Much of the stress you encounter is easy to identify. You can relate it to something that just happened, something that is happening now, or something you expect to happen in the future. But is your identification correct? Is the situation really the root of your stress? Or is your stress part of a recurring pattern?
Lingering feelings of extreme anxiety and stress may be a sign of chronic depression. If you experience these types of symptoms, it is advisable to seek professional counseling as soon as possible.
To help yourself identify a recurring pattern of stress, you may try a self-hypnosis technique known as the calendar method. Find a comfortable position, loosen your clothes, take a deep breath, exhale, and count yourself down into a calm and relaxing trance. You may trigger your anchors to help you go deeper into trance.
Suggest to yourself that you only need to experience a small amount of a stressful feeling to help you get a clear image of where it came from. You may always open your eyes and end the trance anytime you want.
When you have reached your comfortable trance level, focus on a current stressful feeling. Once you have identified and experienced a small amount of the stress emotion, go back to an earlier, similar stress emotion. Keep going back until you find your earliest image of this stress. Once you have done this, ask yourself if there are any other images in your unconscious mind that relate to your present stress emotion.
It is possible that you may transfer one stress emotion to another without consciously realizing what you are doing. If you overreact to something, it can be an indication of this. You might suddenly be consumed with an emotion for no apparent reason, but it was triggered by something that brought the stress image out of your unconscious mind. That emotion might take over, and then you are just along for the ride.
Transference occurs when a person has an emotional feeling about something and refocuses the feeling onto something or someone else. Psychoanalysts use observations of transference to help arrive at the emotional roots of a patient's problem.
Affect-Bridge Regression Technique
The affect-bridge regression is a technique you can use to look for the root of a stressful emotion. It goes backward in time like the calendar technique, except that it uses the kinesthetic sense of emotions. To try this technique, find a comfortable place, loosen your clothes, take a deep breath, exhale, and count yourself down into a calm and relaxing self-hypnotic trance. Remember, you can always open your eyes anytime you want, and come back relaxed and calm. You may trigger your anchors to help you go deeper.
Suggest to yourself that you will feel just enough of your stressful emotion to help you go back to times in your memory when you experienced the same feeling. As you go backward, examine the pattern of your stress. Once you are at the root of the emotion, ask yourself what other early experiences or emotions may be related to this emotion.
Continue backward into your unconscious mind as far as you can go, examining your memories. Collect as much information as possible, without questioning what comes to you. After the session is over, you can examine the information you have collected and compare it to your current stress situation. You may gain some new insights into your past through this process.
Whenever you are collecting memory images through self-hypnosis, try to keep your conscious mind from analyzing the information until after the trance. The lighter the trance, the easier it is for the conscious mind to intrude. Once you have finished your trance, you will have time to digest what you have experienced.
Unknown Sources of Stress
It is possible that you may experience stress in your life that cannot be readily linked to any specific source. Your earliest memories may contain feelings of stress or distress, as if you were born with it. That is possible: you may have absorbed someone else's stress at a very young age, or it may have come from a past life (see Chapter 17).