While we have tools to help children overcome debilitating anxiety by teaching them the art of exposure and acceptance- it is important to understand that children like adults naturally avoid pain and seek pleasure according to the pain-pleasure principal. Therefore, the sensations caused by anxiety are naturally going to be avoided.
To overcome anxiety one must perceive the pain they will go through during exposure to have a further purpose which is to increase pleasure (no more anxiety). They must give up their current state of comfort or pleasure (avoiding anxious sensations) to gain future pleasure of freedom from anxiety.
Sometimes the sensations of anxiety are so intense that exposure is just not something the person is willing to do. Remember -exposure is when we do the very thing that scares the heck out of us allowing all of the very sensations we naturally want to avoid like the racing and pounding heart, dizzy head, upset tummy..you get the idea.
So when the cure for an anxiety disorders calls to actually bring about or ‘expose’ oneself to those terrifying feelings we often just avoid and adapt our lives around feeling safe instead-Not living full lives void of anxiety.
When we allow our children to learn the MFC or magic finger countdown as adults have learned Panic Away’s 21, we give them a tool that allows them to feel a sense of control over the anxiety during exposure. With the MFC they feel safe to expose themselves to their fears and little by little they become confident in their body’s ability to handle those scary sensations.
With continued exposure (gradual exposure) sensations fade because the fear fades. Eventually leaving only a memory of what it was like to have anxiety.
The idea at first is to gain a sense of control over the sensations by using the MFC. This perceived sense of control allows children (and adults) to actually engage in exposure with a sense of control and confidence. Many times without the MFC the child will not agree to engage in exposure at all. This is key. Getting the child to expose- and you have a better chance of doing this if they have the MFC tool.
Eventually, the ultimate goal is to feel safe with the sensations -no longer fearing an anxiety or panic attack. Once we no longer fear a panic or anxiety attack -we break the cycle and panic attacks no longer occur. Panic attacks are the result of fear of fear. Once you are no longer afraid to have a panic attack -because you know you are safe in your own body- you stop having them.
Giving tools to children to use during exposure process allows them to feel a sense of confidence to attempt and see the exposure process through. Eventually they will no longer need to use the MFC as they will have the confidence to embrace and accept sensations anxiety causes because they will have had experiences through the exposure process that reminds them -that their body can keep them safe even during the worst anxiety attack. And, ironically, when one embraces and accepts the very feelings they fear--this is when debilitating anxiety really ends.
Embracing and accepting the very sensations you fear is your way to freedom.