Reconnect to your Core
a practical guide on how to feel good and be happy


The real cause of psychological problems

You’re probably reading this book because on some level you feel that there should be something more to life. You might have a lot of good things going for you, a steady relationship, a decent job, an interesting hobby, and friends and family you relate to, yet life doesn’t feel satisfying. You sense there’s something missing, and you don’t feel really happy or fulfilled. Often times you’re more worried and stressed than you’re actually enjoying life. Yet you can’t put the finger on what exactly it is that’s missing.

You’re probably reading this book because on some level you feel that there should be something more to life. You might have a lot of good things going for you, a steady relationship, a decent job, an interesting hobby, and friends and family you relate to, yet life doesn’t feel satisfying. You sense there’s something missing, and you don’t feel really happy or fulfilled. Often times you’re more worried and stressed than you’re actually enjoying life. Yet you can’t put the finger on what exactly it is that’s missing.

Most likely you’ve tried to change things hoping that life would get better. Maybe you’ve ended a relationship that wasn’t fulfilling, quit a stressful job, focused more on your hobbies, and hoped that «this time» you would feel happier and more alive. And maybe things did turn out for the better, at least for a short while, yet the inner tension and dissatisfaction kept coming back.

Many of us live this way. Not really content or happy in our lives. We’re bored, anxious, and lack enthusiasm and vitality even though our finances are sound and we’re surrounded by friends and family. So what’s actually going on here? As I intend to show you in this book:

The problem is that our feelings are being covered up by anxiety!

There is an automatic mechanism inside our brain that doesn’t allow feelings to be felt! Instead, what many feel when a feeling arise in them is anxiety in the form of tension, nervousness, stress, nausea, pain, dizziness, or other symptoms. This unconscious anxiety mechanism (the UAM) does one thing most people are not aware of:

It transforms a feeling into anxiety in 12 milliseconds.

Actually the whole process takes a few milliseconds longer, but still it happens way too fast to consciously comprehend (Ledoux, 1998). Let me repeat this: There is actually a mechanism inside your brain that without your consent hijacks your feelings, and changes your feelings into anxiety and muscle tension in less than a split second!! And this process affects every aspect of your life!

However, as if that wasn’t already a huge problem, most of us don’t even experience this unconscious anxiety directly since it’s hidden under layers of defense mechanisms and symptoms. This happens because immediately after our brain detects anxiety it invents subtle tactics and strategies so that we won’t have to feel this anxiety. Some of these tactics and strategies even last a lifetime, even when anxiety isn’t even present. Most of us are therefore totally unaware of the fact that we’re not in touch with our feelings, because we’re not even noticing our anxiety most of the time. Instead we’re suffering through various symptoms such as: 

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Worry
  • Physical pain
  • Panic attacks
  • Social anxiety
  • Procrastination
  • Loneliness
  • Emptiness
  • Boredom
  • Sleeplessness
  • Rumination
  • Irritable bowl syndrome
  • Somatic symptoms
  • Irritability
  • Low self-esteem
  • Low self-confidence
  • Attention difficulties
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of energy
  • Relationship problems
  • Lack of motivation and drive
  • Sexual problems
  • Acting out
  • Frustration
  • Self-defeating behavioral patterns
  • Self-attacking thought patterns
  • Self-criticalness
  • Chronic guilt
  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension
  • Back pain
  • Joint pain
  • Addictions
  • And a vague dissatisfaction with life.

The solution to overcoming these symptoms is to challenge your unconscious anxiety mechanisms (the UAM) to tolerate feeling your feelings again.

Everyone talks about feelings and goes around saying that they feel this or they feel that. But talking about something and really understanding what something is, are two very different things. Even most people who think they’re in touch with their feelings are in reality just as confused. In fact, it’s estimated that approximately 80-85 % of the population are not in touch with their feelings because their UAM dominates their emotional activations, and that they’re therefore unknowingly suffering from what Ronald J. Frederick calls a «feelings phobia».

The vast majority in our society live their whole lives totally unaware of their feelings phobia, and of course they’re then oblivious to the fact that this feelings phobia is the cause of their symptoms and problems.

