In my practice over the years I have seen many individuals who continue to labour along under the weight of great stress and anxiety and yet with little insight into the reality of what the stress really is and what is generating it. Anxiety can manifest as feelings of panic, overwhelm and inability to cope; felt inadequacy and incompetence; a constant feeling of being on edge; helplessness; restlessness, with an overactive mind and need for constant activity, thus an inability to relax and unwind; and insomnia, to describe just a few of the common symptoms.
At the heart of anxiety there is a dread that can be difficult to pin down and express. Along with its intimate accomplice, worry, there is a deep, felt belief that ‘my life’ is out of control and therefore the future will only get worse… and I can’t do anything about that. Thus, anxiety expresses a deep existential crisis of self-hood and individuality and a need to be in control whilst feeling helplessly out of control. Compulsive and neurotic behaviours then reflect this fundamental need for control and fear of having no control over ‘my life’. This includes widespread regret, for what I did, or for what I didn’t do, and continuous re-assessment of my apparent choices through life.
This situation at the individual level is of course reflected, created and compounded by the social conditioning of modern culture. There is huge social pressure to be (and appear to be) in control of ‘my life’, with all the nuances of how that looks. Success, in its wholly ambiguous undefinition, is promoted as the way to happiness whilst we see soaring levels of dissatisfaction and anger.
Anxiety also expresses an attempt, psychologically, to be something other than I am in order to be acceptable and to belong, to my family and to society. This is a suppression of the true essence of myself and the anxiety is a reflection of the pain of that. Freedom is found in unplugging from the social, collective consciousness that tells us each how to be and how to live, much of which conflicts with our true nature and desires.
Letting go, in the fashionable parlance of current times, is what the anxious individual in essence struggles with, yet letting go cannot really happen until the reality of the struggle is really seen. Anxiety usually reflects a deeper, contained resistance, my fight with life and a parallel fear of life in which I believe I won’t measure up to the challenge, demands and ideals thrust upon me.
In our early family environment, we are burdened with so many responsibilities and expectations, the heaviest of which is to save our parents from their own struggles and suffering. This is an impossible task but it does not prevent most of us from trying, unconsciously and each in their own way. This then shapes our identity in life through the striving for the impossible ideal which then generates so much anxiety and fear of not succeeding and receiving the imaginary grand prize of unconditional love and acceptance.
As for a practical approach to embracing anxiety, one of the best places to start is with seeking the assistance of a professional in the therapeutic field, one who may guide you through the process of illuminating and unravelling the cause of the anxiety. Supporting this there are home practices such as meditation (whether formal or informal quietude) in which you allow yourself the space to feel what is really going on for you. Physical practices such as yoga and martial arts can be very helpful in discharging pent up energy/anxiety and can give a sense of focus, direction and personal power. Allowing yourself time for creative expression is also a way to calming anxiety.
The presenting form and cause of anxiety will also dictate what practices are best for healing it. For example, sometimes anxiety can be caused by not standing up for oneself in an abusive situation or relationship. It can then be very difficult to communicate that anxiousness to anyone, creating a sense of isolation and helplessness. Nurturing a sense of connection is therefore always very healing.
Anxiety is so often the voice of our intuition, communicating clearly that something is out of alignment in the way we are living and ultimately in how we see ourselves and the world. We attempt to silence this voice with the mechanisms of numbing, however, as the loyal friend it is, the voice continues. The struggle lies with the desperate desire to avoid listening to and feeling this voice within, for fear it may herald our end. Yet the end of our neurotic self is also what we most wish for…
Your e-mail address will be used only to send you my newsletter and information about my services. You can unsubscribe at any time via the link in the newsletter
London, East Sussex, UK & Worldwide
+44 (0)7958 561 467
Skype – jag.reeves