BY CAROLE SAWO
Anxiety is the name given to a set of symptoms, but this does not explain the cause. Having spent most of their life in paralysed trembling, their eyes welled up as they told of the countless lost opportunities, the phone calls into work, the relationships they never pursued, the hours spent worrying what other people think. I listened as just one of the millions of sufferers recounted their experience to me, but I didn’t see someone beyond repair, I saw somebody without the knowledge they needed; unaware of the activities of the internal saboteur and how to manage it, uninformed of how to navigate mind-chatter, that the ‘what other people think’ is an old mind programme planted in their subconscious, and sadly, without the understanding that to change all of this, was in their own ability, if only someone had shown them how.
Researching child development, psychology, psychoanalysis, and psychopathology over a number of years has given me two things, a lot of knowledge about the mind, and a great deal of sympathy for those who do not have it. The thousands of people who, when vulnerable in the midst of suffering, put their trust in the nearest practitioner only to be told to fill out a tatty photocopied form, have the word ‘anxiety’ banded about by a non-specialist in psychology, and in under an eight-minute pseudo assessment, leave with nothing more than a pocket full of medication and a life script hanging in the balance. It reminds me of something Freud’s Schreber said of the ‘soul murderers’, and the seemingly dogmatic medicalisation of human experiences.
When teaching about anxiety I show that when it’s all boiled down, there are, in my view, only three reasons that cause it, and one of those reasons is a profound lack of internal energy, that which we call self-esteem. Anxiety is an internal private assessment that we do not have on the inside what we need to deal with on the out. But self-esteem is that invisible yet crucial internal power that counteracts the imbalance, sometimes reduces our symptoms down to next to nothing. Self-esteem is the pillow on which we fall when we’ve been rejected, it’s that which we use to get on the bus, to perform through the physical symptoms, to express ourselves, achieve, open the gates to a fulfilling life of emotional resilience and mind freedom. If there is one internal reorientation that we need to make, to stop following the broken too-trodden path of mind debilitation, it’s the return to the road of psychological health.
Self-esteem building is essential for everyone. They should really teach the proper application of strategies at school but they do not. What I have heard is a lot of people giving others ridiculous advice … ‘just go out there’, ‘be confident’, ‘imagine them naked’, ‘just believe in yourself’. All useless, aggravating, and often counter-productive utterings. Where, might I ask, is ‘out there’? As if in the midst of blurred vision we can muster up some elusive confidence, when confidence is not built before the event, but often as a result of us walking ourselves through it. As for imagining our audience naked, that pop regurgitation can only come from someone who does not understand that the mind can only focus on one thing at a time and that what it focuses on gets bigger. Telling someone to cling to a belief they do not have is, quite honestly, at worst idiocy and at best, misguided.
Anxiety is a natural barometer, we are meant to have it, it’s energy we have not converted. We are our own healers. The antidote is to focus on building authentic self-esteem, even from nothing. Time spent developing our central core of energy is worth the release from the programme ‘what other people think’. It’s that internal source that provides us with resilience and bounce, in a life genuinely secure in the knowledge that who we are is good enough – and always has been.