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Solving the Puzzle With SIA

Solving the Puzzle With SIA post image

So often with depression and anxiety, freedom is found when we take our time and logically put together the pieces of the puzzle. Symptom Identification and Association (SIA) helps us do just that. Let’s talk…

In Panic! …and Poetic Justice I share a story about crossing the very intimidating I-43 bridge in Green Bay, WI some ten years ago now. As I was driving the incline I was bombarding with all sorts of mental, emotional, and physical aggravation. Among these, my upper abdomen tightened-up and wanted to spasm, my breathing became fast and shallow, I began to physically feel like a two-by-four, and I was just plain scared. I mean, I had all these expressions of underlying stuff that I, of course, managed masterfully, allowing me to cross the monster (uh, yeah).

But as all of this was going on the thought occurred to me…

“Gee, I’ve experienced these sensations tons of times in the past, and I wasn’t always crossing a bridge at the time.”

Hmmm. By George, all of what I was experiencing was part of a long-standing reactionary pattern. Well, I found that darned interesting. So that led me to the realization that if I’m presenting very specific mental, emotional, and physical phenomena when I very definitely know I’m scared or, let’s say, angry; why can’t I confidently assume that I’m scared or angry when the very same mental, emotional, and physical phenomena present in a different setting…at a different time?

Makes bucket loads of sense to me, and I’m amazed it took me so long to put the pieces together.

I came up with a name for this concept and technique, Symptom Identification and Association (SIA). SIA allows us to assign an underlying emotion or feeling to a specific set of detectable presentations, giving us a picture window view into what’s going on beneath the surface in the immediate… not to mention what may have gone on in the past.

So not only does it help us pinpoint foundational emotions and feelings that may lead to panic and distress today, it also helps us understand what may have happened yesterday; as well as assisting us in identifying and managing baggage that may build sufficient strength to cause distress and panic down the road. You see, it’s all about examining, identifying, and acknowledging patterns. And this gives us the tools to clear out the trash.

Here, let’s work through a very simple S.I.A. example…

You’re about to drive out of town on a week-long trip. As you pack your bag you begin to feel scattered and jittery. You get in your car to head-out and not only is the inattention and nervousness persisting, but you began to feel your upper abdomen knotting-up. And before long it begins to spasm. Oh, and out of nowhere you feel the front and sides of your neck tightening-up and there’s this sensation like you have a lump in your throat. “What’s going on here?”

Well, you try to move beyond the discomfort by letting your mind kind of wander as you drive. “Dang,” you say to yourself as it sinks in how much you’re going to miss your spouse and children. “I’m going to be lonely as heck for the next five days. And what will I do if I get sick – who’s going to come to my aid and make me feel better?”

As you’re kicking these thoughts around you suddenly feel a resurgence of the tightening of your throat and the spasms return to your upper abdomen. Wait a minute, could there be a connection here? And you realize that, yes, this is what happens when you feel lonely, vulnerable, and – well – helpless. Son of a gun. And something else suddenly comes to you. You remember having an unexplained bout with the very same phenomena when you left home for your freshman year of college. Indeed, it didn’t end there, as now that you think about it you experienced the same stuff many times over the years. You put together more pieces of the puzzle and come to the conclusion this all ties together.

“So that’s what was eating at me when I went-off to school, and all those other very painful times. I was afraid I’d be left alone – abandoned. Yes, I was horrified by the prospect I wouldn’t be able to take care of myself and that something awful would befall me as a result.”

Now, how many doors were opened by the insight supplied through SIA? Do you get the point?

See if you can implement SIA. The next time you feel strong mental, emotional, and physical symptoms as a result of being in an uncomfortable situation, identify the underlying emotion or feeling – in the immediate – and see if you can make some connections to what may have gone on in the past, as you experienced the same phenomena. And burn an image of the connection on your brain so you can have some readily available insight as the same phenomena present in the future.

I know this technique will help you identify, and come to understand, some internal dynamics that may have flown under the radar for years; and may well have caused huge problems for you tomorrow. Believe me, all of this will help you feel ten jillion times more comfortable in your own skin.

What are your thoughts regarding SIA? Any real life experience? Any thoughts regarding how you could implement it? We’d love to have your comments.

  • Knowing what is triggering the anxiety is a huge, huge step. Kind of hard to do in the moment though–baby steps again and, for me, breaking it down to the very worst thing that can actualy happen (not probably, but actually and then figuring out what the real odds of that really happening) helps…….and i’m practicing this this morning! Karen

    • Bill

      It doesn’t matter how old we are, often it all comes down to baby steps…and practice. And I’m not so sure it really matters knowing exactly what’s causing all the hub-bub. I mean, it’s a curiosity thing for me. But in terms of how I manage my life, I’m not so sure it plays into the equation. Thanks Karen!

  • The body is amazing how it remembers things we cannot remember, like trauma. I would like to add that this activity may be a trigger for those with trauma issues. Ooops, I didn’t mean to be a naysayer; this is a great activity in self-awareness. Just be prepared with support and coping skills in case something comes up!

    • Bill

      Hi Lacey. Welcome aboard. Excellent point re the risk of “emotional rawness” causing some issues as we do some exploring. And you’re not a naysayer in the least. That’s what chipur is all about…layin’ it all down. Thanks for your comment! Bill