Are you anxious? Is that why you have come to this page? If so, you have come to the right place. You will find material here that will help you understand why you are anxious and what you can do about it. If you cannot find an answer to your question then write to us via the contact page and you will get a personal reply.
All you probably know at this point in time is that there is something looming so large in your thinking that it is squeezing out everything else. Perhaps you can think back to a time before this anxiety struck and you feel totally frustrated at this unwanted intrusion and its stubborn refusal to go away. Perhaps you cannot really remember a time when you were completely free from it and time is slipping away. It can all be so frustrating, debilitating and even frightening.
HCC Podcast 5: Understanding anxiety
Shealan is conducting a series of interviews with John to explore the importance of understanding yourself and some of the mental and emotional health issues we face. In their fifth interview John outlines the causes of anxiety and offers helpful insights into dealing with that anxiety.
Click here to download the podcast 'Understanding anxiety'
The causes of anxiety may be very simple…. A child that is loved, and feels loved in the depths of his heart, does not feel anxious. He feels secure. Dad is there, Mum is there, they know me, love me, understand me – what is there to be frightened about? If only!?
Now we are getting down to the real issues. I have to ask some questions and you will have to be honest with yourself – and it could be painful. Was Dad there? And if he was there, was he ‘really there’ – or was he preoccupied, too busy or simply didn’t understand himself well enough to begin to understand you? And where was Mum in all this? Perhaps she tried her best but maybe passed on her own anxieties. Was Dad really there for her? Perhaps they argued – that is unnerving and painful. The one thing you wanted was to know that your parents deeply loved each other. Most children try and exploit differences between their parents to their advantage but they would gladly trade that for parents who are so one that you can’t get a cigarette paper between them!
Now there are many ‘perhaps’ and ‘maybes’ in what you have just read and your experience might be quite different – but if any of that rings true then you could well be on the way to discovering where the roots of your anxiety lay.
Digging a little deeper
There is something else we need to know at this stage: most of us have at least two different temperaments within us – one of those is usually an introvert temperament and one extrovert. That means that sometimes it feels that we are living life at two different levels – at the same time. Or, to put it another way, it can feel like two very different people living in one body.
The reason for bringing this up is that you may look back and feel that nothing of what I have written so far applies to you. Your parents loved you and each other dearly. As far as you can recall you were happy and secure. But today, you are anxious. The truth is that your parents might well have loved you dearly and done their very best for you. However, if they did not understand, and live in the good of, their own introvert temperament then they would not have reached down to where you were in your introvert temperament. You could have been perfectly happy in your extrovert but troubled and anxious deep down inside.
‘Don’t be sad’
I know someone who, when she was a child, told her father that she was sad. His answer was simply, ‘Don’t be sad, be happy.’ That somehow missed the point and in the end that little girl learnt that it was no use sharing what she felt with her father. He loved her dearly and was a good dad in many ways but she could not share those thoughts and feelings. When I met her as a grown woman her life was being wrecked by anxiety.
Out of the blue
Another reason for talking about these temperaments is that you may look back on periods in your life when you did not feel anxious. In fact, you might have been known for being laid back and in control and suddenly this thing came out of nowhere and hit you. Now it has you in its grip. What has happened is that the anxiety that lay beneath the surface, possibly unnoticed, kept down by a strong extrovert, suddenly broke through and overwhelmed you. How did that happen? Emotions that lie beneath the surface will only stay there for so long. They never go away – one day they come up – and it often seems at a time when we can least do with them. What actually happens is something in our circumstances, or even our minds, connects sufficiently with what lies beneath the surface, our defences are down and out comes all the anxiety. I know a lady who was standing by her kitchen window one day when a thought came into her mind and that one thought triggered off years of anxiety. The truth was the anxiety was always there but that thought was the breach in the dam that allowed the fears to come rushing through.
Strange as it may seem it is healthier that you are conscious of the anxiety rather than it being repressed beneath the surface. That might be little comfort at this moment but it does mean that at least we can deal with it. After all, we are talking about unresolved emotions from childhood that need dealing with at some time. Anxiety at least tells us that something is missing. It gives us a chance to do something about it.
Doing something about it
Now we come to the important part – what can I do about my anxiety? I am going to give you some very simple answers so you can get straight on with dealing with your anxiety and begin to feel better. Then I will give you links to more information on this site that will help you to root it out of your life once and for all.
Try and remember any thoughts and feelings that you can from your childhood. Can you remember feeling fearful, anxious or alone, angry, hurt or cheated? What did you do with what you felt? Could you share it with anyone? If you did how did that person respond? Did it help?
If you did not share it what did you do with it? How did you learn to live with it? In other words, what happened to those feelings? Perhaps you simply don’t know – it probably felt as if there was not anything to do with them!
But you did do something. You may have turned them back on yourself and somehow made those negative feelings your fault; you may have used your imagination to escape into a less painful world or, as you grew up, perhaps you kept yourself busy to avoid looking at what you felt.
As an adult you need to do something different with what you felt then. At this point you might be thinking, what is the point of trying to do something with what I felt years ago – it is all past and gone? The truth is that until we address those early thoughts and feelings, we remain in their grip and under their influence.
What can you do? Do you have someone you can talk to? Someone who knows you well and cares for you? A husband, wife, parent, friend? Find someone you can trust and begin to share whatever you can remember from those early years. (Don’t be put off if you can’t think of anyone to share with. Keep reading!)
Does talking like that to someone sound too difficult? Is your childhood just a blur? If so, start where you are at now. What feelings have you had today? Have you shared them with anyone? I know that if you are anxious those feelings dominate your thinking and you may have shared your ‘anxious thoughts’ a hundred times. It may be that your friends are tired of hearing the same worries and have told you that you are just going round in circles. A lot of those ‘anxious thoughts’ are symptoms; try and get beneath the surface to what you are really feeling. Share those. What did you feel when you woke up today? Alone, afraid to face the day? Share that with someone who cares about you and who will be able to understand what you are talking about and why you are sharing.
As you share something really important will be happening; you will be acknowledging that what you are feeling deep down matters and by sharing it you will be trusting that it will matter to someone else. Perhaps you learnt as a child that what you felt was not important – so you learnt to keep it to yourself. Now you are doing something different and it is the first step to overcoming anxiety.
What if you have no-one to share with? Write in via the contact page and we will get back to you. We do want to help, so if you struggle with this first step or if there is anything about what you have read that you do not understand, please do get in touch.
For further information on chronic anxiety, understanding the roots of anxiety in the Phlegmatic temperament and how to help someone struggling with anxiety click here. (Understanding How to Help course notes: Chronic Anxiety)