Anxiety, perhaps more than any other emotion, seems to manifest in our bodies. It’s as though it seizes us with a tension that we just can’t release.
Our breath becomes shallow, our heart pulses rapidly, muscles tense up in the shoulders, in the jaw and our stomach becomes a tight fist.
Anxiety can feel paralyzing. Whatever one needs to face just brings up dread and self doubt.For some people the fears prevent one from leaving the safety of their house. When one is in the throes of anxiety scenarios of what might happen plague the mind; often one is trapped in repeatedly visualizing catastrophic outcomes.
Anxiety may be present as we enter the world, having assimilated mother’s fears and tensions when we are in the womb. Often patterns of anxiety can be traced back for generations, with both genetic and psycho-environmental factors at play.
When we are possessed by anxiety we often experience a sense of powerlessness, of feeling overwhelmed and an inability to function in the world.
Physical and sexual abuse are major precursors of anxiety and readily lead to panic attacks (see also separate discussion of PTSD).
In therapy we work together on many levels to tame this current of anxiety that frequently pervades every area of our lives. Specifically, tools for diminishing anxiety may include breathwork, emotional freedom techniques (EFT), mindfulness and learning how to identify thoughts that create fear and panicky feelings. It is also essential to explore core issues from childhood that have laid the groundwork for present day anxiety.
When one has experienced anxiety for as long as they can remember it is hard to imagine a life without this all pervading tension. A good analogy for healing anxiety can be seen in the following story. A man is walking along and as it gets dark he misses a step and falls into an abyss. As he is falling he manages to grab onto a strong branch of a tree and holds on for dear life. Hours pass and just when he feels that he cannot bear this another minute, the sun appears from behind the nearby hill. He then sees that the ground is only two feet below him!
Similarly, the process of therapy attempts to shine light and bring clarity to the web of fears that fuel anxiety. In this way we establish more solid ground so that one can increasingly move forward with a sense of peacefulness and wellbeing.