Complementarity: ReChanneling Our Anxiety

Robert F Mullen, PhD

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The distinction between social anxiety disorder and social anxiety is a matter of severity; reference to one includes the other. The recovery tools and techniques provided are applicable to most emotional malfunctions including depression, substance abuse, ADHD, PTSD, generalized anxiety, and issues of self-esteem and motivation. These malfunctions originate homogeneously, their trajectories differentiated by environment, experience, and the diversity of human thought and behavior.

“Dr. Mullen is doing impressive work helping the world. He is the pioneer of proactive neuroplasticity utilizing DRNI – deliberate, repetitive, neural information.” – WeVoice (Madrid, Málaga)

Complementarity: ReChanneling Our Anxiety

Complementarity is a flashy psychological term that describes how things combine in such a way as to enhance or support the qualities of each other. They operate through simultaneous mutual interaction. Similar to integrality, complementarity describes how a unit can only function optimally if its components work effectively and in concert. 

Simultaneous Mutual Interaction

Our cardiovascular, immune, and skeletal systems are comprised of physiological components that, when working cohesively, enable the systems to operate. Our automobile requires multiple mechanical components working in sync to get from point A to point B.

Our neural network automatically engages complementarity by continuously transmitting chemical hormones. It provides acetylcholine for learningnoradrenaline for concentration, and glutamate for memory (mind); adrenaline supports our muscles and endorphins help us relax (body); we receive GABA for our anxiety, dopamine for motivation (spirit), and serotonin to stabilize our mood (emotions).

Complementarity is essential to anything dependent upon the successful interaction of its parts. 

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Psychological Components

Our psychological apparatus functions through the simultaneous mutual interaction of mind, body, spirit, and emotions (MBSE). Why is this important to recovery? Because conscious and deliberate control of their complementarity helps us moderate the distressing symptoms of our anxiety.

There is one advantageous difference, however, between our MBSE and the other examples. When a component of our car or our physiology fails to perform, it can cause the collapse or deterioration of the entire unit. When either mind, body, spirit, or emotions is negatively impacted, the other three step up to keep the unit functioning, If a stressful situation causes our emotions to become temporarily unmanageable, we simply divert to one of the others. A prime example is when we deliberately rechannel the emotional angst of our fears and anxieties to the intellectual security of rational responses. 

We unconsciously utilize complementary all the time. We ameliorate unmanageable thoughts and situations through physical activity or spiritual contemplation. We go for a walk to calm our emotions, meditate when anguished, and vent frustration by breaking something. It is a simple and logical process. When ‘A’ is distressing or overwhelming, we engage ‘B’, ‘C’, or “D” to mitigate “A.” Each is easily accessible because MBSE operates continuously as a cohesive, self-supporting unit.

In Concert

That our mind, body, spirit, and emotions work in concert does not suggest that each component works with the same level of intensity. One dominates the others depending upon the circumstance. If we feel nauseous, our mind wants to control it, we pray it will dissipate, and our emotions fear the worst. Nonetheless, our body usually holds the upper hand. 

Consider what happens when we experience a freeway fender-bender. Our mind informs us we barely avoided injury; our heart pounds and we feel nauseous. We are angry and frustrated, and fiercely conscious of our mortality. Which is the dominant force depends upon a few obvious variables, e.g., how painful is the whiplash?

Automatic Negative Thoughts

Our automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) are the anxiety-provoking emotional expressions of our situational fears. They are the spontaneous evaluative thoughts that occur prior to, during, or right after a negative or stressful situation. A situation is a set of circumstances – the facts, conditions, and incidents affecting us at a particular time in a particular place. A feared situation provokes our symptomatic fears and anxieties. Our ANTs are the automatic emotional expressions of those fears. 

Let us create a hypothetical example of complementarity in action. Our feared situation is a small social gathering. Our SAD symptoms convince us we are being unfairly criticized (mind). We hyperventilate and begin to perspire. We are convinced we will do or say something stupid (emotions), and our ANT is telling us “They probably won’t like me, anyway” (spirit).

Defining Spirit

Spirit and spirituality are enigmatic concepts; there is universal ambiguity in their definitions. For our purposes, spirit is defined as those self-properties regarded as forming the definitive or typical elements of our character at a specific time or in a specific situation. Are we compassionate and confident or hostile and arrogant? Spirit is our current temperament; emotion is the expression of that feeling. In a science-based recovery program, spirit and its declensions are unaffiliated with the ethereal human spirit or soul. When or how clients incorporate theology and the supernatural as their motivation is an individual matter.

Utilizing Complementarity

As we progress in recovery, we learn to deliberately engage complementarity to rechannel the anxiety that threatens our emotional well-being. We devise coping mechanisms to manage situations. There are multiple scientific and psychological approaches to help us understand and control the process of complementarity. 

PsychoEducation teaches us about the relationship between thoughts, emotions, and physiological reactions. Cognitive comprehension involves correcting negative or inaccurate thoughts by identifying and analyzing them and developing rational responses. Roleplay helps modify our behaviors by visualizing and practicing different ways of managing feared situations. By utilizing graded exposure, we start with situations that are easier for us to manage, then work our way up to more challenging tasks. 

Rigorously employing these tools moderates our fears and apprehensions. In vivo exposure allows us to confront feared stimuli in real-world conditions. With practice, our coping mechanisms become as automatic as our ANTs. They become exponentially dispensable as we progress in our recovery.

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