As a teenager, I went through a period of having terrifying panic attacks which would last for 30m-1h or so, leaving me shaken and scared. One of the observations I made during my recovery from these incidents was that it felt like once I had the first inkling that I was heading into an attack, I didn’t feel like I had an option. The image that came into my mind was driving a car in a really wet muddy field, and the tire tracks that were already laid were the only ones I could follow, or at least that was the easiest option, and those tracks led into the full blown breathlessness, body chills, out of body experience that was so familiar.
When I learned to overcome them, it was by yanking the steering wheel with a new behavior, forcing myself onto a different path. Sometimes I didn’t, because it felt too hard, but at least I knew I had an option.
This image has been so helpful to me over the years. Anytime I’m doing something new, whether it be a new behavior, something different in a relationship, at work or home, it’s helpful to think about those tire tracks, sometimes worn VERY deep in the mud. It takes a lot of effort to turn the wheel and go somewhere new. Thoughts we’ve thought before many times are going to be the ones we think again and again, simply because its easier to, and our brains are designed to do the easy thing. But with the right tools, and when we are feeling brave, turning that wheel to go to a different place can be the taste of a liberation we didn’t think possible