I have anxiety

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Oh yes. I do. And I hear this all the time. We have a way of speaking about “our anxiety” as if it is a separate thing - split off from who we are.

"My anxiety is flaring today."

"I need to come to therapy to get tools to help me with my anxiety."

"I almost had a panic attack."

There can be a lot of reasons for anxiety.

I hold the possibility of all kinds of experiences and traumas when people express anxiety.

But when I don’t see signs of severe trauma and when a person’s background is relatively stable, my mind often goes to the following questions:

Do you like where you live?

Do you love who you live with?

How do you feel about the way you earn a living?

What do you do when you are not at work and how do you feel about that?

Tell me about your diet.

How and how often do you move your body?

Do you sleep well?

What if your anxiety was an important part of you? A part with an essential communication?

Everything is at stake in our answers to these questions.

None of these questions is easily solved.

Our culture asks us to curl into ourselves. It asks us to stay perpetually busy and yet low on the self-expression scale. It lays upon us obligation after obligation. Too much of this and we revolt.

How would it be possible that everything that matters to you fits nicely into the expectations of everyone else in your life?

Yet we live this way. As if we can avoid the conflict inherent in individuation. The conflict inherent in growing up.

I don’t mean individuation as greed. I mean individuation as dwelling in ourselves as ourselves and offering ourselves to the world from the resources we gain from knowing ourselves.

Anxiety can be a message from our soul that all is not well.

That the compromise we are making is costing us something dear.

We can muffle the anxiety in all kinds of ways.

But the most interesting response is to put our load down and be curious about it.

Originally Published on Alisoncrosthwait.com

Alison Crosthwait