Are you feeling scared and anxious all the time, feeling as though everything is threatening and dire?
Is there a feeling of relentless dread, thinking that something dangerous may happen to you?
Anxiety may have different sources, but, in this blog, I'm going to talk to you specifically about the persistent anxiety and fear about an impending danger. I will explore other possible roots of anxiety in my other blogs.
You probably know that anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. At times, it can be a good thing as it motivates you to accomplish your goals, and it can also warn you when you’re in a dangerous situation.
However, when you are in constant state of anxiety, then you become physically and emotionally restless, tense and exhausted. You'll probably find yourself tossing and turning in bed, not being able to sleep and also not being able to concentrate during the day.
The difficulty of struggling with this constant nagging emotion is one thing, not knowing where this dreadful feeling is coming from is another. This state of not knowing can be traumatising, as you feel as if you don't have anything to hold on to, to make you feel better.
You worry about everything, feel out of control and think that you're either going mad or going to 'die'. But why do you feel like this?
Well, in order to find out, we need to go a bit deep. The roots of this intensive anxiety can often run deep in our subconscious.
Of course, anxiety’s purpose is to keep you safe and let you know that the danger is close, so you can protect yourself from harm.
Where does this type anxiety come from?
Have you ever seen a baby screaming and crying as if something awful is going to happen to them? The baby's 'anxious' cry for help is its way of asking the mother to make things all right. This will alarm the mother, even making her anxious at times. Thus the baby is transferring its anxiety to the mother.
Now, if the mother had a good childhood herself, and her anxiety as a child was managed by her own mother, then she will be well equipped to manage her own child's anxiety by attending to her cry, making her calm and reassuring her. She'll ask the baby, ‘Are you hungry? Are you tired? Are you sad?' She names the feelings for the baby. In other words, she does the 'thinking' for the baby, until it comes to a time when the child is grown and they are able to soothe themselves at times of anxiety and distress and 'think' about the difficult situation rather becoming overwhelmed by it.
You can observe this mother-baby relationship when you're on a train, sitting in a bus or, indeed, anywhere.
However, if the mother's own childhood hasn't been stable, she will find it difficult to calm her child down, because her level of anxiety will escalate and she’ll find herself paralysed by fear. Now, as you know, babies feel their mother's emotions, and so the anxiety becomes contagious, back and forth between mother and baby, as if things will never become all right. The baby thinks that she's dying because she is very vulnerable to the most minor uncomfortable sensation. Of course she doesn't die, but she grows up becoming alert and hypersensitive, constantly looking for danger. She is not able to put a name to her feelings and doesn't know where these horrible feelings are coming from.
As such, in times of anxiety, she is simply not able to be rational, or 'think'. If you have not been given the tools to think clearly and calmly whenever you feel distressed, then your feelings can turn to dread. How often have we said, I have a dreadful feeling about this!
Not having the capacity to make sense of feelings is also related to all sorts of other emotions that a child can have. Emotions such as anger, sadness, disappointments, and many others. When the child feels alone with her emotions and there is no one to make sense of her emotions for her, the child is left to her own devices. She doesn't have any other choice rather than suppressing her emotions. Later in life, these emotions come back with more force, turning to anxiety and panic attack.
How can therapy help to fight this anxiety?
In order to get rid of this anxiety, you need to make sense of your feelings. Some of these feelings are unconscious. However, therapy is like a container for all your difficult emotions. The therapist can act like a thoughtful mother, making sense of your difficult emotions and giving you a tool to enable you to think at times of anxiety. You may seek therapy because of your anxiety, but may also find yourself learning about many other hidden feelings that can contribute to it. By becoming aware of your underlying feelings, another door will open for you, leading to a life without anxiety. Step by step, you'll come to be able to use the tool of thinking on your own, in your life and be able to make sense of your difficult emotions in every situation.