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Try This at 2 AM to Feel Better


I wake up many nights anywhere from 2-4 AM with the most uncomfortable sensation in my chest.


I label it “anxiety.”


Sometimes a horrific thought occurs to me and strikes me like a bolt of lightning but often there is no corresponding thought.


The sensation is just there.


Can anyone relate?


Alan Gordon, Director of the pain psychology center and author of “The Way Out: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven Approach to Heal Chronic Pain” says “Your main job to recover from chronic pain or symptoms is to prioritize messages of safety to your primitive brain. From the moment you wake up, your number one priority throughout the day is to authentically help your primitive brain feel safe. “


Hmmm… what if this “anxiety” is just my primitive brain?


An irrational fear?


Because reality does not support this fear.


In reality, I’m in bed.


All is quiet.


My husband is asleep in bed next to me.


The kids are sleeping in their beds.


The doges are sleeping.


Everything is fine in the moment.


But my primitive brain irrationally thinks something is wrong.


I’ve been trying something new to get a handle on this primitive fear.


I’ve turned to IFS (Internal family systems which is a branch of counselling) and Martha Beck.


Martha Beck just released a newsletter with a really cool exercise (based on principles of IFS) to shift the mind from the scared primitive part of the brain to what in IFS is called the “Self” which is the part of the brain that all of us have access to that is expansive, calm, connected, curious, confident and compassionate and has clarity.


When we are dominated by the scared primitive brain, we have tunnel vision.


We don’t see many options or solutions.


However, when we can access the “Self” part of our brain, suddenly our awareness expands, and we see new solutions that we hadn’t thought of before.


I would much rather “be in my Self” brain than my primitive brain.


It’s much more comfortable there.


Here’s a wacky but very effective exercise to shift out of our fearful primitive brain state into the “Self.” Marth Beck calls this a “quick trip from anxiety to peace.”

  1. Find any part of you that is feeling anxious.

  2. Imagine it as a scared child or animal.

  3. While breathing deeply and slowly offer this part love and reassurance. “You’re ok” “I’m with you.”

  4. Remember to speak to it as if it’s another being, not yourself.

  5. Imagine the creature is sitting in another chair facing you.

  6. Imagine that you have a remote control that allows you to put the creature on “Pause.” It is now frozen in its chair.

  7. Gently turn your attention to the part of you that has been offering the love.

  8. Feel this being – the one that can comfort and reassure. This is your “Self.”

  9. Now press “play” and allow the creature to move around while staying centered in the calm observing self.

  10. Repeat as often as needed. (which is A LOT for me.)


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