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Anxiety 2: Your Ally The Protector

» Mental Health Library » Disorders & Conditions » Generalized Anxiety Disorder » Featured Article

By: Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

Take deep breaths, visualize a serene sunset on a tropical beach, or get a good massage, are all remedies recommended for anxiety relief.   For a few minutes you may breath less hurriedly, the tension headache may ease, and you can let go of the worries that invade your waking moments. But why does the anxiety sneak back so insidiously, swallowing you up before you have a chance to hold onto the few moments of peace you gave yourself?

One function that anxiety serves is that of protection. By letting you sweat the small stuff, it safeguards you from your big, unmanageable fears. Since anxiety can be so all pervasive it leaves no space for you to contemplate and face larger terrors - like loss, death, failure, being alone, completely responsible, and empty.

Grant was a stressed out busy professional. No matter how much exercise, yoga or meditation he did to deal with the stress, he was constantly anxious and irritable. As soon as one issue was dealt with he would anticipate the next problem and make it a monumental hurdle that he wasn’t sure he could cope with. Not being in control of the variables surrounding the problem made it worse. As anxiety about one issue reached its peak and then died down when he got help or attention, Grant was overtaken by anxiety about another problem, that was just waiting in the wings. For Grant, anxiety filled a huge hole inside him. An emptiness and sense of aloneness gnawed at him. It was an unbearable dread that threatened his ability to function on a day to day basis. His only recourse was to fill that abyss with more anxiety. It focused him on the minutia of life, used up his energy and avoided the horror of emptiness. It made him feel he had a purpose, was in control and had a concrete issue to focus on.

Grant needed his anxiety to shield him from a terror that he was basically a ‘bad person.’ He was so scared that he may be a selfish, uncaring and therefore unlovable person that he ran, ran and ran from himself. He ran to stay in control of his ‘badness.’ His anxiety served him well in this regard. Being consumed with worries about traffic grid lock, the computer that wouldn’t perform quickly enough, being kept waiting in line and other similar realities of life, he didn’t have to deal with his dread of not having a meaningful life. That void was filled to overflowing with anxiety about the daily grind.

Running wore Grant out, depleted him and left him feeling empty again. So while anxiety protected him, it eventually exhausted him such that he couldn’t enjoy anything. Everything became a chore and he resented having to do things he used to do. As he lost control of himself, he began to control his wife and colleagues. When they reacted against this, his anxiety erupted as he was left without a barrier between himself and his emptiness. He would think badly of himself and begin to behave in ways to seek reassurance from others that he was ‘good’ and acceptable.

Feeling empty and lost is much worse than experiencing anxiety about being kept waiting or how many calories you should consume. Allowing yourself to be face to face with your lack of a sense of self, and self-identity may mean that you don’t know how to feed yourself with emotionally nourishing food. At worst it may mean that you cannot even recognize that food when offered by others. That leaves you permanently hungry, growling in pain and desperate to fill the chasm. Anxiety does that perfectly. It makes you so full that you are always in a state of having to act to relieve yourself of the anxiety.

It is possible to learn to recognize good emotional sustenance, taste, chew and swallow, in ways that feel satisfying. You can allow yourself to be fed in small amounts and let your digestive juices do their work to make you feel more content. Swallowing books or CD’s on anxiety management will only pass through your emotional intestines and come out the other end undigested. You don’t have the enzymes that can use them effectively. Exploring your emptiness and talking to that part of you that insists on anxiety as a substitute for wholesome food will be a bumpy but ultimately rewarding, for the long haul.

About the Author...

Dr. Jeanette Raymond is a licensed psychologist and psychotherapist. She has a doctorate in clinical psychology and a masters degree in child, adolescent and educational psychology. She has 20 years experience working with adults, couples, adolescents, children and families. She is the author of 2 books for teachers in the UK.

Dr. Raymond believes that the most important relationship you have is with yourself. She sets the stage for you to begin taking care of your most precious gift and ally - yourself. When you can do that, all else falls into place.

Her specialties include distress that shows itself in the body, feeling unsatisfied and unfulfilled, fear of intimacy and loss, anxiety, eating disorders, and self-sabotage. If you mask your unhappiness with food, alcohol, drugs, or sex you abandon yourself. If you try to control it by working all hours, with excessive exercise, being busy, cleaning, and over-achieving you are ignoring yourself. Dr. Raymond helps you speak the turmoil that makes you want to go numb, and helps you find the fertile soil to plant your true seeds and flourish.

Dr. Raymond helps parents and children understand one another, and provides adult couples with a platform for having their conversations out loud rather than silently in their individual heads.

Dr. Raymond runs groups and conducts workshops on dream interpretation. She enables individuals to find their voice so that their bodies don't have to speak with back pain, gastric complaints, hair loss, skin breakouts, panic attacks and sleep disturbances. While emotional wounds can debilitate and prevent you from living a full life, Dr. Raymond collaborates with couples, family members and individuals to gain strength from it. She offers the opportunity to rewrite the internal dialogue that may be self-sabotaging and putting obstacles in the way of having meaningful relationships. She honors you and teaches you to honor yourself in a non-threatening environment, allowing you to unfold.

Click here to contact or learn more about Jeanette Raymond

Last Update: 3/10/2008

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