The gift of anxiety?

My relationship to anxiety has always been fraught with – well – anxiety. And that started well before I was even properly acquainted with the word…

As I child I knew I wasn’t hungry because my stomach was sore. Or, my head felt like it was spinning, ready to explode, and I couldn’t catch my breath. And then there were the strange ailments: one autumn desperately allergic to leaves; bending down to look in my desk one morning in Grade 7 I strained my neck so that I couldn’t turn my head for 6 weeks…a mystifying laundry list of physical complaints that seemed to have no practical basis.

As a adult, not a lot changed. In a destructive romantic relationship in my early 20’s, I was plagued with hives. While in school as a fledgling opera singer, I decided to stay in Toronto and not return to BC for a family Christmas…in the dreaded lead-up to telling my mother, I mysteriously lost my voice…

From the vantage point of 20 years and a lot more awareness, there is nothing mysterious about these phenomena.

From a Gestalt perspective, anxiety is ‘excitement without breath’. Energy and activation, caught, with no movement associated. A ‘stuck’-ness. Another way of thinking about anxiety is that it’s our body’s way of throwing up a proverbial hand and saying ‘Stop. Things are not ok.’

In this way I suggest that anxiety is actually a gift. Underneath the physical sensations: the roiling guts, the stiff neck, the breathlessness or the lightheadedness, is there something else at work? Something – with the right support – to be explored, brought into awareness and (ideally) resolved?

I’m mixing my metaphors, but the truth remains. If the experience of anxiety is universal; the way it shows up in the body is not. And through my own lifelong experiences and those of my clients, I am convinced: anxiety is our body’s entreaty to muster up the courage to look deeper.

Want to learn more? Please email me and we’ll talk. Experience with anxiety? Please consider sharing your comments below.


Katie MeadComment