Author Topic: Help with great tensions and anxiety  (Read 3485 times)

polishedbrass

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Help with great tensions and anxiety
« on: October 02, 2016, 09:26:36 AM »
I have been meditating for a little more than a year and for the past 6 months about 45 minutes to an hour a day.
I use a combination of samatha and vipassana in my practice. I also practice yoga almost daily.

During the past 2 years I have walked up against unresolved childhood trauma that has really come out in a very dysfunctional and destructive relationship I was having. I'm what they call a 'love addict' among other things, the root of which being abandonment anxiety stemming from childhood abandonment trauma.

Partly due to my meditation practice I have stumbled upon many many ways this dependency need shows up in my behavior towards my partner and in my life in general and I am beginning to change some of those and take control. I am learning to be alone with my feelings and feel them and comfort myself and take responsibility for them. But the abandonment anxiety is particularly intense and overwhelming.

Because of some events in my relationship, which include hearing about her infidelity and breaking up with me right after, this trauma has really been triggered again about two months ago. I was all over the place and have been needing medication to function for a while.

It had great impact on my body, where my chest, back and the sides of my ribcage are still hurting like they are holding in an enormous amount of energy, my throat is numb and it feels like I have a belt buckle strapped around my solar plexus. My natural breath is now in my underbelly because chest and diaphragmatic breathing is difficult. Where yoga used to help me a lot with bodily tensions, now I feel it only increases the tension somehow.

In meditation I try to just feel into the tension and the heartache without trying to get rid of it but it doesn't really seem to do anything. I've done tonglen as well and tried to feel while connecting to the natural 'space' of awareness at the same time. I read everywhere that it would dissolve on its own but I've been sitting with it for a long time now and it doesn't really seem to be going anywhere. Sometimes my body seems to really want to cry it out but it's stuck and becomes an exercise in frustration. Meditation only makes me way more aware of the feelings that are there.
One of my problems is that I've never really learned to identify emotions when I was younger, I've held it all in and now I am having all these feelings but I don't know what they are about and I even have a hard time knowing if they are anger or sadness or fear... I try to ask myself these questions while meditating after just being with the feelings for a while: "what is this feeling?", "is it anger?", "what is this feeling about?"  but I rarely get any real answers.

I'm also doing TRE (trauma release exercises) and that seems to help, I sometimes lay on the ground crying for 20 minutes while doing the exercise. But it doesn't seem to 'get rid' of the tension in my upper body though I have stopped doing the exercises very regularly because I'm afraid. I have huge tremors in my legs but I am afraid that I'm actually adding to the energy that doesn't want to leave my body by 'unburying' that stored tension on top of the feelings that are already there.


« Last Edit: October 02, 2016, 09:30:45 AM by polishedbrass »

Middleway

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Re: Help with great tensions and anxiety
« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2016, 02:34:03 AM »
Hello Polishedbrass, welcome to the forum. You seem to have a pretty good assessment and understanding of your situation. And you seem to be taking the right approach. I suggest you go to a doctor and take (continue) medication to compliment what you are already doing. You may already know, meditation alone will not give you relief.

Have you tried walking meditation? perhaps taking slow long walks (mindfully) instead of yoga might help your body relax. Another thing I would suggest is that you read dhamma books and listen to dhamma talks with topics related to letting go. This worked for me well and helped me let go of my past in big chunks instead of processing one issue at a time. My past still grasps my attention but with less intensity and frequency. You may already know everything is in your head that is translating to effects in your body and affecting you. Work on your mind and train it (to let go) and gradually, your body fall in line.

With regards to identifying the feelings, do you really have to? just feel whatever is there and be with it and observe how it effects your body and mind. Next time, you will know "that feeling". No need to identify or label it. Just observe and insights will come. Those insights will help you figure out minimize and mitigate their effects on your body and mind.

Hope this helps. Be well.

Kind regards,

Middleway
Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

Re: Help with great tensions and anxiety
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2016, 10:16:56 AM »
it seems to me that your meditation is going very good. Its normal to feel if only someone would hold my hand and help me walk few more steps on the path, i am not asking for much, just a little push, i will walk. please someone push me. But you know what you have to walk on your own. You have the strength. Its ok if you walk slow. Just walk.

As for as the huge cluster of mass with no awareness of sensations inside and undesired sensations on the outer layer of it. (this is what you are calling headache and stuff i imagine). Study it with pure awareness without any desire to get rid of it. As soon as you accept it fully you will observe it braking down. Place your attention on the awareness it self when you observe this. Make sure there is no desire or aversion in the awareness.
« Last Edit: October 04, 2016, 10:19:12 AM by siddharthgode »

Anarcho

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Re: Help with great tensions and anxiety
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2016, 05:32:07 PM »
I had lot of anxiety.
And I feel now exactly the same as you. I mean huge tremors in my legs. And it's extremely difficult to release those tensions. When I sleep, I even feel my legs making move the mattress. When I meditate, I feel those tremors for hours after it. And I of course feel them every time I meditate.
But I had the same with pressures into my head as I wrote it in my topic. It disappeared after months of practice. Maybe will it be the same with it.
But I "struggle" from place to place. Firstly in my teeths, after in my head, now in my legs... Just asking me if it will stop one day....

