For anyone doing their level best to manage a mood or anxiety disorder, self-monitoring can cause all sorts of problems. However, there’s a model that I can personally tell you makes for the easiest drive. Come on, let’s take a spin…
I’ll bet you can relate. For years I was burdened by it. Still am, on occasion…
What a major drag carrying that fifty-pound self-monitor on my back. And, heck, it’s bad enough while going about my usual business. But on those ten-mile mood and anxiety hikes? You gotta’ be kidding.
Self-Monitoring: The Way It Traditionally Rolls
Okay, it’s perfectly understandable that any mood or anxiety disorder sufferer would do their fair share of self-monitoring. I mean, we hurt – badly – and don’t want to anymore. So who wouldn’t become hypervigilant?
For us, all that matters is “Am I getting better?” or “Is it going away?”
And there’s only one way to get answers. Sure, self-monitor.
But there’s another angle at play here. Would any of us bother with self-monitoring if we didn’t sense something was really wrong, particularly within our bodies? I don’t think so.
Within that context, a phenomenon known as interoception can trigger big problems.
Self-Monitoring: Interoception & the Insular Cortex
The insular cortex (one in each hemisphere: “insula”) lies deep within the brain’s temporal, parietal, and frontal lobes. Fascinating thing is, the insula are responsible for what it feels like to be human, as opposed to just another mammal.
And that means the insula are deeply involved in a wide variety of functioning linked to emotion and the body’s ability to maintain a relatively stable state of internal regulation – homeostasis.
One of those bits of functioning is interoception: The sensing of stimuli arising from within the body, especially the major organs of the trunk.
Hey, though I’d love to, we don’t have time to get into anatomical details (but please do some research). In the meantime, let’s leave it at this: If our insula are working overtime, are we really wondering why we’re over-the-top self-monitoring?
After all, we’re rapid-fire sensing things going-on in our bodies that most folk don’t.
Self-Monitoring: A Different Model
So now that we’ve set the self-monitoring table, let’s take a gander at a different model. But, first, M. Scott Peck from his classic book, The Road Less Traveled…
“The symptoms and the illness are not the same thing. The illness exists long before the symptoms. Rather than being the illness, the symptoms are the beginning of its cures…”
Being in my early-60s, I’ve been around long enough to know the difference between my symptoms and my illness. And I’ve been around long enough to know that any symptom I may come up with, though at times a pain in the tush, isn’t going to kill me.
So that gives me a different perspective on symptoms, which allows me to approach them in a creative way. To me, symptoms are nothing more than dashboard warning lights. And that means they aren’t new, old, exotic, or invented illnesses.
Real-life, now. Dashboard light comes on…
In my car: It needs an oil change, windshield washer fluid, coolant, new battery, etc. But it isn’t going to blow-up and kill me.
In me: I need to slow-down, visit with someone, hit the gym, quit eating junk, etc. But I’m not going to blow-up and kill me.
Do you see where I’m going here?
Rather than being tricked into traditional self-monitoring by my insular cortex or whatever else, I’m letting-go and relying upon – trusting – my onboard computer system.
And when a dashboard warning light pops-on (a symptom, not an illness), I’ll calmly consider it and take the necessary steps toward relief.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Let’s Wrap ‘Er Up
You’re doing all you can to manage your mood and/or anxiety disorder. And like most of us, self-monitoring may be eating you alive.
Okay, it happens. So instead of fighting the concept, turn to a new – better – model.
Create, accept, and trust your dashboard – and its warning lights. It really will make for the easiest drive.
insular cortex pic: thank you kenhub.com
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