Anxiety Is a Psychological Buzzword
by Marcus Antebi
Article at a Glance:
The art of psychology is not a science—it’s theoretical. There are things in the art of psychology that can be considered to be very accurate and true. But don’t let anyone convince you that everything we know about science or psychology is a fact that has been proven mathematically. Astrophysicists know more about the mechanics of the universe than psychologists know about the human mind and the nature of consciousness.
My understanding of anxiety is that anxiety is pervasive fear. It’s fear that doesn’t go away. The process that your body enacts to create anxiety is an excellent survival mechanism. It’s what helps us get out of bed in the morning and make sure that we have food and shelter. It’s a mechanism that helps protect us.
The anxieties that we have regarding real threats have to be examined. We then have to come up with solutions for the associated problems in a way that allows us to stay on center. If a person has anxieties about all of the different facets of their life, then they’re going to be in a lot of pain
But this isn’t just because they have anxiety and that anxiety is a physical sensation—it’s because the way they think is broken to some degree. You can’t just tell someone they have anxiety and then give them some pills. You have to help them understand that their entire system of thinking has to be restructured. The anxieties won’t go away because an individual did some breathing exercises. The exercises will give needed temporary relief. But if a person relies simply on meditation to relieve themselves of a lifelong habit of anxiety, then it’s going to take them a decade to overcome it. And even then their ability to stay on center versus being anxious will be precarious at best. That’s been my experience.
We have anxieties as grownups. They are likely to be related to the anxieties that we had as children. Those anxieties were centered around many things: Some of them were not being loved, not being accepted, being abandoned, being humiliated, not getting needs met, not understanding information, and being physically harmed.
Those were anxieties that we had when we were children. If a child has anxieties about pain, it’s likely they’ve experienced pain and they don’t handle it well. This is normal: It’s normal than that when we grow up and think of pain that it makes us anxious. But it becomes abnormal if a person has an irrational fear of being in pain when there’s no pain present.
Some people avoid anything that might result in pain because instead of being in the present moment they just can’t handle the emotions associated with the anticipation of pain. So we have to restructure our thought process and say to ourselves that a very important aspect of becoming centered and grounded is learning how to live in the present moment. This takes lots of practice.
Anxious people have conditioned themselves to always be in the past or the future or in some kind of obsession. But they can say some of the following things to themselves: “I am breathing. I am OK in the present moment. I am not experiencing discomfort.” Or, “In this present moment I am experiencing discomfort and I can handle it. It's painful, but I am OK.”
A person’s introspective conversation should go beyond that. The next level of it should be along these lines: “I feel discomfort, but here’s why. I will concentrate on solutions for the present moment, and I will develop solutions that will enable me to not allow anxieties to take control over me moving forward.”