Today I’m joined by my friend Holly to talk about common misconceptions and mistakes surrounding exposure. Many people are unaware of the true nature of exposure and how it actually works as part of the anxiety recovery process.
Here are the highlights:
1. Exposure is not just “doing things” or “going places”.
2. Exposure is about how you FEEL and how you react to how you feel. I’s not really about where you are or what you’re doing.
3. Exposure works when you expose yourself to the thing you fear. In this case, you do not fear the car or the highway or the family reunion. You fear panic and anxiety and fear itself. Your goal is to feel those things in a productive way – without bracing or fighting or resisting or escaping. Your goal is to feel anxiety, fear and panic while doing NOTHING in response.
4. Exposure can happen anywhere. If you are experiencing panic attacks even in your own house, then you can work on that the same way you would work on trying to learn to drive on the highway again.
5. Effective exposure isn’t random or sporadic. Effective exposure involves planned, repeated, consistent, incrementally increasing sessions. Sadly, we can learn to be afraid instantly. It takes time and repetition to unlearn that.
6. Effective exposure involves STAYING in the uncomfortable feelings. Ending the session or running back to your “safe zone” when afraid and uncomfortable isn’t effective. You must stay in that situation, even if it’s only for 30 seconds, before exiting. You must increase the time you spend in that situation methodically and consistently. This is how exposure works best.