Laurent

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Re: Help with great tensions and anxiety
« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2016, 10:29:20 PM »
I think that for people who have great traumas and huge difficulties in formal meditation, it is still good to practice a relaxation method based on the satipatthana, but with less formal aspects of meditation, like crossed legs posture, straight back or closed eyes etc...

Just find a posture, even lying, where you feel at ease and just observe breath as closely and as long as you can. Feel the resistances of the mind and the body while observing breath and observe them without judgement as "good" or "bad". For some time, don't regard them as "good" or "bad" but just observe them as physical or mental parts, it is some mechanic. You can later regard those things as bad or good if you want, but sometimes, try to see them as just parts of the body and the mind, even during a few seconds. Try to multiply those little moments in a meditation session and in the day if you have some time.
 
In the satipatthana sutta, we find that we can be aware of respiration or body movements all day long. It is quite difficult, but maybe is it less difficult when you are already concerned with physical or mental issues that are forming along the day . Those are obvious sensations, forming all day long and maybe you can sometimes observe them in the day with this same attitude of detachment just for a few seconds, like in the meditation sessions.

Anarcho, have you tried seiza posture? It can help if you have tremors on the legs. You can even put a cushion between your backside and your feets.

Metta.

Anarcho

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Re: Help with great tensions and anxiety
« Reply #5 on: October 05, 2016, 10:11:08 AM »
Thank you for the help.
I think the first part was an answer to the topic. On my side, I must admit that observing the breath helped, but anymtime I practice it, even if this is only just 10 minutes, I can be sure I won't sleep at night. I already had insomnia before and this practice makes me too much aware at the time of sleeping.

I don't know the posture. But I m practicing on a chair since a few months. Do you think it's normal that my tensions are focused like this for months in certain parts of the body?

stillpointdancer

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Re: Help with great tensions and anxiety
« Reply #6 on: October 05, 2016, 10:36:05 AM »
Personally I would go for something like Jon Kabat-zinn's Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program, MBSR, or a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy course of some kind. I did just that when I went through rather a lot of trauma, so I know that it worked for me. Failing that I would go for any general stress reduction program, and come back to the Buddhist stuff later on.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

BeHereNow

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Re: Help with great tensions and anxiety
« Reply #7 on: October 05, 2016, 02:52:09 PM »
When I first started meditating sitting alone would bring up too much tension and anxiety, I didn't yet have the container strong enough to manage it.  What worked for me was incorporating yoga into my spiritual practice.  Yoga nidra in particular is very helpful when dealing with lots of tension, anxiety and strong emotion.  Richard Miller has some good ones, and my teacher Felicia Pavlovic has hers on itunes.

Even today 10 years later I still start my practice with some very slow and mindful yoga, with lots of emphasis on breathing, and then pranayama (breathing practices).  I practice yoga therapy, a tradition that is very slow and individualized, if you have a teacher near you it would be very helpful.  Desikachar's book "The Heart of Yoga" is very good too.  Once I have settled the body and mind a bit with my yoga, I can then sit and it is much more bearable.

One thing I learned looking back is that this kind of tension and anxiety is very normal and ok.  At first I thought I was doing something wrong or the meditation wasn't working for me, but now I see that once you start to look within, it is part of the process that very difficult material will come up.  Working with it is the path, and finding what speaks to you.  You are doing all the right things, and while you may not feel like you are getting "rid" of anything (it may actually get much stronger for a while!) the work is happening as you are learning to hold your own pain with patience and compassion.

Much metta,
Paula
"You are the Sky.  Everything else is just the weather." - Pema Chodron

polishedbrass

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Re: Help with great tensions and anxiety
« Reply #8 on: October 05, 2016, 08:10:59 PM »
Thank you all for the kind replies :)

Quote
Have you tried walking meditation? perhaps taking slow long walks (mindfully) instead of yoga might help your body relax. Another thing I would suggest is that you read dhamma books and listen to dhamma talks with topics related to letting go. This worked for me well and helped me let go of my past in big chunks instead of processing one issue at a time. My past still grasps my attention but with less intensity and frequency. You may already know everything is in your head that is translating to effects in your body and affecting you. Work on your mind and train it (to let go) and gradually, your body fall in line.

With regards to identifying the feelings, do you really have to? just feel whatever is there and be with it and observe how it effects your body and mind. Next time, you will know "that feeling". No need to identify or label it. Just observe and insights will come. Those insights will help you figure out minimize and mitigate their effects on your body and mind.

