“I wake up, very early, get more things done than most do in a day, have a massive panic attack (who knows what about), which is only exacerbated by the fact that I have thirty minutes to get to my own therapy session in Chicago morning LSD traffic. I say all the ‘right’ things to myself, I try to regulate my breathing, I try talking to my dog as if he was human, and I even shower with cold water to break my head from this destructive path. I kept saying, it doesn’t matter, it does not matter, it doesn’t, but to me, in that moment, it really did matter so that didn’t help either! It wasn’t until I was driving, freaked out by other drivers and by my clicking clock of lateness, that it hit me. I am sitting at a red light, in a sea of cars not moving, with a clock that will not stop ticking. I want to scream, but instead of screaming, I put my hands up and say “I cannot change this traffic. I cannot change the time. I cannot change the fact that I am sitting here, in this particular moment, in this specific place. At this time, I look left, and the world stops moving. There is Buckingham fountain, blowing in full glory. Surrounded by marvelous buildings that glimmer in the early morning sunshine. I heard birds chattering, children laughing, the rush of water, and then nothing else mattered. I would not lose my life or myself if I were late. I realize I can choose how to relate to this moment. I found my power, my control, my voice and I choose to embrace it. I knew that there was nothing I could do but accept the absurdity of life, and appreciate just how beautiful it really is.” RT, 2014
This scenario is similar to others, and it happens numerous times a day. Anxiety, which impacts 18% of the US Adult population, leads us to feel out of control and trapped. Feelings such as helplessness or fright have a significant impact on us emotionally, physically, and neurologically. But most of all, the experience of panic impacts us relationally.
When dealing with Anxiety and a high level of inner tension, individuals resort to unpleasant defenses such as passive externalization. For instance, in the situation written about above, an individual is moving through their world in a state of distress. Struggling to get their mind right, to get their body relaxed, and to show up on time. Even without being aware of it, their way of being has impacted those around them. The dog may now be on alert due to the owner’s frantic behavior. Other drivers on Lakeshore Drive may be cut-off or honked at because this individual sees them as a blockade or as a nuisance. And a partner’s world would be notably impinged upon by verbal and nonverbal interactions, such as being left with a scoff instead of a kiss. The lives of those existing with palpable anxiety are permeated by fear provoking insecurities and debilitating symptoms of angst that often leave them feeling deserted.
That’s the thing about this kind of tension where someone is living in their panic: they feel alone, isolated and unsupported. Once we are able to embrace the world’s overwhelming sense of uncertainty, we can begin to notice how life still moves and grows even when we don’t. Despite the beauty in this openness and the acceptance that leads to ‘leaps of faith’, it can be very difficult to attain, especially without the help of a professional therapist. Finding the space and time to discover who we are is a task. Thankfully, this task does not need to be attended to in isolation. The journey to find freedom may be found through the therapeutic process. Sharing this voyage with a psychologist/ or therapist will truly highlight the value of honest engagements with ourselves and with others. Anxiety counseling can help with these challenges.
As human beings we are always in relationship to the world around us. Sometimes this world hurts us and these relationships fail us. Other times when we are reminded of our right to choose, our perspective changes. In therapy, unconditional positive regard and acceptance are employed in order to understand the unique experience of individuals. These unique experiences highlight current struggles and past regrets in an effort to understand them and work through them without fear, avoidance, or shame. For instance, through the support of the therapeutic alliance, we are able to recognize the little things in life that we generally pass over. We learn to value the gift of being alive, to appreciate the beauty we create and to offer the support of being loved.
This life will move forward and steady like a clock even when the lack of pause causes us to bump up against frustrations and face fears. The boundless rhythm of our world helps us to stay steady. Knowing there is at least one constant we can count on. Just like the tick of a clock, the pulse of our world will forever to be strong, loud, and endless. With the support of a therapist, we can create a way of being in the world that allows us to see the potential of each day and in each interaction. This acceptance of the truth may free us to see how vastly enriching life can really be.