Any form of personal distress warrants an attentive and honest review of our lives. Perhaps, there is something in our character that has been put off for so long that we’re unable to make the connection between a defective trait and a present situation. Perhaps, the tendency to ignore the elephant in the room is the root cause of chronic anxiety. One thing is certain- our problems grow in proportion to the degree we ignore or suppress them. Whether we try to suppress or medicate reality, the shadows remain and they lurk between the realm of the unconscious, feeding and growing off their neglect until they have grown to the point of inevitable crisis. When investigating sudden mental breakdowns or intense crisis in individuals we find that they are rarely abrupt and random. They are the byproducts of an accumulation of piled up suppressed and unattended problems in the individual. The infant shadows that were thrown into the basement of the mind have now grown into gigantic beasts. They break out of the hidden parts of a person, seeking validation and expression, only by now they are much harder to control and wreak havoc in the outer and inner life. This reality plays itself in the idiom “what we fail to bring to the light, multiples in the dark.”
The founder of depth analytical psychology, Carl Jung proposed the idea that the unconscious and conscious function as a regulatory system, much like the human body. If the body becomes too cold, given it is in decent health, its regulatory system will work to raise the temperature at attempts of bringing it back to balance. The mind will function in like manner, in which the contents of both the conscious and unconscious function as complimentary and compensating systems. An avoidance and ignorance of who we are, the suppression of difficult truths, will always create a breakout of the ignored content- often times in undesirable and hideous ways. For example, a consciously persistent tendency to look at oneself and the world in a one-sided manner of perfection often produces feelings of terror and anxiety stemming from the hidden parts of the mind, many times so overwhelmingly powerful that it results in destructive behaviors such as eating disorders and substance abuse. There are many examples of this sort in people that have grown up in “perfectionistic” families or in homes where open communication was not encouraged. One-sidedness, where the shadowy and unfavored parts of our reality are ignored can lead to the involuntary emancipation of their exaggerated opposites. It is not difficult to understand this concept, once we examine our fears and anxieties and line them up with the more formidable and essential truths we consciously avoid. The trait of seeking control, for example, may play itself out in the irrational and disproportionate phobia of ants.
So, what are we to do about such a problem? How do we know what we may not even be aware of if chronic avoidance has led to genuine forgetting? The first step is going beyond any form of political correctness and gentle honesty. It is a willing commitment to confront the undesirable reality of our darkest parts in order to appropriately integrate them into our conscious waking lives. It is the daunting and necessary step of being brutally honest with the “inner dragons” and “demons” of our nature and the willingness to fight hand in sword and seeing what or who emerges on the other side. It’s through this journey where we find who we really are, a journey that parts from the light into the deepest trenches of our defects. It’s the place where we take off the masks, stop looking at the atrocities of the world with such astonishment because we understand the horrors live inside of us as well. It’s knowing that history and the present with its most ingenious occurrences as well as its malevolence has a home in the human heart. It’s “Know Thyself and To Thine Own Self Be True” and emerging from such a reality fully awakened.
We talk too much, often expressing what we think we desire rather than taking time to listen to ourselves… it’s no wonder we fluctuate between anxiety and depression. Our default focus tends to be on the anxiety producing concerns of what others are thinking or doing, on what should be or could be, and on what appears as the accepting consensus. All the while, the depressed soul withers from its unattended cries of purpose, identity, needs, and passions. It’s hard to explain this to the disquieted person. It seems it has become easier to increase dosages and wait in line for a prescription than to address the pressing matter of who we really are, what living is really about, and how to live according to our individual purpose. We live in a sedated society, medicated by detached practitioners who themselves, through ignorance, evade the real issues and causes of anxiety, depression, addiction, and other ailments.
The soul requires your attention. If it’s depression or anxiety we experience, before we seek to medicate, we need to ask ourselves how much time are we spending nourishing our souls. While we may spend time balancing the physical and social aspects of our lives, the soul may remain neglected signaling ‘hunger’ through the pangs of restlessness and melancholy. Often, someone who is experiencing a generalized form of anxiety or depression will discover that little time has been vested in soul-enriching activities that restore emotional and spiritual balance. So before a discussion on medications takes place, an exploration of wellness activities should be discovered. These may include:
Meditation has been proven to significantly reduce anxiety. In fact, there is research proving that meditation is just as effective as prescribed medications in managing anxiety.
Reading increases awareness and can help improve the ability to understand what is going on within you. It also helps with shifting focus away from what you are experiencing to being in tune with the plot and characters of the story.
Laughing or even the act of smiling releases pleasure creating chemicals in the brain, giving off a sense of well-being. Engaging in content or with people that make you laugh is a sure way to combat the imbalance of ‘feel good’ neutrotransmitters in the brain of those suffering with depression and/or anxiety.
