When we are subjected to intense pressure our physical and cognitive functions can become severely impaired. Stress affects our thinking and our emotions, but it also causes physiological changes. It is as much a physical as a mental state.
This is why, if you are in a state of acute stress, talking in itself is not always helpful. It can keep you ‘in your head’ and amplify the white noise of mental overload. In these cases I combine talking therapy with physical work, such as biodynamic massage, metamorphic technique and breathing exercises, to help regulate the autonomic nervous system when it is jammed in ‘fight or flight’ mode.
People who are sensitive or intuitive can act like tuning forks in picking up the atmosphere and energy around them. They can become ‘lightening conductors’ for other people’s anxieties, and end up experiencing the unexpressed fears or tensions of the group. Creative people working in pressurised cultures can be particularly susceptible to this. It can lead to out-of-the-blue panic attacks or psychosomatic symptoms. Therapy can help you recognise the unconscious group processes and understand what’s ‘yours’ and what’s ‘not yours’, so you can better defend yourself against stressful group dynamics.
Stress may be contextual and environmental – in which case it is a question of working out how, practically, to alleviate the causes and manage your responses. There may also be underlying issues that lead you to be susceptible. For example, difficulty saying no; anxiety around authority; exaggerated fears of the consequences of ‘being yourself’, or low self-esteem. These are common issues that therapy can help with.