Beliefnet
Serenity in an Age of Anxiety

214_1Now that you know a wise, fearless and kind Brilliant Counselor is available for the asking, here is how to access him/her/it.

 

  • Find a quiet and private place where you will not be interrupted. Sit in one chair and place an empty chair directly in front of you.

 

  • Imagine a BC is sitting in the empty chair. The BC does not need a particular form unless you find imagining a symbolic figure like Jesus or the Dalai Lama helpful. You are energetically tapping into the highest part of yourself that is like and connected to the most enlightened part of everyone else. The empty chair is the place holder for this energy.

 

  • Tell the BC all about whatever is preying on your mind. You can talk about anything from where to go on vacation to your frustration with your partner to why you are here. Delve into as much detail as possible. Spare no anger, sadness, fear or frustration.

 

Speaking out loud works best for most people, especially if they are new to the exercise or are not getting satisfying results. Speaking silently also works especially if privacy is lacking or you are introverted. Some people find they process better with their eyes closed and an imaginary empty chair in their head rather than outside of themselves. If one way does not work, try the other.

 

  • When you are finished talking, move over to the empty chair.  You are now the BC and need not ask any questions because unlike a traditional psychotherapist, you know all the details, secrets and longings of the person consulting with you. Share your wisdom and support.  Bethe Brilliant Counselor that is the wisest and most thoughtful part of yourself.  The BC does not scold, criticize or belittle.  If you feel guilty for forgetting to write Aunt Hilda a thank you note, you are channeling your mother or rehashing the past not connecting with the BC.

 

  • Switch back and forth until you feel the session is complete. You will know you have accessed the BC if at the end of the session you feel clear headed and happier. Even if you do not have specific next steps, you should feel supported and a sense of calm.

 

You don’t have to believe in a higher self or power for this technique to work. It can be done as a strictly cognitive exercise or used to deepen a sense of spiritual connection. Do not put a friend in the chair no matter how much they promise not to say anything. That is a different technique.

 

Finally, getting to know your BC may take some practice. Do not get discouraged if it takes a few sessions until you get comfortable. Knowing you have a free, in house BC available 24/7, is worth the trouble.

Next time: The Anxiety Narrative

214_1Few people can afford all the therapy and coaching they want or need. Friends can fill some of the gaps and are invaluable but can be loath to point out the ways we contribute to our own problems.  Plus, if we tend to blatter on and on about a problem, their tolerance can have limits. Fortunately, we all have an always-available, free solution at our fingertips.   Meet your personal, in-house advisor, otherwise known as the Brilliant Counselor (BC).

 

The Brilliant Counselor is the wisest, most thoughtful part of yourself. Some might call this voice the higher self. The spiritually inclined might say it is a line to God or a way to access the wisdom contained in the energy field that connects us all. Others may prefer to view the BC as a link into the collective consciousness which is a field of sorts. The collective consciousness is the shared beliefs and values that tie societies together.

 

Carl Jung introduced the idea that a healthy human psyche is made up of many subpersonalities or parts. These parts are distinct emotional states or habitual thoughts. For example, there can be the boss, the critic and the caretaker. In happy people these voices adapt and work together depending on the circumstances. When we are stuck or anxious, the inmates run the asylum.

 

Subsequent therapists expanded on Jung’s subpersonalities theory and developed therapeutic techniques such as Voice Dialogue and Internal Family Systems to identify and work with the different parts. The critic can occupy way too much mental space, for instance and may need a pink slip or a stint in rehab. A therapist can help identify the predominant voices, distinguish the self apart from the clashing personas and facilitate control over the less useful qualities.

 

After exploring the classic subpersonality parts, Baltimore based coach and acupuncturist, David Mercier added the BC. Why not have a larger part that represents something bigger than yourself?  Rather than uncovering voices for the purpose of therapy, he developed technique to connect to your strong, positive voice.

 

Mystical abilities are not a requirement to access the BC.  We are all capable of accessing this wondrous part of ourselves. So whether your inner child is insisting people cannot be trusted or your rebel part is inciting a riot, trust that the BC knows the path to peace of mind (and not the fastest way to the poky). Jung said, “who looks outside dreams; who looks inside awakes.” Your BC is waiting.

