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We all know the external signs of anxiety: sweaty palms, tight chest,
pounding heart, erection problems,
Both outwardly and inwardly, then, anxiety shares many of the features of the fight-or- flight response. This evolutionary hard-wired program responds automatically to a perceived threat by activating our sympathetic nervous system. In an adrenaline rush we pour out neurochemicals that accelerate our metabolism in various ways, all of them intended to help us deal with some external threat by running like hell or ripping its liver out with our teeth.
When the external threat exists, our response is called fear. In
its most irrational and exaggerated form, this fear can become phobia.
We can respond to an external appropriately and then after
BUT in anxiety, the threat is internally created: We are distressed
by some potential or future event
Turning of anxiety
One way to escape anxiety is simply to turn off the physiological symptoms of the fight or flight response, like turning off a faulty warning signal on a machine. This seems to be one of the ways in which brain technology works so effectively to alleviate anxiety: clearly mind tools have powerful and in many cases unsurpassed effects in rapidly producing deep relaxation by switching on the relaxation response.
Try to imagine being profoundly relaxed and experiencing anxiety. It's probably hard for you to do. There's evidence that deep relaxation and fear are mutually exclusive, when you are experiencing one, you cannot truly experience the other. So, to the degree that you permit brain technology to relax you, it will eliminate anxiety.
The image of flipping a switch switching off your fight or flight response and switching on your relaxation response, may seem like an oversimplification. But there is evidence that there may be a sort of "master switch" in the brain that turns on either the sympathetic or the parasympathetic system. According to cranial electrostimulation (CES) inventor and researcher Daniel Kirsch, CES produces "a direct stimulation of the autonomic nervous system" that can act "sort of like switching on the relaxation response. And CES researcher Ray Smith, describing a study of people who suffered from phobias, told me with astonishment that "what we found, essentially, was that the CES blocked the subjects' ability to feel fear altogether! This suggests that the old brain including the hypothalamus and amygdala, governing memories and emotional expression, is the area affected by the electrostimulation." What Smith found, in other words, was that stimulation with CES essentially switched off fear, or the fight or flight response.
This anti-anxiety effect is not limited to the minutes or hours of your brain-tech session. The effects of a single brain session can produce long-lasting relaxation effects. According to Dr. Thomas Budzynski, describing his clinical use of a light/sound (LS) system, "the device has a calming effect on the nervous of anxious patients. In a majority of cases the patients feel relaxed and calm during a period of three to four days after the sessions." Additional evidence suggests that the relaxation effects of brain tools are cumulative and incremental; thus repeated sessions will produce more powerful and longer lasting effects.
LIGHT AND SOUND
Whats more, brain tools can help you learn to activate this relaxation response very quickly, and under even the most trying conditions, I described my own experience of being trapped in a blacked-out subway, and discovering that while people were panicking, I was able to make myself suddenly feel very calm and relaxed, simply by remembering what I felt like while I was in a float tank and making my body duplicate that experience. There are other far more effective techniques, such as getting into a deep relaxation state with a l/s or CES signal, and then giving yourself the signal whenever you want to "activate" that relaxed state you have anchored.
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Turning away from anxiety
One curious quality of anxiety is that, since the external threat is not present, our attention and fear become focused on the symptoms of the anxiety itself. Thus we begin to fear that because our breathing is constricted, we will stop breathing; that because our heart is thumping, we will have a heart attack; and so on. A quick way to stop anxiety is to turn our attention away from it. You may have had the experience of suffering anxiety and then being distracted by something more urgent. By the time you remember how anxious you were, your anxiety has gone. Anxiety is a response to a perceived threat; it makes sense that if we forget about or have our attention diverted from the threat, then the physiological symptoms will disappear quickly.
One classic technique for diverting attention and focusing it on
something external is the movie hypnotist's swinging watch or medallion.
But simply using a brain machine (L/S, CES)can be far more powerful
and effective. Light and Sound systems, by instantly presenting you
with a kaleidoscopic array of dazzling colors and shifting patterns,
are probably the best examples of how brain tech can eliminate anxiety
not simply by diverting but by capturing your attention and holding
it astonished. In fact, the earliest commercial LS device was actually
sold as a hypnotic induction device.
color-field devices, acoustic field generators, binauralbeat
sound programs, and dual-induction spoken word programs all have antianxiety
effects that are partly due to their powers of capturing or diverting
attention from the users own interal processes.
CES AND ANXIETY
Of all the mind tools, CES is currently the most widely used for treatment of anxiety. As a result of numerous rigorously conducted scientific studies, CES is recognized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as effective in treating anxiety. One recent survey of over 150 doctors and patients showed that more than 98 percent of the patients being treated for anxiety with CES showed improvement; over 70 percent showed "marked improvement" or complete recovery. Controlled studies by researchers measuring state and trait anxiety have consistently shown that CES produces dramatic improvements in both.
One reason CES may be so effective is that, as Ray Smith discovered in his recent study of phobia, CES "blocked the subjects' ability to feel fear altogether." This may be, as Smith and Kirsch suggest, because CES acts directly on the control mechanism of the autonomic nervous system: It seems to simply flip a sort of toggle switch in the limbic system that switches it from the fight-or-flight to the relaxation response. Tests of the blood and cerebrospinal fluid of subjects using CES have proven that electrostimulation also has a profound and rapid effect on brain chemistry. Among effects noted has been a 90 percent increase in beta-endorphins within just minutes of starting use of CES. Researchers also have noticed rapid increases in serotonin, also associated with relaxation and calmness, and decreases in cortisol - one of the primary stress-related biochemicals. Interestingly, CES also increases levels of norepinephrine and dopamine; both associated with alertness and feelings of pleasure. This may be why so many CES users report feeling both relaxed and alert.
LIGHT AND SOUND
Light and sound
LS systems also have a superior track record in the treatment of
anxiety. Medical practitioners are finding insurance companies more
willing to pay for LS treatment as increasing evidence of its effectiveness
emerges. One way the LS systems work, clearly, is by altering, organizing,
and entraining brain-wave activity. Usually, treatment for anxiety
consists of entraining brain waves downward for extended periods at
alpha or even theta frequencies.
A substantial body of research also proves the antianxiety effects of the ganzfeld. This technique definitely slows brain waves and leads to states of deep whole-body relaxation.
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