Extremes

General discussion, particularly exploring the Dharma in the modern world.
[N.B. This is the forum that was called ‘Exploring Buddhism’. The new name simply describes it better.]
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Sam.E
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Joined: Fri Sep 11, 2020 4:04 am

Extremes

Post by Sam.E »

Hi everyone. So this is my first post.. I will try to keep it short! I don’t currently have a teacher/sangha so I’m really hoping I can find some guidance on this forum... any help would be immensely appreciated..!

So yeah. I am running into the same problem I always have with meditation in daily life. It is always with interactions with people. I have always had very intense anxiety. I find that when mindfulness is present, the control freak cannot also be present, so it is absent. I might feel peaceful for a little while but with all the things happening in an interaction with somebody, I always begin to get overwhelmed and start freaking out. I am on the autism spectrum so I rely quite a bit on control to feel like I’m normal and doing okay.. it’s very scary for me to let go of the controller when I am interacting with people.. Does anybody have a helpful practice for this? I think I am becoming overly relaxed/carefree but without the proper mindfulness/concentration to accompany.. I am a novice in terms of concentration, as I haven’t been practicing dutifully for long..

I am currently practicing feeling the breath in my naval, and allowing everything to be as it is. It works when I’m practicing alone, but I’m obviously struggling to apply it around people.. ha.

Thanks.

Sam
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PadmaVonSamba
Posts: 3967
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

Re: Extremes

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

My son also has anxiety issues related to autism.

On the one hand, there’s your “immediate mind” that is having interaction with people, or situations, that begins to freak out, or experience anxiety when things get too complex, or too noisy, too much face-to-face interaction, or whatever (it can be different for different people). It’s Very overwhelming and just takes over.

It’s kind of like a pot of water on the stove that’s okay for a while, but then suddenly something happens, and it starts boiling over the top. Am I describing that correctly?
That’s what you might call your “immediate” mind. It reacts to whatever is immediately happening.

But then, you also have a mind that is watching that pot boiling over, and wants to do something about it, wants to run over and turn the heat down. This is the mind that sees the external triggers (causes) of the anxiety, sees the anxiety itself, and also sees “you” experiencing the anxiety. This is the mind that “watches” and practices mindfulness. Sometimes, it can’t get to the boiling water in time, before it boils over. So, it also feels some stress over not being able to control things.

I am saying it’s two minds, but it’s really two aspects of the same mind. It’s really one mind. However, each aspect has its own conditions. So, looking at it as two minds can be useful. You could also say “two levels” , except one is not higher than the other. It’s about where you are placing your attention at the moment.

So, it’s the second one, the observing mind, that needs the tools (like mindfulness) in order to be able to step in soon enough before the anxiety starts to boil over.
What the tool of mindfulness does is it places your attention on the observing mind, instead of you attention being consumed by the immediate reacting mind.

I think if you can come up with more tools, maybe some little reminders, where to put your attention, where to focus, that may help.

For example, you might need a tool that allows you to step away from an anxiety situation easily (when the feeling is that you need to get away quickly!). This can be something simple as holding up a finger and saying, “excuse me, I will be right back!” and then actually leaving that space, the room or wherever you are, for a few minutes. (This is like removing the pot of water from the heat).

Or, if it’s a sudden change or something unexpected that is creating the anxiety, remembering to stop and take a deep breath and to just wait a few moments, if it’s possible to do that. Sometimes, of course, it is not possible. If a fire alarm goes off, you need to respond right away. But even then, responding calmly without panic is important.

But that’s why people practice fire drills. So, if you have some reminder tools that you can use, practice with them a little bit every day, maybe in the morning before you leave your house. Imagine an anxiety situation and then practice the tools. Practice the mindfulness like a fire drill.

Having lots of tools helps. But regular practice is important. Since you are posting your question on a Buddhist forum, you will find that daily practice is very important in Buddhism. This is especially true when it’s really, really hard not to get overwhelmed by things.
Be kind.
Sam.E
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Sep 11, 2020 4:04 am

Re: Extremes

Post by Sam.E »

Thanks a lot for the thoughtful response!

The thing I took from your post is 'keep up the practice'. I will do that, and see if maybe my issue resolves itself. Thanks again!

Sam
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PadmaVonSamba
Posts: 3967
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

Re: Extremes

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

Sam.E wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 9:28 am Thanks a lot for the thoughtful response!

The thing I took from your post is 'keep up the practice'. I will do that, and see if maybe my issue resolves itself. Thanks again!

Sam
You can recall recent situations that caused some anxiety, play them over again in your mind, and this time apply some coping tools. It’s kind of like rehearsing. I think you know what I mean. Like practice role-playing, except it’s just you and your imagination.

But perhaps you can also give me some suggestions. As I mentioned, my adult son also has issues with personal interactions, looking directly at people, even using FaceTime is really hard.
He knows that there is nothing to be anxious about, but it’s like stage-fright I guess.
Based on your own experiences, what do you think would help him? Is there away to have what he knows override what he feels?
Be kind.
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