Microdosing pain: how to make things suck less, by sucking more

Updated Nov 19 2020
findyourafterglow

UPDATE 2020: This writing has been migrated to The Afterglow, my members-only private publication.

Join today and get instant access to this post, and so much more.

  1. "It's making the proactive choice to develop strengths, instead of the choiceless reaction of living in fear and desperately working around perceived weaknesses."

    This. This sentence has so much power. Thank you.

  2. Thank you! You just put into words why I’m so anxious and what I’m doing with my time. For me, joining a music group has helped with my micrdosing of embarrassment, but it’s time for me to move the microdosing into the work/job realm and into my fears around my child dying. I haven’t figured out what those will be though.

    • Something that I got from this article, and that I am finding truly mind blowing, is that the micro dosing doesn't need to be the same flavour as the details of the anxiety. I like the idea of getting better at feeling stupid being helpful for the pool related issue, and probably a bonus load of other anxieties which all boil down to feeling stupid as well! It is harder with the massive ones like fear of losing someone close to you, since losing a parent very suddenly a few years ago, I have struggled hugely with the absolute terror of losing my partner in some way. But I suspect that dealing with the smaller anxieties will over all loosen the grip even of the mega ones, which I find don't respond well to head on approaches, like flooding anyway. I knew somewhere deep down that this was the way to tackle this stuff but maybe I wasn't ready to really hear it. This is going to resonate now though for a long time.

      • "But I suspect that dealing with the smaller anxieties will over all loosen the grip even of the mega ones.."

        Yeah, for me, developing coping skills in little doses has helped me slowly build up a larger sense of calm around handling larger challenges. Some of that could also be that when I'm not in constant ambient anxiety mode over the small stuff, I'm able to conserve my emotional resources so that I have more energy to devote to dealing with the larger stuff?

        I'm not totally sure yet. It's all an experiment.

    • work with a therapist that specializes in CBT – Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment that takes a hands-on, practical approach to problem-solving. Its goal is to change patterns of thinking or behavior that are behind people's difficulties, and so change the way they feel. they essentially work with you to overcome your fears by giving you controlled times and activities to do to work through those little by little. You should really do this in a controlled environment through someone who has experience with this. I did this for post partum anxiety (didn't even know that was a think before I had it, and my major fear was my child getting sick or dying). It was tough, but so worth it!!

      • YES! Whenever I write about some weird thing I'm trying on my brain, someone pops in to note that it sounds a lot like Cognitive Behavior Therapy. I did some writing about one concept a few months ago: https://offbeathome.com/opposite-action/

        I've never worked with a CBT therapist, so I'm not able to offer a first-person recommendation, but I have several friends who've super benefited from it… and thank you so much for sharing your experience, too! I absolutely agree with you: if someone's in a place of crisis, it's really REALLY important to be working with an actual trained expert. I'm just some lady on the internet, rambling about the mental exercises I try to do with myself. I'm not a counselor and am totally unqualified to do anything more than share my stories, as food for thought.

  3. Holy shit. I started to copy and paste the bits of this that resonated with me so I could comment on them specifically but the whole thing resonates. I'm going to need to read it a few more times and let the lesson sink in (because it's so easy to fall back into anxiety patterns.)

  4. Thanks for this. I stumbled over it while mindlessly scrolling through FB in the process of trying to distract myself away from an overwhelming anxiety attack. Read through twice, still haven't processed it all but it helps to know I have something to come back to, a tool to to help tackle this stupid anxiety.

    I'm not one that makes plans, work arounds or strategies to deal with the things that scare me. My anxiety throws me into what I call ostrich mode. The tiny fear becomes an overwhelming cloud of badness so I bury my head and avoid it, hide from it or run away.

    I've realized that my coping strategies are useless, but I have yet to replace them with anything. Why? Because OMG!- that means taking stock of all my failed attempts at life and re-evaluating all I've done wrong and trying to figure my shit out. It's too much, so I stumble onward armed with a sad bag of tricks mainly comprised of shoving food in my mouth, immersing myself in TV, distracting myself by constantly scrolling through social media and literally hiding in my house to avoid any situation or person that might be uncomfortable. It's exhausting.

    My husband is a huge advocate of confronting your fears and charging forward. I have tried and wow does that suck. I'm sure tiny, manageable, controlled doses will be so much easier to handle.
    Controlled. That seems to be the big word. Having control of all situations, knowing exactly what to expect, that's the only way I can confidently move forward in life. But oh, letting go of control, just knowing that I won't know what to expect makes me sick to my stomach.

    But there comes a point in life where you realize that you've got to take control of yourself – not the world around you. The only control you have is over your own actions. So it's time for me to woman up, use the tools I've got readily available (hello, mini computer constantly in my hand) and figure my shit out.

    I apologize for using the comment as my journal entry of the day. Bottom line is: Thanks Ariel, this helps.

    • As recovering control freak, I feel you SO HARD. For me, it's an ongoing daily process of surrendering. Choosing to practice in little doses helps me feel like I have a little agency, even as I try and release any illusions of actual control.

      But yeah: baby steps.

  5. Things that make you go "hmmmm…"
    This resonated with me in an unexpected way as I thought about what coping mechanisms I might have learned ( or not ) in childhood.
    Many years ago I concluded that I don't appear to suffer from anxiety as much as most people do ( a genetic gift from my father ) and even though that generally *is* a gift… how has it shaped me? I spent a good part of yesterday thinking about how that "gift" might have come with strings.
    Maybe developing my "anxiety muscles" a little more might be a good thing for me.

  6. I LOVE how you've described this! "Microdosing pain" is way more interesting than expanding your stress response curve or whatever resilience studies are saying these days.

    I too grew up very sheltered and basically did everything possible to avoid stress and pain well into my 20s. Fast forward another 20 years and I'm now practicing what I call "prophylactic resilience" – consciously putting myself in situations a bit outside of my comfort zone. It's nerve-wracking every time so it doesn't FEEL like progress, but when I look back, I can see that growth has occurred!

    • "Prophylactic resilience"!!! What a great term for this practice. I'mma use it, with full attribution, natch!

Comments are closed.