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  • Matt M.

Anxiety is Fear




The first time I heard a counselor say that anxiety was usually the result of fear I didn’t buy it one bit.


“What… fear? I don’t have any fear… there’s something wrong with me, it’s not about fear”


Little did I know how much I was letting fear control my life, and how fear was at the direct centre of my anxiety. It took me years and years to finally realize this, after trying every possible solution I could for anxiety (supplements, meds, diet changes, acupunture, etc. etc.). Of course none of these things helped, as they weren’t in any way addressing the fear at the centre of things.


I believe I had such a difficult time with my own anxiety for so many years is because I held a deep fear of the unknown. Not knowing who I was was very scary for me. This fear resulted in a lot of rumination… trying to figure myself out, wondering who I really am. The ironic thing is trying to figure myself out just caused me more confusion and more anxiety. Things snowballed to the point where I was thinking about this almost 24/7 for a few months straight. I absolutely had to know the answers to all my questions.


Finally while I was enduring some of the worst feelings I ever had in my life I had an epiphany where I realized that I was doing this to myself. It wasn’t just happening to me. I wanted to know the answers, I needed to know. This moment served to create a sort of separation for me between myself and my mind. I realized that myself and my mind are connected but that we are not one in the same.


My beliefs and my need to figure things out was steering my mind in certain directions. My “will power” you could say was at the crux of the entire situation. I’ve had a number of “lightbulb moments” over the past many years, but this has probably been my biggest one (the realization that I was doing this to myself, fueled by my will and my need to know). Realizing that this is not some mysterious thing happening to me, but a direct result of my own fears and decisions to believe certain things.


If you search online for help with anxiety you’ll find a myriad of explanations. I remember watching one video years ago looking for help and came across a video that said anxiety was the result of lactic acidosis. What?! How does that make any sense? You can’t just discount someone’s entire consciousness and belief system and say not it’s not that, it’s some purely physiological process called lactic acidosis.


At the time though watching a video on lactic acidosis and anxiety just made me more anxious. How do I treat lactic acidosis? What if I do something about it and it doesn’t work, or it works a bit and I need to do more? (Again the whole fear of the unknown / needing to know everything).


You may also have read that you have a chemical imbalance in your brain. Or that you have some sort of “disorder” that’s causing you these problems.


My beef with these theories is that they all take the power out of the individual’s hands. It’s something that’s happening to you, rather than something that is happening as a result of your will power. It completely strips you of any power to do anything about it. It’s a genetic issue or a disorder that you have for whatever reason… it’s a problem with your physiology that you carry around with you everywhere you go.


Fortunately for you this isn’t true. There’s nothing wrong with you and there’s nothing to fix. Quite the opposite in fact… trying to fix anything within yourself just puts more fuel on the fire and has you focusing on the issue even more.


Anxiety is the result of fear, and believe it or not, this is a good thing.


Fear is distressing when you don’t understand it. When it’s mysterious. Once you really understand what the fear is about then half the battle is over. It’s no longer scary… you understand where it’s coming from. And once you understand where it’s coming from you can address it. You may realize that whatever the belief is that’s causing you fear simply isn’t true. Or you may simply choose that you don’t need it in your life anymore.


The “solution” (for lack of a better word) is person dependent and will be different for everyone. There is no blanket solution for anxiety because everyone’s fears are different. How you relate to these fears is different as well. So we don’t just want to throw random anxiety solutions at you like breathing techniques, or magnesium, or some herbal solution. These treatments if anything just exacerbate the issue in the long run. What happens when they stop working? Or when you forget to bring them with you? When you become dependent on them? Do you want to rely on such a solution for the rest of your life?


Fear I believe is the reason why anxiety is so troubling for some people. For one it’s mysterious… where is this coming from? Why do I feel like this? Why isn’t anything helping this go away?


And two, because you are experiencing your fear in real time, and that’s what makes it such an unpleasant sensation. It’s a very superficial explanation to say you’re feeling “anxious” because that doesn’t really mean anything. More apt would be to say “I’m experiencing the fear that I’m not good enough”. When you put it this way, no wonder you don’t like feeling that way.


Feeling fear on a daily basis, sometimes intensely, is not a fun way to live. I know from experience.


