Anxiety- A disorder that does not last forever if confronted with
What does it actually mean to be anxious? Freud introduced this term into psychology describing it as “a free-floating discomfort”. A client of mine describes it as “a fear of nothing in particular and of bits of everything”. All of us use anxiety a lot today to describe almost everything happening within us not being the way we’d like it to be (emotion + physical reaction) so that disparity between reality and our wishes creates a sort of inner unease.
Each client of mine, when they call me, unprecedentedly calls themselves anxious. Some even get this verified when they go to a psychiatrist for a specialist check up. And what are their thoughts about it then? They think they are ill.
Anxiety is not an illness; psychology classifies it as a disorder. And when something is a disorder that means that it can be corrected.
Marko is 24 years old. His mother came to me for help after an ER intervention when he appeared to be having a heart attack. After it had been determined that his heart was fine, he was told he should pay a visit to / go see a psychiatrist or a psychologist. And so they came to me.
First, we clearly defined the way in which he experienced these seizures. How frequent were they? What happened prior to them? When did they occur, at what time of the day? How long did they last? How intense were they? How did he overcome them, did he have any set mechanisms and how did they work? How would his life be different if these problems did not exist? Would he then have more time to do some things more successfully? How did the anxiety help him: did it push him forward or did it pull him back?
There were a lot of questions and all of them with a common goal – for both of us to get to understand what it was all about. He had had a girlfriend whom he was happy with, but “somehow he realized” that he was young and that he couldn’t get to know himself well with her there. He had ended that relationship 2 years before and had not had a girlfriend since. In the meantime, he had turned to music and had become “a promising musician”. Through talking to him, both of us realized that the need for love and having a connection with someone came first for him. He didn’t have a girlfriend and he was not fulfilling this need. He felt deprived and lonely. Once he started talking about the things that preceded these seizures, he realized that it had always been about the absence of another person whom he would talk to and who would understand this emotion of his.
He drove away the old girlfriend, but why didnt’t he have a new one? Because, in the meantime, he’d lost his self-confidence and didnt’t know how to approach a new one. He was now an adult and his criteria concerning girls had changed significantly. Those that he would like to have right now – didn’t want him. Because he was just another „promising musician“ who had nothing to offer.
As soon as he uttered that, it was clear for both of us that we had to work on his self-confidence. The moment we started working, his symptoms diminished and tormented him less and less. The more reasons for his state he unveiled, the better he felt. He has learned to be EMOTIONALLY PRESENT, to recognize an emotion and substitute it with another.
EMOTIONAL PRESENCE is a strategy you can try out on your own. The inability to change the state we are in causes fear. For example, when we shiver, which is perfectly natural when we are frightened, we think that something is wrong with our body, so we only increase our primal fear.
Many people are not aware of what is their natural, usual state. Once they become aware of their ability to switch from an emotion to another one, they feel liberated. They realize that they are in control.
Once Marko realized that he was the one who could control his emotional state, his life started changing profoundly.
During my work with Marko, I used a strategy for overcoming anxiety. There are many others and they are all equally successful. Which one is to be used depends on the client’s symptoms and the reasons which led to the disorder.
However incredible it may sound, anxiety can occasionally be a positive thing because it breeds action.
Simply put, the pressure we are under becomes so intense that we can’t take it any more and so we begin searching for a way out of situations we find unpleasant.
The most important thing is knowing that anxiety is not an illness, but a disorder. It can be easily overcome by hard work. One session with an expert will not get you anywhere, nor will dealing with it only after you’ve had a seizure. Always keep in mind that it didn‘t develop suddenly, although it usually may seem that way. It took some time for it to emerge, so it takes persistance and patience to overcome it as well.
Photo by Sanja Rajković
Ljiljana Jagodić is a clinical psychologist, SI life coach and a hypnotherapist.