Study Shows How to Achieve Freedom from Fear
While much of the psychological guidance today emphasizes the need to meticulously go over your fears, traumas and anxieties, new research has shown the powerful effects of embracing an inner stillness in which you’re detached from thought in mitigating fear.
“After years of therapy and obsessing over past traumas, I realized I was going in circles, yet when I began working on detaching from thought associations with techniques like present-state awareness, meditation and the silent prayer (see below), I found peace for the first time in my life.
“Further, as I began to read and discover more in men’s work about masculinity, I discovered that there’s an essential stoic essence in detaching from thought and that is historically a core practice in building strong male energy.
“This is not to say therapy doesn’t have its place, but that for many men that is a process that should come and go, as well as be tried along with many other techniques such as physical trauma release, action-based growth and resting in egoless inner stillness.”
Studies have previously shown that mindfulness is highly effective in treating clinical emotional problems like anxiety, depression, stress and trauma-related disorders.
The biological mechanisms that underlie these positive effects on emotional functioning are not sufficiently understood but brain imaging studies have shown that mindfulness training is associated with changes in regions of the brain previously known to be involved in extinction learning, making extinction a likely candidate.
However, an actual effect of mindfulness training on extinction learning has never been demonstrated.
In a new study, researchers at University of Southern Denmark, Uppsala University, Lund University, Peking University and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, can now show that mindfulness training facilitates extinction of conditioned fear reactions, producing lasting reductions in threat-related arousal responses.
In this study, healthy subjects were randomly assigned to receive either 4 weeks of daily mindfulness training or were assigned to a waitlist control condition.
Subsequently, the participants underwent psychological experiments on two consecutive days in which conditioned fear reactions were established on day 1 and then immediately extinguished.
On day 2, the subjects returned and the lasting effects of extinction were evaluated.
According to the study’s first author Johannes Björkstrand, the findings are interesting for a number of reasons: “We can show that mindfulness does not only have an effect on subjective experiences of negative emotions, as has been shown previously, but that you can actual see clear effects on autonomic arousal responses, even with a limited amount of training,” he said.
“It is also interesting that the intervention appears to have a specific effect on extinction retention, which is in line with previous brain imaging studies on mindfulness, and also has some implications for how these types of interventions could be used to treat anxiety-related problems in a clinical context.
“Anxiety and trauma-related disorders are often treated using exposure therapy, a psychological treatment that is based on extinction learning, but not everyone responds to these treatments.
“One possible explanation is that individuals with these disorders have been shown to have difficulties in forming lasting extinction memories when compared to healthy individuals, which could represent an underlying vulnerability that increases the risk of developing these types of problems to begin with and constitutes an impediment to successful treatment.
“Our results suggest, that if you combine mindfulness training with exposure therapy, maybe you can achieve larger and longer-lasting treatment effects.”