Anxiety is a very complex and broad subject. A multitude of scientific studies have been done over the years, and a thousand and one books written on what you can do to reduce the affects. So where do we begin?
Research indicates that almost all animals experience anxiety. Anxiety in the correct context as we all know is there to protect us from danger. It is a perfectly normal biological response. What happens when you are walking through a rough neighbourhood, or about to be broadsided by a speeding car?
Well firstly a signal is sent to the hypothalamus, the main switchboard of your brain. From there a message is sent to the adrenal gland above the kidney, and this then results in the release of the stress hormone cortisol and adrenaline. These physiological affects allow you to be highly alert and on guard. Totally prepared to run for dear life from the ominous looking hoodlum lurking in the shadows, or slam down on the breaks and swerve the rally driving hoon in the UTE. Certainly this is beneficial in times of strife, particularly if one is carrying lots of cash. What happens though when your nervous system decides to take on a ‘mind’ of its own.
From here on out I discuss anxiety from a subjective point of view. I will not delve into the sociological causes of this ever increasing phenomena. Sure ideology, corrupt societies, toxic cultures, or socio-economic backgrounds have a part to play, but that is a discussion we can leave for another day.
This enthralling mental condition has been encountered by each and every one of us to some degree or another. It can be debilitating, and to make matters worse is often shunned and almost taboo. In the UK and Australia suicide is the most common cause of death among young people, and the biggest cause of death for women around the world. In Australia alone one in three women have not only experienced physical or sexual assault but two have died every single week in 2015, so what is going on?
To look at our own problems first there needs to be a commitment to examine and observe the self. This can be an uncomfortable experience, and as you begin to peel away the layers that once kept you so firmly together, you will feel a powerful sense to retreat from the process. Long term commitment however is the only way to overcome the ‘fix me now’, ‘overnight’ ‘instant gratification’ mindset that our culture vehemently instills in us.
In order for us to tackle this on a global scale we must all be willing to speak honestly and openly about the psyche and what causes this predisposition in the first place. Fear is probably the closest word we can find to explaining this. Fear is the root of all neurosis: control, self-consciousness, violence, bullying, introversion, over-exuberance and so on and so forth. Dealing with our fears is where we must start, and that cannot happen from reading a book or watching a video and it almost certainly will never come from binge drinking, drug taking, excessive exercise, consuming, gambling, or any other form of escapism one may indulge in.
Tackling fear will only come from observing the fear for yourself. Mindfulness practice will allow you to see these fears and anxieties as they arise. To be mindful means to be aware of and accepting of all emotions and feelings that arise in the present moment. It means when you wash the dishes or drive your car your attention is on what is streaming into your awareness. Getting more in touch with the ‘now’ or ‘present’ will start to give you an idea of what situations are causing your anxiety. From here you can begin to build strategies to help reduce the chemical influxes. Meditation, yoga, mindfulness, entheogens, psychotherapy, can all aid in unravelling your fears.
What we have to discover is that there is no safety, that seeking is painful, and that when we imagine that we have found it, we don’t like it.
As you begin to take on any of these practices you will begin to notice the amount of time you spend in ‘psychological time’. Worried about the past, concerned about the future, forgetting to listen to people’s names on introduction, hearing but not listening, interrupting others. All of these are results of too much mental activity and not enough presence. This is not to say you should be hard on yourself when you notice these things, as is the common tendency for people who begin self-discovery and then soon give up. You should feel rapture and wonder at your new ability to observe your own behaviour instead of wondering around in a dream like state. You should ask yourself not, Why am I here? But, what am I here?
Everything you have ever done in your life has always been done in the now or present moment, you will never escape that truth, and once you begin to appreciate that fact an exciting, adventurous and creative awakening will soon unfold.
Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.
Carl Gustav Jung
This article has been written by Callum Golding.