Editor’s Note: This website is not designed to, and should not be construed to, provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion or treatment to you or any other individual, and is not intended as a substitute for medical or professional care and treatment.
Anxiety is an emotion that can ravish the mind and steal the peace right out from underneath us.
With relief nowhere in sight, it can be gut-wrenchingly painful.
When people find their way to me (I’m a psychotherapist), they are often suffering deeply, feeling as if they have been cursed. They are unable to see their true gifts and purpose or to experience fulfilling relationships they long to have.
The intensity of their anxiety is often focused around things like whether they are with the “right” partner, or if they will become pregnant. But no matter the object of the anxiety, or the shape the obsessive thoughts or fears are talking, it comes as an invitation to go deeper, as a prayer, offering to “mend your life.”
What is one particular healing antidote?
Calm counteracts the wild mind and even minor doses can make a difference.
Calm may not be simple to access, but it is there waiting, like the sun behind the clouds. If you happen to be in the grip of anxiety as you’re reading this, you may be thinking, “No sun. Just clouds. This woman is crazy. Calmness is impossible.”
But I’m not. And it isn’t.
The tendency is to try and think, reason, plea, and bargain our way out of the discomfort. So often we focus our efforts on trying to get rid of the suffering rather than understand the gifts that can come from learning about it. What if the anxiety is the healthiest part of our psyche, attempting to lead us to look at the essential parts of ourselves that have gone underground?
To calm these demons we need an understanding that the anxiety is a messenger—so please don’t shoot the messenger. If we can get even a small glimpse of the messages the anxiety is trying to make known, then the work has begun. Though not always clear at the beginning, when we learn to read these messages (and take action), we are more than on our way.
The demons (aka the sensations in the body, emotions, and thoughts) are always crying out for our attention. Like a baby who cries because she has no other way to communicate her needs. The anxiety is trying to communicate our forgotten needs. The baby wants to be fed and held, and loved . It wants our undivided loving attention—as does the anxiety.
A most loving question we can ask our self is, “What is my particular prescription for calmness? Meditation? Reading wisdom from the sages? Praying? Poetry? Surfing? Hiking? Cooking? Singing? Dancing? The list is limited only by our imagination; and the benefits, limited by the inertia of not taking action.
When my husband and I first got together and the projection of being “in love” started to fade, the anxiety and questions of whether we were the “right match” arose with a vengeance. We made a promise that we would hike before trying to tackle difficult issues. Truth be told, the promise was to hike before considering separating. Fifteen years later and very much together, we have since made hiking the hills a regular practice, especially when we need to reconnect to our Self and to one another.
Countless times in the middle of a difficult moment, one of us will say, “Put your shoes on. We’re walking.” And believe me, usually it’s the last thing we want to do. Walking the land, however, keeps the “processing” addiction to a minimum. It also reminds us how much we still like each another.
Thank God for the land.
It’s not rocket science. It’s not a mystery. And it’s not the entire solution; but it helps. It’s a first step toward taming the stormy mind.
How else do you actually work with the anxiety?”
Here are 5 brief steps I use with my clients (and myself):
Take nine deep breaths. Feel where you hold nervousness, worries, or mental blockages in your body and try and release them with your exhale.
Step 1. Find the Anxiety
Locate where you hold it most strongly in your body.
Now intensify this sensation.
Step 2. Find Out What It Needs
Make this sensation a figure with arms, legs, and eyes, and see it facing you. If an inanimate object appears, imagine what it would look like if it were really some kind of being.
Notice as much as you can like, it’s color, gender, size, and emotional state. And look in its eyes.
See if you can notice something about the demon you didn’t see before.
Ask the anxiety, “What is it that you want from me? What need do you have that is behind what you want? If you get what you need, how will you feel?”
Listen for the answers. Now change places with the anxiety.
Step 3. Become the Anxiety
Face the chair or cushion you were seated on and allow your self a little time to “sit in its shoes.”
Now answer these three questions: “What I want from you is… What I need from you is… What I would feel if I got what I need is…”
Listen for the answers.
Step 4. Feed the Anxiety
Come back to your original position. Take a moment to settle in and see the anxiety in front of you.
Feed the anxiety a metaphoric bottle until it is completely satisfied, even if it feels endless. If the anxiety seems to be insatiable, then imagine how it would look if it were completely satisfied.
Ask it these questions: “How will you help me? How will you protect me?”
Step 5. Rest
Let your mind relax without creating any particular experience. Rest as long as you like without filling the space, trying not to make anything happen or rushing back to the business of life.
Can anxiety be healed?
Author: Carrie Dinow
Editor: Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Porsche Brosseau at Flickr