Towards freedom from anxiety
Anxiety is part of life and is something that we will all experience from time to time. It is an essential part of human experience, but prolonged anxiety can leave us feeling bewildered, frightened, exhausted and constantly ‘on edge’. Anxiety manifests itself in many forms, troubling both our minds and also our bodies. We may experience tension, sleep disturbances and avoidance and this, in turn, can close down our lives because we begin to feel helpless. Simple things like being able to read a book, watch a film, go for a walk... all the usual parts of life can all seem somehow ‘odd’. It may be that we are constantly aware of our thoughts, almost ‘watching' these thoughts, perhaps analysing them and trying to ‘solve’ each thought pattern as it arises, only to find ourselves more exhausted and bewildered than before, yet unable to stop the constant flow of unwanted thoughts and feelings and the cycle of anxiety they induce.
In this short article, I am going to focus on anxiety that may have been a constant unwanted part of our life for some time and I will look at ways we can perhaps understand what is happening to us and also, why.
At some point in our lives, we will all experience fear - without it, we would be unaware of our surroundings and of the appropriate measures we need to take to remain safe in life. This is known as the ‘Fight or Flight’ response, and ensures that we remain unharmed if we are in real danger. I stress the word ‘real’ here because, of course, fear is appropriate to situations that really may be dangerous. This springs from the our earliest human instincts and is linked to our evolution as hunter gatherers when we needed to know when to stop and fight and when to take flight.
However, this same response in inappropriate situations can cause us to feel dread, trembling and an almost palpable psychological 'nausea.' We may think that we will never get back to feeling ‘ourselves’, we may fear that we are going mad and may also be unwilling or unable to talk about how we feel because we believe our own thoughts are in some way ‘abnormal’ or ‘weird’. We may look at others and feel alienated, mistakenly believing that we are the only ones feeling this way.
In counselling we are given the opportunity to talk openly about these thoughts and feelings, and to gain insight into why we are feeling the way that we do. Prolonged anxiety can leave us depleted, exhausted and utterly bewildered. Months, sometimes years may pass and we struggle on, trying to look and behave in a ‘normal’ way, crying our pain out when we are alone - desperate to find a way out of what may seem to be a maze of confusion and despair. Tension may decrease our ability to think clearly about our situation and we may feel hopeless. This is when talking with a counsellor can really help.
Counsellors allow us to examine our feelings in a safe place, where we will not be judged - a place where we can begin to find a sense of calm and little by little, stop trying to fight our own feelings. We can find a real place of calm when we are able to allow ourselves to feel the fear and not be afraid that it will overwhelm us.
This is a difficult thing to do alone and this is why counselling is so valuable when we feel anxiety has become an ever present part of our lives. By simply talking and releasing thoughts and feelings, we can gain insight into who we really are, can begin to realise our self worth and can begin the journey to a more balanced and calm way of living our life.
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About Linda Boutet
My training in psychology began in 1989. I have trained in psychodynamic psychotherapy and integrative counselling, and am a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. I work in a variety of settings, including the NHS, the voluntary sector and private practice. I am also a member of the BACP (children and young people).