 

Your symptoms are not the real problem

In a clinical setting most patients enter psychotherapy with a complaining symptom such as any of those listed above, and they’re often oblivious as to why these symptoms even exist. However, the symptoms themselves does not give any real indication to what the specific underlying causes for these symptoms are. In fact, the cause for these symptoms (i.e. our overactive UAM/feelings phobia) is something that most people have not even considered.


The solution to your problem

Most people that struggle with anxiety, depression, unexplainable somatic pain, or any psychological symptom suffer from feelings phobia without even knowing it!

Any psychological symptoms, such as those listed above, develops when there’s a need to express feelings and a need to defend against those feelings at the same time. Your symptoms that now have become your problem actually help you in some way to keep painful feelings out of your conscious awareness! This happens because the UAM will rather give you anxiety, pain, and symptoms, than allow you to experience «painful» feelings!

To be even more precise, the problem is that our UAM instinctively reacts with a fear response to certain feelings in the body. The UAM is responsible for giving us anxiety/stress/nervousness/tension rather than direct access to our feelings (happiness, sadness, anger, guilt, love). I will explain this mechanism thoroughly in Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 so that you both understand the mechanism itself, and why this mechanism even exist in the first place. The UAM may briefly be described in this 4-step process: 

The term «unconscious» means that something happens by itself automatically without you giving any effort or attention to it. That anxiety is unconscious means that the body (i.e. your muscles) tense up whether you want to or not.

That this feelings phobia is something most people go through all their lives unaware of is because of the mind’s tendency to «think and do things» rather than to «feel feelings». What the mind does when feelings that trigger unconscious anxiety are close to the surface is to create defense mechanisms. These defense mechanisms help us right there and then to avoid the experience of anxiety but they do so at great harm for our long-term level of happiness and well-being. You will learn much more about these defense mechanisms and how to overcome them in Chapter 8 and 11.

Modern neuroscience is able to prove this triangular relationship between our feelings, anxiety, and defense mechanisms. This triangle is in psychodynamic terminology called The Triangle of Conflict (Chapter 4). This intrapsychic process happens so fast inside us that it seems like the three elements (feeling, anxiety, and defense mechanism) happen all at once. However, neuroscience can reveal that the first thing that gets activated within us is a feeling, then if this feeling is perceived as «dangerous» by a part of our brain (the UAM) then anxiety will activate 12 milliseconds (0.012 seconds) later in order to «cover up» this feeling. It’s only after that has happened that the cognitive mind (i.e. the ego) 0.1 seconds later will become activated and start thinking (i.e. rationalize, worry, intellectualize, ruminate, etc) or begin to do things (deny, distract, ignore etc) in order to distract us from the anxiety. The Triangle of Conflict is illustrated graphically below. 

Let’s recap the most important points so far: Inside our mind there’s a mechanism (the UAM) that doesn’t allow us to feel feelings that once have been experienced as too painful by the brain! The UAM overrides our feelings and gives us anxiety and defenses mechanisms instead whether we like to or not. This process happens automatically without our consent, and 80-85 % of the population are suffering because they’re unknowingly being influenced (and almost led) by this mechanism.

But before you go: «Now that sounds like a lot of woo-woo. I’ve never had any anxiety. My problem is depression/back pain/chronic worrying/procrastination/unhappiness etc», let’s be on the same page about what the term «anxiety» refers to.

The term «anxiety» doesn’t refer to the nervous train wreck of a person shivering like a leaf and looking all frightened all the time. Anxiety is a medical term that refers to unconscious muscle tension. Very often this unconscious muscle tension is so subtle that we don’t consciously notice it, but still it influences our thoughts and indirectly our behavior. In fact, the UAM is so influential that most people that have a dominant UAM frequently doesn’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing (therefore they’re constantly regretting their actions).

When feelings that are perceived by the UAM as dangerous is present, the body will automatically tense up. This subtle muscular tension then colors every aspect of our existence through its tense worldview. On the other hand, when we get direct access to our feelings and are allowed to feel them fully we become energized, relaxed, warm, and alive!


The article above is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Reconnect to your Core.

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