Sunday, November 11, 2012

Accepting Anxiety

Anxiety in itself is often crippling. I have found in dealing with my own that the goal is not to reduce the anxiety but to accept it. Acceptance ultimately leads to reduction, and I'll discuss why in a moment, but it is important to not be thinking about it going away. Welcoming it is the only way it can be soothed.

Anxiety about your own anxiety can make it worse. Often one judges his reasons for being anxious, as though the anxiety were not necessary, were not justified. Every phenomenon is always justified, it just may not lead to the highest good. If someone murders someone, he has his reasons. If you're anxious, you have yours. It is useful to analyze the cause of your anxiety without attaching subjective meaning to the cause. For example, say I'm anxious because I'm getting bad grades in college. I worry about my parents scolding me, teachers not liking me, fear my social and economical status will be jeopardized. These are of course  average concerns. No one wants to be ostracized for being human and making a "mistake." Here the goal is to not dwell on those fears though. Accept them as having the right to exist. Simply see them. If you need to label them in your mind so as to not get wrapped up in their implications, say something like "I have fear that I will be rejected by people I admire because I am getting bad grades." This is objective and helps you to move along, whereas a conclusion based on the objective facts such as "I'm no good. I don't deserve to exist" is merely your own opinion and will only prolong your suffering.

It's about reframing. It's not necessarily about getting better grades and so making your anxiety go away. There will always be something not quite right about your life and it's good training to learn how to accept this and function reasonably. And it's not necessarily about meditating your anxiety away because despite raves of meditation calming you (which it ultimately can do) meditation will first bring issues to the surface. The silence allows the hidden screams to be heard. If you meditate while anxious, most likely, the things you're anxious about will not diminish at first but actually come to the forefront of your brain. This is painful but good because then you can deal with them and move them on out.

Reframing: it's about changing your perspective on what's happening. It's about welcoming the process of life. Without your anxiety, you would either be unmotivated to change and would therefore drop out of school, or you wouldn't have the opportunity provided by its prompting to relinquish concerns for how other people view you, an asset that will assist you the rest of your life. Without the anxiety, you might never learn to forgive yourself, be gentler with yourself, defend yourself, consider yourself. What would motivate you to think deeper about cause and effect, our relationships to each other, our expectations of one another, your humanity?

If you think anxiety is bad and should not be in you, then it will not go away. You'll be anxious about your anxiety and your anxiety will be pissed that you're not accepting it and seeing its good intentions. It will be disappointed you haven't used its services offered. It will not go away until you learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable. 

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