We have all experienced some anxiety in our lives; it is a very human condition and affects each individual in different ways. For some, they may feel anxious about going to a party, experiencing ‘butterflies’ in the stomach, tension in the muscles, maybe even feeling a little nauseous. Their thoughts might include, ‘I don’t know how to start a conversation’... ‘I will be ignored’... ‘They will think I am boring’...‘Everyone else will look fantastic and be confident and I won’t’. Thoughts like these are self critical and any similar situations could be a trigger for anxiety.
Where do these thoughts come from?
We learn about ourselves, primarily during childhood and may have internalised subtle or overt cues from caregivers that lead us to believe that we are not good enough. These childhood experiences, as with all life experiences, produce painful feelings and emotions within us.
What happens to feelings and emotions?
As children, painful feelings and emotions often need to be kept hidden for different reasons such as learning that when expressed, no one listens or being told to keep quiet or for the protection of others’ feelings or that in order to cope with life it serves children well to ignore them and pretend everything is OK. Whatever the reason, children learn to cover their feelings and emotions so no one notices and the child can pretend that all is OK.
The ‘False Self’
To protect ourselves and others from our feelings and emotions we find all sorts of ways to cover them up, such as laughing when feeling uncomfortable, appearing very confident when you are not (like a job interview, for example): we all use these defences at times but for many, their defences (coping strategies) become very rigid and may lead some to believe that it is part of their character or that they are born that way. They may have avoided their feelings and emotions for so long that they are unaware of them, having been so used to their coping strategies.
Therefore, as we journey through life we will surely encounter various situations which touch upon our hidden feelings and emotions, such as in the example of a party. The difficulty is that when a hidden feeling or emotion is touched upon, we become anxious because we are still unaware of the hidden feelings and emotions.
Often, a situation or person may lead us to feel angry but rather than express our anger we may walk away or just back down, again triggering a state of anxiety as we tried to suppress our emotion of anger.
Therefore, when we are in a state of anxiety, it is telling us to connect with and acknowledge our hidden feelings and emotions.
Counselling can help you connect with and understand those hidden feelings and emotions so that those triggers in life lose their power and you gain yours.