Feeling into anxiety's wisdom
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Joel Simpson (MBACP) Integrative Transpersonal Counsellor
25th April, 20170 Comments
Understanding anxiety can be confusing. Can one word capture the subtle complexities of the bodily experiences that we each encounter? Attempts to describe anxiety can evoke frustration because words can be reductive. We might not understand the terrifying, unsettling, numbing and overwhelming sensations that occur within our body, mind and spirit.
Rather than prescribing definitions, we might consider simple, yet potentially revealing questions to explore anxiety:
- What is the colour or smell of our anxiety?
- What is its temperature?
- What image do we experience when we come into contact with anxiety?
- What words or sounds might our anxiety voice?
Anxiety can feel overpowering. We might seek the support of a therapist or loved one to make meaning of it. When anxiety attacks, we might consider what is being ignored in our life and seems desperate for our attention. Taking time to hear and gently consider the questions and nuances within our varying responses might offer deepened insights into anxiety’s wisdom.
As I wrote this article, my anxiety surfaced. As an experiment, I curiously listened and felt into what my body might have been trying to express. The anxiety seemed orange and slightly warm. My feet tingled. I had an image of a sand timer. My belly rumbled as nausea, irritation, impatience and restlessness swelled within me. Suddenly, I felt unsettled – I couldn’t understand why. I wanted to get rid of these sensations and get on with writing. I was unsure what to write and seemed stuck. Slowing down to listen to my belly, I was greeted with the moan of an old, familiar message: “I am not good enough to write an article about anxiety”. Underneath this message sat feelings of unworthiness and shame. I felt sick. I wanted to escape by closing the laptop and considered self-medicating the anxiety by distracting myself with social media. Whilst it might have been reasonable to cope in this way, I began to rub my belly and offered it love and compassion. I remembered the loveable child within me that sometimes needs encouragement to believe he is good enough. My bodily sensations of anxiety offered an opportunity to explore my worthiness and to comfort my inner child.
Deepening our understanding, anxiety may be understood as a cry from our soul, grabbing us to attend to our woundedness and yearnings. Anxiety might arrest our breath, gut and dreams, whilst evoking headaches and dizziness. Alongside, stifling our capacity to speak, we might experience a mysterious sense of discomfort that we can't quite put our finger on. If we begin to feel into the anxiety in our bodies, we might discover messages crying from our soul. Perhaps our potential for healing might be born and nurtured through paying attention to anxiety’s wisdom.
About the author
Joel Simpson has a private practice in North West London. He works with anxiety, depression, bereavement, sexuality, betrayal, relationships, gender, separation, midlife, addiction, abuse and trauma to consider their meaning as soul cries. As a wounded healer, he recognises healing through therapeutic relationships and facilitates men’s groups.
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