I will try walking meditaton. I think the yoga isn't really working well for me right now because I have too great an urge to get rid of the tension instead of accepting it. I am a 'controlfreak' among other things. One of my many ways of 'dealing' with feelings of insecurity :)

I want to learn to identify the feelings because it will help me in everyday life. I want to know why I feel what I feel because I need my feelings in order to live a full and rich life. I also get stuck in them because I don't know what I'm stuck in. I carry tension away from an event because I'm not in touch with my feelings in the moment and afterwards I don't know anymore why I'm in the state I'm in. It's just not something I learned when I was younger and I wasn't asked about my feelings when I was growing up on top of being afraid to show them most times.

When I first started meditating sitting alone would bring up too much tension and anxiety, I didn't yet have the container strong enough to manage it.  What worked for me was incorporating yoga into my spiritual practice.  Yoga nidra in particular is very helpful when dealing with lots of tension, anxiety and strong emotion.  Richard Miller has some good ones, and my teacher Felicia Pavlovic has hers on itunes.

Even today 10 years later I still start my practice with some very slow and mindful yoga, with lots of emphasis on breathing, and then pranayama (breathing practices).  I practice yoga therapy, a tradition that is very slow and individualized, if you have a teacher near you it would be very helpful.  Desikachar's book "The Heart of Yoga" is very good too.  Once I have settled the body and mind a bit with my yoga, I can then sit and it is much more bearable.

One thing I learned looking back is that this kind of tension and anxiety is very normal and ok.  At first I thought I was doing something wrong or the meditation wasn't working for me, but now I see that once you start to look within, it is part of the process that very difficult material will come up.  Working with it is the path, and finding what speaks to you.  You are doing all the right things, and while you may not feel like you are getting "rid" of anything (it may actually get much stronger for a while!) the work is happening as you are learning to hold your own pain with patience and compassion.

Much metta,
Paula

I am doing yoga already :) It used to really help me but now the tension is so great that I just find it very difficult to get into a state where I can 'relax into acceptance' so to speak. And if I'm not doing that I notice that the yoga is just pulling on the tension, not really doing that much. It doesn't feel the same but I'm still doing it.

Perhaps this just needs more time and even me being on forums asking about it and searching for solutions in books and on the internet is adding stress and non-acceptance to the situation which may be getting away.

 

Matthew

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Re: Help with great tensions and anxiety
« Reply #9 on: October 06, 2016, 09:58:03 AM »
Hello polishedbrass,

I too recovered memories of horrific childhood trauma through meditation practice and personal inquiry. It can be a very tough journey yet a worthwhile one: for every sadness you release, more joy will come into your life; for every trauma you process and let go of, more responsiveness and less reactivity will result. Every coin has two sides.

There are some basics that are really useful to work with: avoiding negative or unwholesome behaviours, relationship and people; enriching your life with positive habits and behaviours, relationships and people is a good place to start. There will be some people in your life who are "toxic" - you have already described one relationship that fits this. That is not to say that the person is toxic but that their behaviour is toxic to your recovery process. You will need to manage carefully or even cut off completely from toxic people.

Other basics include exercise, eating good food, drinking enough water, not getting dragged into others' dramas.

It will take time to bring that which has been held at bay - for your own safety and survival as a child - into the light of day. Meditation will help. TRE is excellent. Give these things time: they work progressively.

You may also want to establish a relationship with a therapist you trust. This type of relationship provides a useful "release valve" where you can talk about what you are feeling and going through safely.

There is an excellent resource guide for those healing from trauma using meditation by a Harvard psychologist called Jim Hopper. This can be found on Hopper's website. You will see from this page that developing resources for inner kindness is very important.

You mention about not learning about emotions properly when you were a child and this is quite often the case. It even affects the development and expression of some brain structures as well as aspects of brain chemistry. The good news is that neuro-plasticity (the ability of the brain to rewire) has been shown to be immense, perhaps endless.

This means complete healing is within your reach.

It takes time. It takes a lot of self-care. It takes honouring your feelings and learning about them, gaining the understanding and language you didn't learn about as a child.

Above all it takes learning to look after yourself day to day, learning to trust your intuition and emotions, doing the basic things such as sleeping to the extent you need ...

You will get there.

The tightness in your chest and difficulties breathing are very common. This is a sign of tension and emotion being trapped. You can learn how to release all of it in time.

Be good to yourself, choose relationships wisely and go slowly, don't try to force the process: the most important thing I learned is that when meditation is stable progress in healing becomes quick. The mind is being given a safe space to deal with that you need to deal with - and it rewards you by doing it's job and healing your wounds: it has all the innate potential to do this.

Your job is to create the conditions for healing to take place. You are doing well. Keep at it.

