The Anger Spiral is one specialized case of The Emotional Spiral and will be the easiest to use as an example. The Emotional Spiral follows the same progression but deals with emotions and situations other than anger. Spiral progressions are quite common in panic attacks, health anxiety and muscle tics, in fact many of the things we experience during ADWD. Anything that can be worried about or cause an emotional response is susceptible to Spiral thinking.
Let’s take a closer look at the dynamics of The Emotional Spiral.
There are three main parts to The Spiral:
1. The Trigger,
2. The Escalation,
3. The Explosion.
Each has its own feel and place in the progression. If any one of them is diverted, the Spiral can be stopped in its tracks.
The Trigger is going to be something that is innocuous.
A situation happens, someone cuts you off in traffic, someone says something that you misinterpret, you’re playing with your favorite pet, you have an unexpected heart palpitation. Just about anything can be a trigger. Sometimes it will be the ruminating thoughts themselves. It just must be something that starts the thought process. Once you begin analyzing and trying to find your triggers a common thread will frequently appear. This pattern will help later as you work on taking control.
I’m a highly creative person and have spent my life developing the skills that allow me to design and make almost anything. I tend to be very defensive of my skills. For a long time any “perceived” questioning of my abilities would act as a trigger. “Perceived” is in quotes because it is very important. I’m also a very private person and very protective of my personal space. “Perceived” violations of that space are another major trigger for me. Again “Perceived”.
Let’s go back to the first example of having a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch.
“You used to love grilled cheese, except for that time your brother took it and smeared ketchup all over it. That wasn’t nice of him. Like that time, he wouldn’t stop teasing me, and he was always changing the channel on the TV when I was watching something. He was always hitting me and breaking my stuff. I HATE my brother and want to hurt him. All because you had a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch.”
This is a classic example of how the spiral works. It starts with an innocuous event, having lunch, something you do every day. The grilled cheese was a childhood favorite and brings a smile to your face as you remember eating them so long ago. The mind and memory are a tricky place to spend any time and it seems to be human nature to try to find the negative in any good situation.
So, your pleasant memory is spoiled by the thought of your brother taking your good lunch and making it taste bad by adding ketchup to it. This is the triggering thought that sets off the Emotional Spiral. More accurately it’s your reaction to that memory, the “perceived” injustice of your brother’s act that is the trigger.
20 years on Paxil starting at 20mg and working up to 40mg. Sept 2011 started 10% every 6 weeks taper (2.5% every week for 4 weeks then hold for 2 additional weeks), currently at 7.9mg. Oct 2011 CTed 15oz vodka a night, to only drinking 2 beers most nights, totally sober Feb 2013.
Since I wrote this I have continued to decrease my dose by 10% every 6 weeks (2.5% every week for 4 weeks and then hold for an additional 2 weeks). I added in an extra 6 week hold when I hit 10mg to let things settle out even more. When I hit 3mg it became hard to split the drop into 4 parts so I switched to dropping 1mgpw (pill weight) every week for 3 weeks and then holding for another 3 weeks. The 3 + 3 schedule turned out to be too harsh so I cut back to dropping 1mgpw every 4 weeks which is working better.
Current dose 0.16mg 12-31-2016
"It's also important not to become angry, no matter how difficult life is, because you can loose all hope if you can't laugh at yourself and at life in general." Stephen Hawking