 

Next time: Part 2: An Appointment with the BC

 

 

Albert EinsteinBefore Paulo Coelho and Marianne Williamson had best-selling books advocating better living through love and connection, Einstein had taken the leap from theoretical physicist to metaphysician.  Metaphysics literally means beyond physics but is more generally used to describe a branch of philosophy that explores the nature of being, existence and reality.       Through scientific experiments and mathematical equations, Einstein and his colleagues demonstrated we are all connected energetically.   His conclusion:

 

A human being is part of the whole, called by us ”universe”, limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons close to us.  Our task must be to free ourselves from our prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all humanity and the whole of nature in its beauty.

Albert Einstein

 

The discovery of how our energies are entangled was awe inspiring enough to turn Einstein into a philosopher and inadvertent spiritual teacher. Who else but a spiritual teacher would claim the feeling of being separated from everyone else is ‘a kind of optical delusion’ of consciousness?  According to the good doctor, if we feel isolated and alone, it is a misconception brought about by a narrow view of who we are and our place in the universe.

Even better, Professor Einstein offers a solution: widen your circle of compassion. He doesn’t say you must approve of other’s actions. You don’t have to like everyone you meet. From an energetic perspective, if you recognize and embrace how we are all connected you can escape isolation which is a self-imposed prison and be happier.  Compassion or the extension of love to everyone and everything is the vehicle of transformation.

Why extend love?  Why not simply recognize there is a field and be done with it?  Because if we are all connected, whatever you extend will be what you experience. Be frustrated and your section of the field will reflect frustration.  Project fear and reasons to be afraid will come at you like flies to a day-old hamburger. You may as well do whatever you are doing directly to yourself.  There is nothing separate from you to effect.

Even distance does not necessarily dilute the effects of your thoughts or activities due to the physics concept of action at a distance. Physical distance does not work the same way in the field as it does on Google Maps. Let’s say you are angry at your brother. You might think that avoiding him will alleviate some of those nasty thoughts and bring some respite. Not quite. Whether your brother is sitting next to you on the sofa or doing laundry in his condo 3,000 miles away, the impact of your thoughts on the field is the same.

What Einstein knew is there are no neutral thoughts or actions.  All thoughts and actions are forms of energy and impact the field. If you want peace of mind and serenity, widen your circle of compassion to encompass everybody and the whole of nature. Maybe start thinking out of the box like Einstein. Or rather Tenzin Einstein.

Next time: The Brilliant Counselor

 

Life is full of misery, loneliness and suffering- and it’s all over much too soon.  Woody Allen

 

Robert* was having trouble sleeping. His brain would not turn off. Was his business ever going to be successful?  There was barely enough money to pay the bills. Then there was dating, which was about as fun as gout. Worst, no matter how hard he worked or tried to be a good person, he was wracked with fears and a sense of worthlessness.

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He tried therapy to no avail. Talking about the past made him feel guilty because he could never come up with any trauma or solid reason to explain why he felt so weighed down. His parents annoyed him but were unfailingly supportive. He did not enjoy high school or college not because they were particularly awful but because he felt overwhelmed no matter how reasonable the demands. No amount of exercise, meditation or dietary adjustments calmed his unsettled mind either.

 

Robert was certain there was a logical explanation for why life felt so hard.  Scientists have proven there are biochemical changes involving inflammation and/or activation of the anterior cingulate cortex that correspond with Robert’s symptoms. The conventional recommendation, if therapy fails, is medication (or medical cannabis if he lives in a state where this is legal). These remedies can temporarily alleviate the symptom of anxiety but there is a lesser known reason for anxiety that might help him develop a better long-term solution.

 

Robert’s anxiety could be the natural reaction to trying to solve the wrong problem. If a doctor diagnoses symptoms incorrectly and prescribes unsuitable medicine, the patient gets nasty side effects. Robert believes a deficiency in his life, the world or himself has caused an existential sense of uneasiness.  Existential meaning it comes with being human. Robert is simply more aware that something is not quite right or missing and is frantically and continuously trying to fix what he perceives to be the cause.

 

The real cause of Robert’s anxiety is not his personality flaws, dysfunctional dating life or the latest devastating famine or environmental disaster (though they are worrisome issues requiring attention). Something is not quite right and missing from his life.  The feelings of unworthiness, not belonging and devastating loneliness, these are the true problems.  Only when he knows who he really is and what he is doing here will he start to calm down. He may benefit from behavioral changes and solving some of his external issues will temporarily soothe his fears but to quote the late comic Gilda Radner, ‘it is always something’. Enough somethings to distract him endlessly if he fails to recognize anxiety as the symptom of disconnect he feels at a soul level.

