Many people will say to me, "My panic attacks, or my anxiety, has nothing to do with my thoughts. I wasn't thinking of anything. Yes they were, they were just not aware.
Why Mindfulness and how does it differ from other cognitive techniques?
Other cognitive techniques, while being very effective, don't emphasis the ongoing awareness of thought patterns in the way a mindfulness technique does. Using a mindfulness technique means we can begin to see how it is not just our obvious thoughts, 'what if I have a heart attack, go insane, lose control, make a fool of myself' etc that are creating our anxiety and panic. Mindfulness shows us how our low self esteem also impacts on us, and how our thoughts about ourselves and the way we interact with other people also perpetuates our anxiety and panic.
Mindfulness helps us to become aware of how we constantly get hooked into feeling guilty about a myriad of different situations, how our perfectionist behaviour impacts in our lives, and how our need to be 'all things to all people' creates so much of our underlying anxiety.
Once we are aware of all that we are unknowingly doing to ourselves, Mindfulness then teaches us and shows us, that we can have a choice in what we think about and in how we live our lives. Other cognitive techniques usually do not go into as much subtle detail as the mindfulness technique.
Other cognitive techniques involve changing our thoughts. eg the thought, 'what if the doctor has made a mistake. What if there is really something wrong with me that they have overlooked'. With cognitive therapy you would be asked to look at this thought and find a more reality based thought. eg
' I have seen two different doctors and a cardiologist. All the tests results from each doctor and the cardiologist show there is nothing physically wrong with me.' and/or ' I have been feeling like this now for 'X' amount of months, years, if there was something wrong with me I would know it for sure by now. And so would the doctors!'
Mindfulness differs from this approach in so far as the technique doesn't involve finding a more reality based thought. Mindfulness teaches the reality! With a mindfulness technique people begin to see the intimate relationship between their thought patterns and how this creates their anxiety and panic.
Once we are aware of this relationship, we begin to lose our various fears because we can see, step by step, how it is being created. If we dissociate it teaches us to see how this happens and how our thoughts about it create the panic and anxiety.
As we practice Mindfulness we begin to realise that we do have a choice in what we think about. Using the mindfulness technique we can then exercise this choice!