Many times, our moods are worsened by overthinking or catastrophizing. A “keep it simple” approach in which we spend time devoted to the deeper part of ourselves is important as a starting point to manage our moods before reassessing and exploring further solutions.
If we reflect on our troubles, we will find the underlining theme of fear pervading throughout. Fear creates paralysis. The external obstacles we face are not necessarily the problem, the way we handle the associated fears of the challenge is the deciding factor of success. Fear is a natural response to events that we are not accustomed to. Unfortunately, there’s no way to eliminate fear, but there is a way to change the way we handle it- we can learn to transcend fear into something that we can embrace and welcome.
I remember in college before the big game, we would often engage in chants and sorts of rituals to arouse a spirit of battle within us. Some of us would scream, jump, and down shove each other, and slap helmets and pads. Some would pace quietly while others sat with a deep long stare. Everyone had a ritual. I noticed this was more than a way to prepare for a fun game and obtain excitement. The preparation was a way bring the mind and body to a state of readiness to overcome apprehension, to surpass any likelihood of paralysis, and associate fear with excitement and victory. Preparation made fear an ally.
Fear is much a natural part of our lives just as any other emotion. The key is to adapt the proper mindset of its challenge and prepare effectively. A preparation that creates a response of excitement, confidence, and persistence is one that will always lead to success.
I’d like you to try something. I want you to feel your anxiety, the train of thoughts , the hamster on the wheel, the fear, that overwhelming pressure of stress.
Ok, now I’d like you accept it without judgement. This is the hard part.
How is this helpful? What is the point? Did a therapist really just tell me to be anxious?
Well, acknowledgement of your feelings can allow you to regroup and refocus, to better react. Our amygdala is about the size of pea, and it’s responsible for all those things that keep us up all night, going over the lists of what was wrong and what was right. But, if we can take the time and step outside of the abstract picture of thought and see the frame, we can better see the painting.
I have been a drummer for about 17 years. Occasionally, in my new band ( no this isn’t self promotion) I need to play a drum solo. It can be nerve racking and stressful , especially in the middle of an intense show where I am drenched in sweat. Benny Greb, a drummer once said: ” If you can step outside that zone, the zone of thought , and regroup and refocus yourself , you can perform better because you are not on autopilot mode.”
So the next time you are feeling anxious, the next time life hands you a drum solo of anxiety, take the time to regroup and refocus. Mindfulness, isn’t just some new age meditation. Through controlled breathing , visualizing with hope and slowing your thoughts down, you can control how you want to approach a situation at work, at home or on stage.
The greatest determinant in overcoming anxiety is not based on the type of pill we ingest, but on the type of perspective we choose to acquire and maintain throughout our lives. Change is occurring at every moment whether we desire it or not. It is as present and with us as air, and yet we often resist it. The degree of resistance to any circumstance equates the degree of anxiety experienced. Often, the onset of anxiety serves as a signal indicating that change is occurring.
Reframe your perspective on change and anxiety. Change is natural and necessary for all of creation-often occurring for the benefit of the individual and the greater good. Anxiety is the sign that this is happening to us. Embrace and enjoy the experience!
For steps 1 and 2 on anxiety click below:
Anxiety: Step One
Anxiety: Step Two
Nothing adds more to stress and anxiety than suppression and inauthenticity. Roles are important as we need to adjust limits and traits accordingly to our surroundings. But when we constantly keep the true self hidden, we deprive the soul of nourishment and freedom. The soul finds peace and acceptance through remaining true to itself. Concealing our beliefs, feelings, desires, thoughts, quirks, etc. is a falsehood leaving the soul to grumble in search of expression.
Make a decision to gradually step away from any presumed role. Meditate on the analogy of roles being likened to garments we switch on or off at anytime while the body (soul) being essential, takes precedence. Eliminate any doubt, bureaucracy, and past messages of the person you should be. Trust that being you is the way you were meant to be.
For Step One on relieving anxiety click link below:
For Step Three click here
The first step in resolving any ailment is through reduction, never addition. Adding medication to the root causes of anxiety is a temporary quick fix that leads to seeking more of the medicine to sedate the underlining issue. Medicine can be beneficial in some cases but if you have not taken the step of removing falsehoods from your life, anxiety will always fester and find it’s abode within you.
Step 1: Stop people pleasing.
Learn to say no and set boundaries. While this may initially create feelings of discomfort, over time it produces a sense of fulfillment and honor for one’s self and outweighs the inner turmoil of saying yes when we really want to say no.
click below for steps two and three:
Anxiety: Step Two
Anxiety: Step Three