiety-provoking. I’m just reading this book to read it for now. When I sit down to really look at situations and make a list it’s going to take me a while, because my knee-jerk reaction is always “It’s all severely anxiety-provoking! What do you think got me into this mess?!”

Exposure therapy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exposure_therapy) as a form of torture began in the 1950s. It’s also known as flooding. Of course, I’m kidding about the torture part (a little). I only say that because I’m actually considering it and I’m afraid. The next section of the book (I forgot the part about the coping skills and changing cognitive distortions) is actually doing it. Exposures take two forms: in vivo (real life) and imaginal (in the imagination). Before we do an actual in vivo exposure, we’re supposed to take ourselves through a few imaginal exposures.

In imaginal exposures, everything is imagined as detailed as possible. All the smells, the sounds, are people sweating, etc., get as detailed as possible. Then go through the situation and let your anxiety rise as you sit through it. Go through the anxiety and stay with it because it will go down again the longer you stay with it, as you remember your breathing exercises and so on.  You might imagine absolute success or you might imagine marginal failure and how you would come at your cognitive distortions in the imaginal exposure.

In in vivo exposures everything is real. The book never mentions this, but to me it is like taking someone who is afraid of snakes and throwing them into a pit of vipers! Of course, it’s not that dramatic, because there’s the hierarchy list; the list of lesser anxiety-provokers and higher anxiety-provokers. So it’s much more within the control of the person with social anxiety disorder. For example, let’s say you’re afraid of public speaking. You might start with saying hello to your neighbor when you’re both working in your backyards. Then a medium task might be giving a talk at the high school. A severe task would be giving the baccalaureate speech for your daughter’s friend’s graduation.

If you read this far, God bless you, Geshundheit, please place your trays in their upright positions, and thank you for not smoking.

coffee

Dog-Tired

I’m exhausted; tired down to my bones; dog tired. I have not been sleeping well the last couple of nights. I know why, and it’s because I haven’t been praying enough, and haven’t been “letting go and letting God” when I am afraid.  I shouldn’t even be afraid, if I’m working my program right. 

Well no, I take that back. Feelings are feelings. They come and go, like thoughts. There’s not much we can do about them. 

In other news, I finished reading “Eat, Pray, Love” finally. I loved this book. It’s not a book I would have picked up on my own, you know? I mean I didn’t even see the movie. But Paula Balzer, in her book Writing & Selling Your Memoir suggests several different memoirs to read if you’re writing your own. I’ve read this one now, and Drinking: A Love Story, which I also loved, for different reasons.

They are about different subjects, for one thing. “Eat, Pray, Love” is about a woman who, after her divorce goes on a pilgrimage to discover what she wants for herself and spends a year divided equally between Italy, India, and Indonesia. She eats her way through Italy, prays her way through India, and loves her way through Indonesia. It’s a funny, serious, charming, and informative book. 

Liz Gilbert also has a totally different voice than Caroline Knapp, of “Drinking: A Love Story,” which I had finished just before I started Liz’s book, so that took a lot of getting used to. Caroline’s story is starkly honest, and is exactly what the title says. It’s about the love story between a woman and wine and other alcoholic beverages, but her first love is a crisp, white wine. 

Caroline takes us on her journey with candor and also wit, but pulls no punches, and we are led all the way through to her struggles in rehab and through that to living life sober, to making friends soberly, shopping for groceries stone-cold sober, going to a party sober, etc. Highly recommend both. 

Now I’m reading Lighting Up: How I Quit Smoking, Drinking, and Everything Else I Loved In Life Except Sex. It’s another memoir, not recommended by Paula Balzer, but I’m reading it because I read it once a long time ago, and with chronic fatigue syndrome I can read things a second time and it’s like reading it all over again for the first time. 

Susan Shapiro is seeing a psychoanalyst to quit smoking. Her voice is wry and emotional, and the book is hard to put down. 

I pray I sleep well tonight, and that you do too. What do you do when you don’t sleep well? How do you help yourself sleep?

Peace out.