Updated: Nov 30, 2020
There so much has been written about anxiety that it is even a surprise that people still experience this debilitating mental illness. Moreover, whether exhibited as occasional worries or as a full-blown generalized anxiety disorder, it is on the rise now due to the unprecedented times we are all living in. Yes, COVID-19, social, political, and economic challenges are not making it easier for us, especially those prone to experiencing anxiety symptoms.
Anxiety in the realm of Personal Development
In Personal Development (or at least I am going to speak for my clients), anxiety is the main barrier that either precludes people from achieving their goals or significantly delays desired outcomes. Most pioneers in the field of PD refer to it simply as fear. Just think about all those motivational posts or videos you see on social media, where the main topic of all of them is how to overcome fear. Actually, back in the day, before anxiety got its official name, this mental condition was referred to as “fear disorder.” My professor at GWU taught me to ask my clients who claimed they had anxiety this question: What is that that you are afraid of? By asking this straightforward question, I let my clients realize that anxiety is not something outside of them, something that is attacking their life uncontrollably (that’s what media these days is trying to convince us), but rather something that is arising within them and, therefore, can also be managed by them. In reality, anxiety is what we generate in our minds by overthinking, pondering, creating the worst-case scenario, etc. It is crucial to recognize that anxiety is something that you create on your own, but not so you can start condemning or blaming yourself (please, don’t do it, just love yourself, even with anxiety), but for you to take control of the triggers. You acknowledge this because in understanding how you are producing anxiety, you can now learn how to reverse or prevent it. You can begin living your life fearlessly, experiencing true freedom and clarity by thinking healthy thoughts.
Do you recognize your anxiety?
Before we move on to the solution, it is important to highlight that many people do not recognize their symptoms of anxiety, and I was one of them. I remember I used to engage in all kinds of actions that would distract me from facing my fears, mostly drinking and initiating baseless arguments with my loved one. And although I caused some unnecessary drama, I am grateful I had that experience because I can now relate to my clients who have the same issue and help them recognize it too.
Unrecognized anxiety may present itself in many different ways, and not always as bad behavior. It may sneak up on you quietly, disguised as some innocent act of overworking until the feeling of exhaustion subdues the fears within you. One of my clients, for example, recently disclosed to me that his time management skills were off, and he wanted to spend some time learning how to take control of the hours in his day more efficiently. Johnny (not the real name) owns a chain of body shops and, surprisingly to him, often spends his time fixing the cars in the garage. The thing is that this client has enough staff to perform the manual labor while his role is to grow the business, build relationships with clients and vendors, expand the range his services, improve the overall productivity of the workplace, etc. In our collaborative effort, Johnny discovered that getting away from the office tasks and plunging headlong into manual work, where he had to work with his hands, was a way for him to escape constant worries about his rapidly growing business. Johnny literally found himself hiding from his anxiety under the hood of the car. As you can see, his issue wasn't caused by his poor time-management skills, but rather it was a result of his unrecognized anxiety. Now that we know what we are dealing with, it is a lot easier for Johnny to schedule his activities and get the most out of his day.
People can mask their anxiety in many different ways: through substance abuse, reckless behavior, including sexual behavior, such as BDSM, infidelities, unsafe sex, etc., avoidance, abuse (verbal, emotional, and/or physical), overworking, even what we perceive as extraversion can sometimes be a way for an individual to escape fears by constantly communicating and engaging with others. Please seek professional help if you suspect you may have been hiding or avoiding your symptoms of anxiety. If not addressed on time, this may lead to serious consequences.
There is a way out! Spiritual approach
I've tried most of the conventional methods of dealing with my anxiety,, and they yielded little to no improvement. No wonder the number of people experiencing anxiety keeps increasing, despite that so many "solutions" are available. Even my two degrees, one in Psychology and another in Counseling, and extensive training didn’t help me get rid of it. Do not get me wrong, the conventional approach provides great tools on how to manage the symptoms of anxiety once they've accrued, but treating the symptoms was never enough for me; I wanted to know how to beat it once and for all. My goal was to fully in charge of my anxiety. Of course, there is no such thing as living your life completely without fear because it is a natural, powerful, and primitive human emotion. But we can most certainly live a fulfilling life that is not dominated by fears, worries, or anxiety.