Let’s take an example. A person believes that their self-worth depends on their intelligence. This was reinforced as a child when their parents gave them affection when they got good grades in school, but withheld affection at other times. In other words the belief could be something like “if I am intelligent, then I am loved… and if I am loved, then I am worthy”.


This person may be somewhat aware that they have some sort of issue with the need to be the smartest in the room, but they are likely not aware of their bottom-line belief, and moreover that fact that it is simply a belief. Things that happen to us as children seem to be ingrained in us, however when you trace things back properly it’s always possible to reveal a choice that was made. And a choice that was made as a child is a choice that can still exist years and years in the future… but it can always be unmade in the present day.


So this person has extreme anxiety when taking any sort of exam for university. Their mind races, their heart beat rises when they sit down for the exam, their hands are sweaty. The entire process of taking an exam is a massively stressful event.


This person is experiencing their fear in real time. “If I don’t get an A on this test then I am not loved, and if I am not loved then I am not worthy”. This person doesn’t understand what is going on inside of them… they just know that they are frantic with effort to get as high a grade as possible on this exam. They are totally trapped within their belief system.


People have all sorts of beliefs that give them “worth”. In this case (and in many cases in real life) worthy seems to almost be synonymous with that person’s existence. If I have this thing that I need then it gives my entire being meaning. If I don’t have it then it’s like I’m nothing… like it’s almost pointless to even exist.


Now can we see why it is so important for this person to ace this test? Their entire existence depends on it. And this is why throwing some magnesium or herbal formula at them is utterly pointless. It may calm the storm a little bit, but it’s not addressing the root issue.

I’m not saying that any supplement has never helped anyone with anxiety, but it is not addressing the root cause. And ask yourself… do you want to rely on that?


Is every case of anxiety that severe? No of course not always, and I don’t want to infer that everyone reading this has an issue with their entire existence depending on a certain belief. It was just an example to illustrate how distressing anxiety can be for some people, because people believe such things and it is more common than you’d think.


I’d like to clarify something else here about anxiety… that is that the action caused by the fear is part of the uncomfortable feeling of anxiety. That doesn’t sound too clear… I’ll try to explain further with an example.


A man – let’s call him Greg – feels anxious around other people. He’s very quiet and doesn’t talk much and feels judged for this. He gets very anxious in groups of 3 or more people and doesn’t feel like he can keep up with the conversation.


Ultimately, in the deepest part of himself, he feels like he needs to be like other people. Other people talk a lot so why doesn’t he? He feels like there’s something wrong with himself because he’s not like others. His deep fear is that there’s something wrong with himself.


The fear generates the anxiety, but his compensation (the effort to try to be like other people) contributes to the horrible feeling. He tries really hard to join in the conversation, to have something to say and to be enthusiastic like other people. His mind races through thoughts of what he should say and how he should be. He’s constantly chasing after this “ideal” person he has in his mind of how he should be but he never gets there, and it’s exhausting.


When he’s alone afterwards he beats himself up because he didn’t meet his expectations of how he felt he should have been. And he does some more running in his mind of what he could have or should have said.


The “chasing” in the mind is the anxiety in this moment. The trying to be something that he is not. That uncomfortable feeling that everyone with anxiety knows… of going a mile a minute inside yourself.


The point here is that the running inside your mind is totally unnecessary. It is the anxiety in that moment… running away from the fear. Those unpleasant feelings inside yourself diminish when you stop trying to chase something that you don’t need.


However, the caveat is that without the chasing you’re left face to face with your fear. And perhaps you’re not ready to do that, or you don’t know how to do that, or you don’t fully understand what it is you’re face. Without fully understanding exactly what this fear is, and that it’s only just that – a fear – we run as fast as we can to a place of comfort.


In a Holistic Counseling session we help Greg to understand all of this. He understands what he has been doing and that he doesn’t need it nor does he want to do it anymore. He begins his path towards self acceptance. Greg comes in for three or four more Holistic Counseling sessions and then decides that he doesn’t need help anymore and he’s ready to move on with his life.


If you’d like to come in for a Holistic Counseling session feel free to contact me here.


So long,

Matt

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