Anxiety is not a problem; it is a response to a problem.

I heard an interview on the radio last week. Therapists were reporting an increase in the number of clients due to anxiety because of the deep divide in American culture. Those not living in the US are experiencing what is called apocalyptic anxiety. Two words which arise with noted frequency are Donald Trump. Anxiety is often unfocused fear, and when we feel it, we create the picture we wish to avoid so we can know what to avoid. When anxiety isn’t resolved, it snowballs until we are anxious about many things.

If you are experiencing higher anxiety than usual, I encourage you to take a few minutes and ponder what you need and what resources are available. There are four types of resources: Coaching, Counselling, Therapy, and Spiritual Direction.

Coaching

Coaching is required when a new skill is needed. Skill is a practiced pattern which increases the student from gross patterns (basic) to subtle refined patterns (advanced) to nuanced patterns (professional). There is an old saying: the amateur practices until s/he gets it right, the professional practices until s/he can’t get it wrong. It is about music, sports, trades, and skill sets of any kind where competency is learned, and confidence comes as a fruit from the labour of hard work.

Counselling

Counselling is required when there is an emotional underlay to an issue, and that emotion has risen to the point where coping skills are no longer valid. Anxiety is one example. Anxiety is not a problem; it is a response to a problem. Much like our bodies which respond to a bee sting by swelling, anxiety is a response to a threat or potential threat. Yes, much like the body can react to a bee sting with an anaphylactic shock and become a problem unto itself, so anxiety can spiral into a panic attack where the emotional self is so stressed it can no longer function. Coaching through self-talk can’t help this, in fact, it can make it worse by giving confidence where there is no competence. Self-talk is a rational function which gets shut off or rendered ineffective in the light of increasing threat. One of my favourite expressions is you can’t do algebra when a bear is chasing you. A side note, this is why people find exams difficult, the anxiety of the threat of failing interrupts a person’s ability to think, so a person can’t function and fails the test. Counselling helps to develop new emotional coping skills.

Therapy

Therapy is required when an incident from the past is triggered which creates the anxiety about the present or future events. Jill was in a car accident when she was 12. As a result, being a passenger in a car is uncomfortable, even to this day. Jill has not worked through enough of the trauma from the car accident to function normally in the present time. With therapy, Jill can work through the sights sounds and smells from her flashbacks, so the past isn’t crashing into the present, and she can travel by car without worries.

Spiritual Direction

Spiritual Direction is not required. Some choose to be curious about where growth can occur, wanting to find challenges, relieve places where they wish to be less tense or unlock hidden talents which are missed. Spiritual direction is not about religion, mind you, some spiritual groups like Christians and Muslims have developed a mystical awareness and have some helpful methods to achieve this. Spiritual direction is about spirit, your spirit, and is not about conforming to set of rules, but preferably it is about engagement, deepening, and guiding better connections to self, the community, and the planet.

I invite you to please comment, or contact me if you wish to explore this further.

Jeff