The only thing that helped me not getting paralyzed or unproductive by those worrisome thoughts was to accept and understand my spiritual self. Spirituality is a concept of recognizing that there is more to you than just your physical and biological composition of the body you are in. You are not just a collection of uncontrollable habits, reflexes, and reactions; you actually have a lot more control over all aspects of your life, including your negative emotions, such as anxiety or fear. The spiritual approach is the only way, in my opinion, that explains the nature of anxiety without any exceptions or dubiousness, unlike conventional disciplines, science, and research.
How spirituality explains anxiety
Our spiritual (inner) being exists within us whether we know about it or not; whether we accept it or not; and whether we understand it or not. The moment we identify something that we want to include in our experience, let's say a better-paying job or a nicer house, our inner being begins moving towards it right away. It sees no obstacles and requires no explanation of why you want it. Your inner being just expands in size to include that what you want in its spiritual environment. This is why so many teachers advise you to visualize that what you want and pretend like you already have it. Because, if you do not contradict it, eventually, you will manifest it in your real life. Easy, right? It sure could be. But we also have our physical presence that comes with all the limiting beliefs, perceived failures you may have had in the past, learned doubts, low self-worth, insecurities, and the need to justify why you cannot have what you want.
Your spiritual being is unlimited; it knows it can have, be or do anything it desires. When it likes something, it flows to it right away. But then you (your physical being) create a whole case convincingly explaining how difficult or even impossible it is to get that what your inner being is moving towards. This part right here is very important to understand: when your inner being expands and begins its spiritual journey towards the newly identified desire, and your physical being is trying to find all possible ways to stop it, the separation happens. This separation causes fear or anxiety within you.
Just for a moment, think about something that you want right now. Notice what excuses or explanations you can come up with within a minute about why you don't have it yet. Instead of following your inner being and simply assisting it in its venture, you are putting all kinds of obstacles on its path, essentially, your own path. You say it's hard to get what you want, that only a chosen few can have it, you are not skilled enough, too old, too young, too poor, not worthy, etc. And that is when anxiety starts making its way to your mind, and fear begins to permeate every fiber of your being, leaving you feeling no less than paralyzed. Anxiety happens when you don't follow your inner being in its pursuit of the desire, and this separation is what causes your fear. Your inner being is there admiring that what you want, and you are staying at the same spot, arguing why you can't have it.
Living your life without anxiety
Begin with accepting that you are spiritual and, therefore, unlimited. See yourself, other people, physical things around you, and those desires that are not yet manifested as the energy that all came from the same source. See all your surroundings as a unique concentration of energy. Nothing and no-one is your enemy. We are all one. We are different forms of that energy, just like droplets of water that can take various forms - snowflakes, heavy rains, waves, puddles, or waterfalls - all belong to the same big ocean. Same with you and everything around you - it all belongs to the same big ocean.
Visualize having what you want in your experience. Do not think about the path of how you are going to get there. You are only creating obstacles. Just think about the step you can take right now. Just one step and this next step is always available. The next step never frightens you, it never leads to anxious thoughts because it is available to you now. Those steps that you cannot foresee is what will sow fear in your experience. Avoid it. With the clear picture in mind of what you want, take the next step, and then the next, and the next. Soon you will be at your destination without having experienced the turmoil of emotions within you.
Next, trust the process. The universe always delivers your orders. No matter what happens on your path to your desire, always remember that these are just different forms of the energy that you are made of. Dedicate more time thinking or dreaming about the object of your desire, feel the energy of it becoming a part of your experience. Avoid observing or including events and people that evoke negative emotions in you because with that you are inviting more negativity into your life.
Lastly, learn to love unconditionally. Learn to accept this world and its components as it is, without judgment. We all came from the same source with a mission to explore, create, expand, and improve. However, we must remember that everything and everyone is a unique concentration of that energy with incredibly diverse physical experiences. Therefore, we are different and have disagreements about what our journeys should be like,. Your job is not to fight those who think differently but to attract those who think alike. And that's how you begin living fearlessly.
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