With much kindness,

Matthew

ps I made a radio show on this subject, giving survivors the chance to speak their truth on a community radio station. You may or may not choose to listen to some other peoples history and healing stories. I offer you the link so you may choose if this might help you: Survivors Voices: Speaking Truth to Power
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Laurent

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Re: Help with great tensions and anxiety
« Reply #10 on: October 06, 2016, 10:32:34 AM »
Also, metta meditation is a wonderful source of appeasement for emotional issues.
Take the time to deepen with this kind of meditation.

Metta.

polishedbrass

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Re: Help with great tensions and anxiety
« Reply #11 on: October 06, 2016, 03:22:43 PM »
Thank you so much for the thorough reply Matthew. It gives me some consolation and hope.
I will have a look at the website you mentioned and listen to your radio show

Also, metta meditation is a wonderful source of appeasement for emotional issues.
Take the time to deepen with this kind of meditation.

Metta.

I will start incorporating some metta. Matthew also mentioned the importance of 'developing resources of inner kindness'.
I will look into it.

Matthew

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Re: Help with great tensions and anxiety
« Reply #12 on: October 06, 2016, 04:00:09 PM »
Thank you so much for the thorough reply Matthew. It gives me some consolation and hope.
I will have a look at the website you mentioned and listen to your radio show

Listening to the show be aware that some difficult topics are covered (though rarely dwelled upon) - it is possible this could trigger a negative reaction - why I said you may or not choose to listen. It can be liberating hearing others' have experienced something similar.

You're welcome for the information. I had to learn so much myself along the way it is only natural to "bootstrap" that experience to the benefit of others :)


I will start incorporating some metta. Matthew also mentioned the importance of 'developing resources of inner kindness'.
I will look into it.


It's covered on Hopper's page - and in my experience is essential to compassionately allowing meditation to do it's healing work. Hopper has redesigned the page recently - it used to all be one document. That can still be accesses via the internet archive here: https://web.archive.org/web/20160416072238/http://www.jimhopper.com/mindfulness/
« Last Edit: October 06, 2016, 04:03:55 PM by Matthew »
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polishedbrass

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Re: Help with great tensions and anxiety
« Reply #13 on: October 06, 2016, 04:16:30 PM »
I had one more question.

I am reading Hopper's page and he talks about holding the pain, fear anger..etc. like you would a child.
Is it okay to place a hand on your heart or belly while doing this? I've noticed that when I do I am much better able to connect with the feelings that are there, but I read a lot about the importance of keeping your posture.

Matthew

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Re: Help with great tensions and anxiety
« Reply #14 on: October 06, 2016, 06:45:46 PM »
polishedbrass,

Nobody can walk this path for you. We may see some of the same landmarks on the way yet we each take a different path. As I said earlier:

Quote
.. It takes honouring your feelings and learning about them, gaining the understanding and language you didn't learn about as a child.

Above all it takes learning to look after yourself day to day, learning to trust your intuition and emotions,, doing the basic things such as sleeping to the extent you need ...

If it helps you then I say do it. Nobody else is walking your path - and right now you are not trying to reach enlightenment - you are trying to heal deep wounds. The goals are different and so are the means.

Early in my healing I met a therapist who told me to go out and buy a teddy bear for myself. I felt mildly self conscious at the age of 33 doing so yet it was some of the best advice anyone ever gave me. That teddy bear was something the broken child in me needed.

Kindly,

Matthew

Post-script: you may find after a while of connecting using a hand on chest or belly that you become more sensitive to feeling - and no longer benefit greatly, yet  as long as it helps, it helps :)
« Last Edit: October 06, 2016, 06:52:16 PM by Matthew »
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Laurent

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Re: Help with great tensions and anxiety
« Reply #15 on: October 07, 2016, 10:42:31 AM »
I feel that practising dhamma does trigger some negative reactions anyway. It seems to me a normal aspect of the path.
No?

Matthew

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Re: Help with great tensions and anxiety
« Reply #16 on: October 08, 2016, 02:59:51 PM »
I feel that practising dhamma does trigger some negative reactions anyway. It seems to me a normal aspect of the path.
No?

It is not exactly triggering "negative reactions" at the stage polishedbrass is at. It would be more accurate to say it is bringing to the conscious mind that which has been held in a safe place in the subconscious mind. If one prepares oneself well, looks after oneself and does the basics of morality, food, water, sleep and self-care then the reactions, if negative, will be short lived as the release of habitually held tension is a positive thing - though can be frightening on the point of release. It's all about creating conditions conducive to healing and a sense of safety.
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Laurent

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Re: Help with great tensions and anxiety
« Reply #17 on: October 08, 2016, 09:41:31 PM »
It is not exactly triggering "negative reactions" at the stage polishedbrass is at. It would be more accurate to say it is bringing to the conscious mind that which has been held in a safe place in the subconscious mind.

Yes, that is what i had in mind.

 

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