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One Word that could Stop Extreme Anxiety

Change your thoughts and you change your world - Norman Vincent Peale

I have been supervising therapists for many years. It has been a professional pleasure to travel alongside many practitioners and watch their skills grow and evolve.

In a session recently, I was having a discussion with a Fusion therapeutic coach about developing a private practice at home. The point of our discussion was around the subject of negotiating and clarifying boundaries when your place of work is both a personal and family home.

There are certainly many challenges. One which came to my mind was an event when a knock at the door interrupted the supervision session.

A neighbour had arrived to tell me, in urgent terms, that my daughter had overturned her car nearby and an ambulance had been called. My daughter was asking for me.

This session is ended!

I made my apologies to the supervisee. My priorities had instinctively changed. The session was ended abruptly and I got into my car to find out what had happened.

My headspace had shifted from professional to personal in an instant, and shifted again as I rounded the corner to be greeted by the sight of my daughter’s upturned car, an ambulance, a small crowd in the road, and a paramedic walking towards me telling me to stay calm.

I was in a state of extreme anxiety. Even as I tell the story, I can feel my physiology change. A raised heartbeat, tightened stomach, tensed muscles, the usual signs of fight or flight. Head braced, my daughter was transported to the nearest hospital for an x-ray to see if she had broken her neck.

I made my way to the hospital by car. But, as I drove, I realised I was in fact a danger to myself and others on the road.

A horror film in my head

In my imagination, I was already playing a film of my daughter, disabled.

In my imagination, there was a horror movie of adaptations to the house to accommodate wheelchair access and moving her bedroom to the ground floor. My concentration was gone and I almost went through a red light.

I don’t know if it was the red light which reminded me about the S.T.O.P System. I had been teaching my clients this system of my own device for quite a while.

The word STOP! interrupts thought. Thought stopping reconnects to awareness. Awareness offers choice of response choice, a direct path to emotional intelligence and a step away from extreme anxiety

On this occasion I actually said the word STOP! out loud. I had to cut the scary movies fast. Sitting at the traffic light, other drivers would have been amused to see me talking out loud to myself.

Talking to myself

The conversation I had with myself went along these lines:

‘STOP! That is the worst case scenario. What is the best case scenario? What are all the options in between?’

It was my attempt to pull my brain out of extreme emotional hijacking and back to rational awareness, away from black and white thinking to the side of my brain which sees more than fifty shades of grey!

The best case scenario was that her neck would be fine, she would merely have cuts and bruises, a bit of shock, and be sent home the same day with some paracetamol.

That is eventually what happened. But, in that moment of extreme anxiety, fight or flight engaged, concentration gone, I was in a very, very dangerous position.

Thank goodness for the S.T.O.P System.

I truly believed it saved my life that day!


Frances Masters

Frances Masters is a BACP accredited psychotherapist with over 30,000 client hours of experience. Follow her @fusioncoachuk, or visit The Integrated Coaching Academy for details about up coming training.