 

We are energy beings. When reduced to the smallest atomic particles, we are not made up of particles at all but condensed balls of energy. Those balls of energy are part of a vast field of energy that links us all together. There is an awe-inspiring amount of potential in the field around us.  One physicist claims if harnessed, the potential in the molecules in the space inside a coffee cup, could boil the water in all the oceans of the world. If we could tap into it, we would never need another tank of gas or electrical plug for anything.

 

At a level below consciousness, we are connected and supported by and to everything around us.  Call that God, the Field, the Force or mashed potatoes.  Its name does not matter. When we feel alone and worried, we have forgotten we are part of something bigger than ourselves and mistakenly believe it is possible to be separate and abandoned. While it is possible to be betrayed or mistreated via the actions of people, it is impossible not to be part of the whole. Anxiety and fear (and all their irritating relatives) are the symptoms. The illusion of separation is the real problem (or disease) and the thing we sense is not quite right or missing.

 

Next time: What Einstein Knew

*Not his real name

 

Picture of hearts

Always remember you are absolutely unique.  Just like everyone else.  Margaret Mead

 

Did you know that anxiety is now the most common mental condition in the U.S. affecting 40 million adults? The clinical categories including social anxiety, panic, obsessive compulsive, post-traumatic stress and generalized anxiety disorders are only the tip of the worry iceberg. Studies suggest kids are also 5 to 7 times more likely to meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder diagnosis than their counterparts 50 years ago. And a review of studies covering 12 countries suggests this trend of increased nervousness among adolescents is a worldwide phenomenon.

 

Experts blame our anxiousness on everything from a consumer culture and the internet to poor diet and reduced free play time. We get it. Life is hard and getting more complicated to navigate. An hour on the phone with Comcast could give the most advanced lama the shakes. So why are people with the highest anxiety levels often those who seem to have the most comfortable lives? And why can’t these people pinpoint what is causing all their angst? Something is not quite right but we don’t seem to be able to articulate exactly what that is.

 

An anxiety epidemic is not a call for more Ativan or Xanax. It is also not an issue that will be solved with more mental health professionals, an end to racial and sexual discrimination or a kinder president. There will be always be problems and brutes to disrupt our peace of mind. And if we stay healthy despite the 60,000 diagnosable conditions medical science has discovered, live in a safe, gated community with armed guards and have an adoring family, there is still our troublesome minds to feed us a diet of worries, guilt and unworthiness.

 

If the real cause of anxiety is the ontological feeling that something is missing or not quite right, a sense we all come in with, then increasing anxiety levels will further pressure us as a society to discover what is missing or not right. A louder spiritual wake-up call, if you will. An intensified plea to understand who we are and why we are here.

 

The response we want from the world or those around us is confirmation that we are loved, are doing the right thing or a divine sign all is as it should be.  What we get instead when the mind is in charge is a version of Captain Underpants, i.e. chaos and confusion. It tries to “help” and solve our discontent by perseverating on the perceived problem, no matter how much we yell, ‘stop’, pointing out our deficiencies and finding others to blame. A dual strategy of spinning our wheels and blame.

 

When anxiety goes up, the quickest way to feel better is to find and blame the person or group who is behaving badly. The mind happily, but ineffectively jumps to the task. The problem is the  job, where we live or our unsympathetic partner, the mind concludes. It then leads us away from happiness with the lure, if only something outside ourselves was different then the unsettled feeling would go away. This is the untrained mind’s playbook.

 

When we realize, the problem is not outside ourselves, the mind sticks to the blame agenda but now we are in the hot seat. If we would only try harder, be better or more deserving we would be happier. And when self-improvement schemes falter and there are no people to blame, there is always God. God does not love us. If God exists, he/she/it is mean. Otherwise there would not be so much suffering, especially on our end. The blame trap can keep the misery flowing for a lifetime.

 

Anxiety and its cousins, fear and rage happen when a misguided, out of control mind tries to solve the wrong problem.  The uncomfortable feelings are the symptoms. The disease is the ever-present nagging sense that something is not right or missing. The bad news is we all have the same disease and it is highly contagious.  The good news is the illness is completely curable.

 

The first step is recognizing anxiety and its relatives are the symptoms. This blog is about what to do next.

 

 

Statistics from The Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Gray, P. (2015). “The Decline of Play and Rise in Children’s Mental Disorders: Children are more anxious and depressed than ever before. Why?” Psychology Today. Aug 2015

Ricci, C. (2015). “Anxiety and Depression in Pre-Teen Girls Rising.” The Sydney Morning Herald.  www.smh.com