Feeling anxious is a natural part of being human . At some point in your life, you’ve experienced the feelings commonly associated with anxiety – tight chest, headache, fatigue, restlessness, feelings of worry/dread/concern, you get the picture. I know I’ve had my fare share of anxious moments, but in recent years I’ve learned more about techniques to help alleviate anxiety. The primary technique I’ve utilizes is mindfulness meditation, but I’m always interested in learning more about this particular mental illness.
Yesterday I read an interesting article by Deepak Chopra. He explains anxiety in a new light, framing it in a way I haven’t heard before. It resonated with me.
He talks about the split self – the strong self and the weak self. Perhaps weak isn’t the best as we don’t want to associate anxiety with weakness, but I encourage you to move past the language barrier as the message is important.
“When a situation arises that can be handled well, the strong part feels confident, competent, in charge and in control. When uncertainty crops up, the weak part feels afraid, helpless, and hopeless. Anxious people never settle this inner conflict. They are so divided that when they feel afraid, the weak part is “the real me.” When they are not afraid, the strong part is “the real me.” In fact, neither is the real self. The real self is beyond conflict; it is whole and at peace. So the long-term approach to anxiety is to rise above the inner war to find a self that is more whole.”
He goes on to discuss that when the self is divided and in conflict, there is always a hidden aspect of judgement against the self. I think many anxious people will relate to this comment. The majority of anxious people I have connected with explain that they are in a constant state of self doubt, berating themselves for not doing x,y, or z. We all sometimes spend time feeling guilty, upset, or disappointed with our actions, but we don’t tend to hold on to it for an extended period of time. We try to rationalize and explain the situation, coming to a logical ‘end’. Finding an ‘end’ or a solution allows us to move forward. The anxious person is constantly in the “beating themselves up or feeling disappointed stage” rarely coming to an ‘end’. And let me tell you, it’s not a nice place to be.
This article is hopeful. Chopra provides a few, fairly straightforward techniques to begin implementing to alleviate feelings of anxiety. For those who do not regularly meditate or spend time on their own, the recommendation to meditate will be a tough one. It’s important to realize, however, that meditation does not require you to sit in a candle lit room, in the lotus position, waiting for enlightenment. I do most of my meditation lying down. I pull a blanket over me and turn the lights off (but the room is never pitch black). I also use a guided meditation (typically the voice of Jon Kabat-Zinn) as it helps me to keep focus. Even trying a three minute breathing exercise will be of benefit if used at different time points throughout the day on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be complex or profound to be impactful.
And you’re not likely going to have any “ah-ha” moments when you first start or perhaps for a long time. Don’t set any expectations for meditation, just engage in the activity. Freeing yourself from expectation will reduce the likelihood of judgement and thus, the feeling that one has either succeeded or failed. Meditation is not about being right or wrong, good or bad, it simply just is. It’s a time to be alone with one’s self.
I encourage you to read the article and then read it again. It says a lot in a short space. Every so often, I read something that I know will stick with me for a lifetime and this is one such piece.
Happy reading and happy meditating or whatever you choose to do for yourself.