The root cause of anxiety is unexpected.
I was completing a hypnotherapy session with a client the other day and asked him, what insights or “ah-ha!” moments arose from our session.
His response was classic: “That it really is all about my mom.”
Despite his mom being gone for a decade, despite all the other processing, grieving, healing, and forgiveness that he had already done around his childhood, he realized that the root cause of his anxiety was his relationship with his mother growing up.
And this is very common.
Why is the root cause of anxiety your mother?
I see this in a lot of my clients. Their anxiety symptoms, fears, lack of self-worth and self-love, and imposter syndrome as adults stem from the wounds triggered by the events of their childhood.
The conversations, behaviors, and actions of their family of origin, and most importantly, their relationship with their mom (or the lack thereof), are at the heart of the hurt and pain they’re experiencing.
Not to strike fear into the hearts and minds of all you loving moms out there, but the truth is that everyone has some junk in their trunks.
The wounds, negative self-beliefs, and trauma are often passed from one generation to the next.
It’s this collection of negative beliefs caught in your cellular memory that wreaks havoc on your nervous system and causes present-day panic attacks, outbreaks of imposter syndrome, and worrying when the other shoe is going to drop in your life or career.
I believe that most parents are doing the best they know how to do at any given moment with the data made available to them from their upbringing and their personal growth and development along the way.
Does it mean that they don’t get things wrong? Heck no. Does it mean they don’t unintentionally create more trauma? Definitely not.
Whether they did it completely unconsciously, or intentionally, is always up for debate. But you can’t teach what you didn’t learn.
The bottom line is that the past is in the past.
But your amygdala doesn’t recognize that little fact. (That’s the part of your brain responsible for your fight, flight, or freeze fear response).
It’s how you’re still thinking about the past and emotionally reacting to those memories and childhood triggers. That’s what keeps your amygdala vigilant all the time and has you spinning with fear well into adulthood.
The problem is that oftentimes a person doesn’t know what’s triggering them into a state of anxiety or depression. They just know that they feel off, out of sorts, or downright stressed out and fearful.
Their body has aches and pains, their nervous system is on high alert, their digestion might be out of whack and their energy is low.
How do you create change if you don’t know what you need to change?
The key to change is getting to the root of the problem. And the key to getting to the root is enhancing your self-awareness.
Being conscious of what’s working for you and what’s not. Noticing how your body is feeling and what feels below whatever your normal baseline of happiness and well-being is day-to-day.
This can give you the insights to recognize when you need some extra support from time to time.
The challenge for so many is that when you don’t get to the root of the problem, you’re only putting band-aids on it.
There’s a huge array of band-aids available night and day through the magic of the internet and they come in many forms:
Numbing the problem with any variety of things (alcohol, food, drugs, gambling, shopping, television, etc.).
Avoiding the problem by working harder, spinning faster, or staying distracted with other shiny objects.
Denying the problem by sticking your head in the sand and ignoring your own emotions and how your body is feeling.
But, all is not lost!
There’s a way to rewire your thinking, eliminate the emotional charges from your past, release the trauma held at a cellular level, and recalibrate how you choose to move through the world with greater self-love, self-acceptance, ease, and joy.
When you’re overcome with anxiety, here are 3 important steps to release that negative energy from your mind, body, and spirit.
In 20 years of coaching clients, here’s the root cause of anxiety:
1. “SBNRR” your way through it
This can help you slow down and consider the situation — and your thoughts, feelings, and reactions — more mindfully amid a panic attack or stressful moment.
Stop: Allow yourself to stop in your tracks and take a moment to pause.
Breathe: Take in a deep breath, letting your negative thoughts drift away like a cloud passing through the sky.
Notice: Observe your feelings, where are you feeling them in your body?
Reassess: Make a mental note of your reaction and, if possible, what specifically triggered the anxiety. Was it your surroundings, your peers, or the situation?
Respond: By taking the above steps, you’re more likely able to respond more effectively (versus a fear-based, panicked reaction) to the situation from a more calm, level-headed perspective.
2. Write it down
Take time to journal and get those negative thoughts out of your head. Then, you can more objectively evaluate the fear disguised as “evidence” your brain is providing and stop ruminating about it.
Try this: In your journal or notebook, create two columns. Column one is labeled: “Evidence that I’m inadequate.” Column two is labeled: “Evidence that I’m competent.”
Any time you start to spiral into negative thinking, you can use this to see what’s true and what empowers you into action.
It’s also a great way to notice what are the recurring theme songs of your stress and anxiety patterns. With these insights in hand, you can get the support you need.
3. Seek out support
Do you have an “un-scratchable itch” of anxiety that plagues you? One that you can’t seem to shake no matter what you try?
While there are many different forms of support — hypnotherapy, coaching, talk therapy, Reiki, Chinese medicine, acupuncture — you want to start by getting at the root cause that is creating your anxiety.
Where or when did the belief get locked into your cellular memory, to begin with?
This is where the power of hypnotherapy comes in.
When you can sink into an Alpha brain wave state, you access that half-awake, half-asleep trance-like state, which allows you access to your subconscious mind.
This is where all your beliefs, emotions, and stories about yourself from your entire life reside.
With access to these “files,” you can identify the root of the trauma (without having to relive it), so you can better understand the emotional residue that was left behind in those moments and begin to rewrite and rewire the beliefs you’ve been believing about yourself your whole life.
When you begin to realize that the “truths” that you’ve held about yourself for so long can be changed for the better, beliefs like: “I’m not enough,” “I’m not lovable, “I’m not worthy of receiving love, abundance or happiness,” it’s a game-changer!
The science of neuroplasticity says that you can rewire your brain with new neural pathways to create new mindsets.
You can adopt a growth mindset that tells you the actual truth of who you are.
You are enough. You are loveable. You are worthy and deserving of all the love, joy, and happiness you can imagine and so much more. You always have been and you always will be.
And when you start to believe these actual truths about yourself versus the negative programming you adopted as a kid, perhaps your nervous system can start to calm down and take a deeper breath.
The more you can believe in yourself and love yourself, the more confident you become. And it doesn’t take years of talk therapy or coaching.
Often, you can create powerful, positive changes in as little as 30-90 days and rewrite your story of pain into one of triumph, joy, and success.
If you or somebody that you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, there is a way to get help. Call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or text “HELLO” to 741741 to be connected with the Crisis Text Line.
Michele Molitor, CPCC, CHt, is a certified coach and hypnotherapist, and co-author of the book Breakthrough Healing. She assists high-achieving professionals in reducing their overwhelm and reclaiming their self-confidence, calm, and clarity to create a thriving life and career.