It’s clear that a great many people are struggling under the crushing weight of anxiety right now. I won’t lie – I’ve been one of them. And with the various horrors and stupidities unfolding across the world, maybe some level of anxiety is an entirely sane response to a crazy time?
Whatever the cause, how does anxiety play out in your life?
Perhaps you feel it in your body – is there tightness in your shoulders and neck, or churning in your tummy? Maybe there’s a running commentary in your head that offers unhelpful comments and judgements about you, and whispers dire warnings as you try to sleep or go about your daily life? (It’s talking utter rubbish, by the way…) Do you find yourself avoiding certain things, places or activities, because the very thought frightens you too much?
A phobia is a fear of a specific thing which arises when overwhelmingly anxious feelings become “attached” to that thing. This is often due to experiencing one big fright during a time of background discomfort. Not surprisingly, people begin to feel afraid of feeling so afraid – and so they will try to avoid the trigger for those fearful feelings. Of course, this just ramps up the anxiety because they might be ambushed by the source of their fear at any moment…
It’s a really uncomfortable vicious circle! (For more information, here’s an artlcle written by counsellor Aileen George, which unpicks the various ways in which different forms of anxiety can affect lives.)
The good news is that when a phobia is specific, for example a fear of being around birds, it can be relatively easy to shift – often to a client’s great surprise! Past clients will know that as well as working with the memory of the first, big fright, we also check out what was going on around the time they first felt the fear, and they learn some resources to support themselves in future, too.
But what if your fear has no clearly-defined focus that you can name, instead landing on you every time you go out and about, or mix with people in a social situation, leaving you wanting to run home to safety? The more complex phobias of Agoraphobia and Social Phobia also lead people to avoid the subject of their fear but are likely to have a much wider impact on their entire life. When working with complex phobias, inevitably, it takes longer to unpick the layers and ease the specific fears beneath.
But, in time, it is possible to create a new internal library filled with memories of times when you DID stay outside, go to that place or you were comfortable among that group of people and this video vividly depicts the journey one client has taken out of a place of fear and despair. I am so glad to have walked beside her on that journey – and most grateful for her permission to share her story with you. (You can also read her comments on the whole process here.)
What’s your experience of anxiety and what has helped you through? Please do share your thoughts in the comments box below – it may be just what someone needs to read today.
And if you think that I can help you or someone you know who’s going through an anxious time, please pass this blog post on to them, too. You just might be setting them free…