The Secret Code to Transformation 2: Anxiety
One of the ways I help people get a handle on anxiety in my practice is to compare it to fear. Fear results in a negative vision of the future because of some experience that has occurred in the past. Fear is experienced based. It always requires developing a new capacity to improve one’s effectiveness in new contexts. Anxiety, you can say, is the opposite. Anxiety is the code that lets you know that you already have an ability from the past that you are not able to access and use confidently or with empowerment. What a person does in their minds when they have anxiety is to create (unconsciously usually) negative visions of the future and then act as if the visions are real. It causes a person to stay out in the constructed negative future and try to solve the thing that their ego mind has created. In doing so they forget their positive capacities which causes them to lose confidence. It is like having a temporary memory loss of what one can do. In a sense it is creating an image that haunts the person and then makes them try to solve the haunting.
The goal with anxiety is to discover what caused the mind to create an illusion and then to remember the positive states so that a person can act confidently.
One of the most common form of anxiety is the feeling of being overwhelmed. The onset of feeling overwhelmed often occurs when there are too many tasks to accomplish and not enough time to do them. At the point when there is too much to do, the mind begins to make every task seem a lot bigger than it is. Instead of being able to do more work, a person feels paralyzed or barely able to do the slightest thing. The mind forgets how effectively you might have been able to achieve things before. Everything just seems so immense. The coded message with being overwhelmed is the need to reevaluate the quantity of work that one is trying to do, mainly to cut the amount of work to something more reasonable. This often happens to new parents. No one can tell just how much your life is going to be changed when an infant arrives. The baby takes a huge chunk of time that parents used to have for other things. By changing the amount that needs to be achieved, the anxiety can be replaced with confidence because each task can be perceived as relatively small in the mind rather than big.
The origin of anxiety is often the result of a child having been given an adult task when they were young. They were too immature to achieve what was given to them such as caring for other siblings. Instead of being confident in their playful and curious selves, which is the state of childhood, the future is heavy with too much responsibility that they are incapable of achieving. As an adult the confidence to go for doing a project will be met with inner resistance of feeling that every step is going to be heavy and difficult. The heaviness is an illusion that causes the person to be stuck. What is needed, when facing a new project, is the confidence to be playful and curious.
In the dream world anxiety shows up often as ghosts or haunted situations. Your mind doesn’t know how to act with confidence so you get a ghost in a dream that you believe to be real.
Once you know that anxiety is like temporary dementia, then a person can take the states to remember their positive capacities so that they can act. The negative pictures of the future that are often cloudy or obscure can be replaced with great memory pictures. The advantage of current technology is that thousands of past photos are available on one’s laptop. By browsing through them or making a list of past achievements the memory can be stimulated and become the key player again.
With overwhelm a person can start with a small task like washing the dishes or taking a short run.
The other big worry that people have is what others will think of them. This is the place where the imagination goes completely bonkers. The worry image is one of others not approving of whatever it is you are going to do like preparing a dinner or planning an event or what you are wearing. The origin of this type of worry comes from living in a culture where every action is compared against the highest level. For instance, if a person doesn’t look like the magazine cover at the grocery store (which even the people in the photos don’t like in real life), then the mind gets active creating all kinds of negative reactions from others that are not real. As soon as that happens then a lot of frantic behavior occurs to raise the level of whatever you are doing to get up to the higher level.
By dropping the image that the mind has (which is culturally based), one can begin to remember their competence and live in the joy of it. Then the activity like inviting guests becomes a happy one.
With anxiety the key is to remember what you can already do, do it, and then gradually build new capacities.
Thanks Richard, very timely. I have been at an overwhelming ‘trauma and drugs’ type workshop for the last two days, and this morning I was feeling overwhelmed by some violent neighbours who skillfully eluded the visiting police, twice !
A sense of powerlessness and impotence (and underlying anxiety) has eroded my confidence somewhat. Anyhow it will pass, and I will resume my ‘playful curiosity’ for capacity-building and effective disability support work soon enough.
Keep up the God work !
Thanks, Keep up the amazing work!
“With anxiety the key is to remember what you can already do, do it, and then gradually build new capacities.”
thank you. wonderful reminder that i know how to be open and curious.