Our nervous system consists of two main parts, known as the voluntary nervous system and the involuntary nervous system.
The voluntary nervous system directs movement of the limbs, head and trunk. We can control this as we wish, hence its name, voluntary. It consists of the brain and spinal cord, from which a number of paired nerves arises, each ending in the muscle if supplied.
The involuntary nervous system controls the internal organs, heart, blood-vessels, lungs and even the flow of saliva and sweat. Its headquarters are located in the brain. Connected with a delicate network of fibres lying on either side of the spinal column. From which many thread like branches pass to the internal organs. This part is not under our immediate control. This is of paramount importance to understanding ‘nerves’. This part of the nervous system responds to our moods.
When we are afraid we may sweat, shake and our heart may beat faster. We do not consciously react like this and we have no power to stop these reactions other than to change our moods. Therefore we call this part our involuntary nervous system.
The two parts, Sympathetic and Parasympathetic.
The involuntary nervous system itself consists of two parts, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. Of these, the sympathetic works closer with our moods. Its actions will strengthen the defence system against the various dangers we may face. It had been designed when our dangers were more like to be life threating e.g. a bear eating you. Not being worried about getting stuck in a lift for 30 mins. You may have seen an animal in full fight or flight response when attempting to look aggressive. Maybe it’s a cat and it has puffed itself out and made itself look big.
This is the sympathetic nervous system doing what it is ‘supposed’ to do, preparing you for danger. When a human is afraid it reacts in the same way. Fear begins as an impulse in your brain which excites the sympathetic nervous system. This stimulates various regions, skin and organs with the help of the release of adrenalin, which is released at nerve terminals in the organs concerned. Interestingly not everyone experiences the same feelings when nervous. But they can all be accounted for by the same process. Some people blush, some their heart races, some sweat.
It’s worth knowing that we don’t usually feel our body functioning. The parasympathetic nerves hold the sympathetic nerves in check. It is only when we are overwrought (angry, afraid, or excited) that the sympathetic nerves dominates the parasympathetic. We then become conscious of the certain organ functions. A body without stress is a peaceful body evenly balanced.
Staying in balance
Sympathetic is not a good word to describe these nerves as they feel anything but sympathetic. When our body is balanced we feel fine. It is when this balances is lost that consciously we start to worry. As our attention has now gone inwards to something ‘feeling’ different. It’s not that anything is wrong internally, it’s purely because consciously we don’t like the imbalance.
The See-Saw of the nerves
The sympathetic and the parasympathetic work like a see saw to keep you balanced. When they are balanced you would say that your body feels fine and light. Sounds strange to feel nothing but that is what you feel when you feel peace. A beautiful sense of nothingness. When the peace gets broken well, that is when you start to feel anxiety.
We don’t just feel ‘bad’ when the nervous system kicks in. If the parasympathetic rise we feel a sense of euphoria and happiness. Maybe you have just heard good news so you have triggered this. The problem with the two sides is that the sympathetic is far more dominant that the parasympathetic. This is because the sympathetic system is designed for your survival. It is more important to have stronger response to danger than to things you like. When your survival is at risk the movement needs to be huge to make sure you react.
For the sufferer of anxiety the issue they have is that the sympathetic nervous system is too sensitive. It is being triggered and thrown out of balance all too easily. Unfortunately for some people it tends to stay imbalanced and not return to zero. This is usually the case for those that suffer either GAD or Free floating anxiety.
Allow time for it to re-balance
Regaining balance of this system is the key to overcoming anxiety. This can be done with BWRT. Stopping the triggers that cause the imbalance. Or hypnoanalysis to remove the root causes.
So bear in mind every time you feel anxiety in your body all that is happening is you’re out of balance. Nothing worse than that is happening. Accepting this is happening, floating and allowing time to pass will help deal with this. Learn more about floating here.
Try and notice this see-saw in operation over the next few days. Witness it when you are happy and content and when you are anxious.
Every emotion has a chemical trait to it and this trait will swing the balance. Anger, aggression, fear etc. all push the sympathetic side up – love, compassion etc. push up the parasympathetic.