Anxiety – sometimes existing feels so tough!
Anxiety can be debilitating, interfering not just through physical symptoms but also by creating the mental torture that can accompany an imagined frightening future. Often the client can explain the sources of that anxiety, yet sometimes the anxiety has no apparent source.
Where there is a clear association and relationship between the events, imagined or real, in the anxious client’s life, Behavioural, Cognitive Behavioural and Hypnotherapies can provide fast and effective resolutions. However, sometime there seems to be no apparent reason for the anxiety and this can often be even more challenging. Sometimes it is about the tough work of living day to day - of just existing.
Existential Counsellors might describe this angst as originating from a ‘general sense of uncertainty and unease of the client in making meaning of their lives’. This is because one of the core human givens needs (i.e. those aspects of our life that need to be in place for us all to be fully functioning and emotionally healthy) is to have meaning in life. In turn, this is about developing and having a consistent and coherent approach to life; that is, one that makes sense.
Exploring the client’s life from the basis of what it means to exist invariably also means understanding the relationship that the client has with themselves, significant others, any others and of course the important events and activities they not only have taken and continue to take part in, but also those they anticipate or expect they will participate in. Without doubt part of that anticipation includes an awareness that some things will change, finish or come to an end. Despite the modern day exultations to ‘Embrace change’, the reality is that we humans do not like change and even anticipating it, let alone experiencing it, can create anxious feelings and conflicts.
Conflict also arises when we find ourselves at loggerheads with a close relationship; this can be a significant other, work, vocation or indeed an (supposedly) insignificant other who is simply getting in the way and distracting too much attention away from more valuable pursuits. It is not difficult to imagine the angst that this can create, and indeed it is the very misuse of the imagination that is often the problem.
In contrast to fast and solution-focused therapies, some clients need and appreciate a more suitably deeper and gentler pace in counselling to make sense out of their world and of building an inner meaning. This is especially true when handling inner conflicts (which are wholly human and common) and normally arise out of what the client believes (their inner rules) and their current behaviour (how they are acting).
It is of course true that resolving conflicts, like our frustration of not being able to solve a puzzle at five that we can at ten years old, can take time and effort to master. It’s called learning and another human need is to be stretched and to develop, to have the success of solving that puzzle! It keeps us mentally fit. A counsellor who helps a client makes sense of their anxiety, who aids the search for meaning is for mental health what a sports coach is for physical health.
In that sense, a life that is anxiety free would be empty of meaning, enthusiasm, curiosity and the urge to advance.