Every human being has anxiety “hard wired” into his or her brains. It is necessary for survival. The feeling of anxiety is that of vulnerability and helplessness. We are programmed to avoid these feelings at almost any price.
While we have a deep instinct to avoid anxiety, we are confronted with anxiety on a daily basis. With repetition, these anxiety-producing neurological pathways become “etched” into our brains. As we are not routinely taught the skills to stop the progression of these circuits, we end up with many coping patterns that detract from our quality of life. It is my personal feeling that most of mental health issues can be explained on the basis of our response to progressive anxiety. From my non-psychological, orthopedic surgeon perspective progressive, anxiety looks like a “programming” problem, not a psychiatric problem.
I also have a different way of conceptualizing anxiety. I feel there is a “link” between circumstances, thoughts, and behavior. I do not view anxiety as an emotion.
For instance, if you are hungry you will have progressive anxiety until you obtain food. Most of our daily behavior is governed by anxiety. The same analogy holds true for water, air, personal hygiene, sexual activity, etc. Although anxiety runs much of our lives, we have a sense that if we had less anxiety, we would be happy. So many become focused on decreasing or eliminating anxiety from their lives.
The basic antidote to anxiety is control, which will be discussed later. If you are focused on happiness by decreasing anxiety, your “control issues” may become an interference to enjoying many of your close relationships. If you try to eliminate anxiety by controlling your thoughts, you have even a bigger problem. Look at the post, “white bears” under the “Path to Chronic Pain.” A Harvard psychologist performed a simple but elegant experiment documenting how suppressing thoughts will actually strengthen them.
What makes suppressing anxiety-producing thoughts even trickier is this–the darker the thoughts, the more of your nervous system’s energy is spent suppressing them. You have given a lot of power to “just thoughts.”
I am hoping to show you over the next few chapters that the key to dealing with anxiety is acknowledging it and learning to live with it. The key to anxiety is healing. The amount of energy released to live your life on your terms is stunning.