The gift of Anxiety: A conquered Anxiety is a great advantage
Anxiety is a condition exceeding the concern and stress that are appropriate to the existing circumstances, and harming the quality of life. Although anxiety is an extreme feeling (mentally and even physically), and sometimes monstrously so, it has a definite, identifiable cause. The source of anxiety is a particular emotion that we haven’t agreed to and therefore haven’t embraced.
We can all recall situations from childhood (and later) when we were flooded with emotion and were unable to truly understand or fully encompass the situation. Lacking the tools and knowledge for confronting the reality directly, we employed a defense mechanism to maintain a feeling of control and not surrender to a storm of emotions and helplessness. There are diverse strategies for “controlling” the undesired emotion: to ignore it, rationalize it, deny it, attack it. Anything in order not to confront it. Certainly, these strategies succeed many times. The emotion is repressed, “hermetically sealed,” and we go on with our lives. That behavior is proper and suitable at the time.
Life goes on, we grow, and we learn to influence and change reality. Now when a similar situation arises and invokes the emotion that we previously couldn’t handle, we are no longer helpless. Moreover, now that we have assembled some tools, information, and experience for coping with and influencing reality, the emotion is important, relevant, and significant for our process of development. However, we experience an inner conflict because we employed defense mechanisms on the previous occasion (or occasions) to avoid confronting the emotion and we even labeled it “undesired”.
On the one hand, we are afraid to re-enter the flood of emotion that is well-etched in our memory. We have very good reason to avoid that emotion. On the other hand, we have experience in coping and we know the feeling of accomplishment. Defense mechanisms that created inner peace have become unnecessary and do not provide a suitable response now. The emotion that we banished is now very important to our continuing growth and to our proper behavior in the face of reality.
That inner conflict affects us significantly. If we attempt to avoid resolving it, we sacrifice inner clarity and begin to doubt our emotions and ourselves. Consequently, other domains of life are harmed. We stop relying on our emotions, even in areas that are not directly related to the particular situation and emotion that we rejected in the first place. Our way of thinking also suffers distortion, and helplessness in the face of reality develops. Because the thought process is disrupted and internal definitions are inconsistent, we fail to distinguish between what is appropriate and suitable for us and what we have defined as “undesirable” and perhaps even false. The result is anxiety.
So What Can Be Done?
The most important thing is to understand that any attempt to control anxiety, or to neutralize it, will certainly lead to deterioration of the condition and to total failure. There is no other option but to take a deep breath, observe our emotions, acknowledge them, accept them, and begin a journey toward resolving the inner conflict. The answer, you will be surprised to discover, is always different from what you thought when you tried to repress and neutralize those emotions.
With a realization of what stands behind the emotion – what the real reason is – the picture becomes clearer and the anxiety disappears. The feeling of safety returns and with it, the ability to rely on ourselves and to lead a full life.
A question that arises is why, in this era when slogans champion increased awareness and self acceptance, the rate of anxiety and depression disorders only increases.
There are two main reasons:
1. The first reason, and most amazing in my view, is that our era allows unprecedented growth and development on all planes. The existing possibilities are diverse and numerous, accompanied by encouragement of ambition and self-expression. Many people are growing, accumulating knowledge and experience, and becoming ready to face these inner conflicts.
2. The second reason has to do with the conflict itself. It is a very difficult task, and a frightening one, to recognize undesired emotions. Such a confrontation always “threatens” to create change, which – as is well known – is accompanied by uncertainty and doubts. Consequently, our self image and our feeling of security may be undermined.
This is where the gift of anxiety enters in. Although the process itself involves a confrontation that generates many changes (different thinking, a differently viewed environment, new insights), it will bring a sure improvement in quality of life, in self-expression, and in handling reality. After all, the motivation for facing the inner conflict has been, from the outset, an already improved self image; and doing so requires a change in reality. Those strategies and defense mechanisms that we had employed in the past do not serve the purpose anymore; and furthermore, they undermine the feeling of security.
In fact, anxiety indicates that we have achieved growth and that we are ready for the inevitable positive change. We earned it!
In the treatment process, I employ many methods and extensive knowledge to help individuals discover the source of their anxiety and resolve their inner conflict. The process always reveals inner strengths and new insights.