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Making Sense of Anxiety


Many people experience anxiety to varying degrees throughout their lives.


What is anxiety, why does it feel frightening and what helps it disappear?

  • Anxiety is a feeling, an emotion, it arises in the moment, there is no store of anxiety.
  • Anxiety feels frightening because it comes to wake us up to the frightening way we are treating ourselves (emotionally or physically or both)
  • Anxiety is a messenger and it always brings a call to love; for that reason it comes as our friend, it will disappear when its message has been heard.

Irish Psychologist Dr Tony Humphrey's believes that all behaviour, all thoughts and feelings are wise and arise within us to prompt us to take action for ourselves.

Many people experience anxiety to varying degrees throughout their lives.

If I’m feeling happy, the feeling is telling me ‘keep doing what you’re doing this is good for your well being’. If I’m feeling sad the feeling comes as my wise friend to tell me there is something I need to do or stop doing so that I can feel happy again.

So what might be the wisdom of anxiety? The wisdom is unique to each person. For one person the wisdom of the anxiety might be telling her ‘you’ve been working too hard this past few weeks you need some fun, you need a break.

The next week the anxiety may come to tell her ‘you need to get that presentation done today the meeting is tomorrow’. For another person the anxiety may come with a different message ‘you’ve putting yourself last and I’m coming to tell you it would be good to consider your own needs also. Or ’stop criticising yourself, be a bit fairer with yourself’ There are short term fixes for anxiety; calming strategies like meditation or praying, or distraction through television, work, sport. Sometimes, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, or food help to push the feeling of anxiety away. These short term fixes sometimes work, but often they only work for a short while, the anxiety will return if I have not listened to, made sense of and acted on the message delivered.

Every feeling, every thought that arises within me is about me and for me. If I listen to the message and take the action for myself that is needed, anxiety disappears, its job is done. If I don’t listen or don’t know how to listen, anxiety will return and knock even louder.

You might say with friends like that who needs enemies? But anxiety actually comes with a message sent from a place of wisdom within me and the message is always one of a loving nature. The message that anxiety brings is unique to each of us, because the message is related directly to my relationship with myself. It may come to tell me that I’m looking after everyone else and forgetting myself, it may come to tell me I’m not living the life I want to live, my own life, that instead I’m living the life my mother or father wanted for me. Or it may come to tell me I need some fun in my life or that I’m criticising myself or setting standards for myself that are unfair or that I’m allowing someone to over protect me leaving me helpless. Anxiety is always about disconnection from my real self.

When the feeling of anxiety comes, if I want to make sense of its message, I need to stop when I can and listen to what it is telling me. I need to ask myself, what has been happening recently in my life?

How have I been treating myself? What is it that I need?