A new way of looking at anxiety

I hope that one day I can be truly free from anxiety, but until that day comes, I’m going to need to learn effective ways of dealing with it.

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I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last couple of years. What keeps me going and what holds me back. I’ve learned that fear is the major obstacle keeping me from following through with my goals, my dreams.

Fear, like the devil, has many names, many guises. Anxiety is one of them. In fact, anxiety is the main manifestation of fear in my life. It’s so maddeningly subtle and sinister that sometimes I don’t even see it for what it is until a long time has passed.

I think we all intuitively understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy anxiety, if we think about it. Being anxious about walking alone through the woods at night is totally understandable and will even be of benefit if you run into the bogeyman, giving you faster reflexes and increased energy.

Being anxious of running into an acquaintance in the street because small talk stresses you out, however, that’s unhealthy. It’s unhealthy because it causes a spike in stress without good reason. You may have faster reflexes and increased energy temporarily as in the previous example, but dealing with increased stress wears the body out fast.

In my own experience, anxiety seems to be rooted in my childhood. I had a weird and stressful upbringing, although fortunately free from physical violence for the most part. All kinds of things stress me out unduly, and I’ve spent days of my life picking apart the reasons for it.

This retrospection has helped to some degree, in that it’s allowed me to understand why I feel the way I feel, but after all this time I’m still an anxious guy.

Apparently, understanding is not enough to overcome anxiety.

That’s why I’ve been directing my energy into the present, finding ways to deal with the feeling of anxiety itself, instead of trying to logically figure out why I’m feeling it. It seems to be helping, albeit quite slowly.

The thing is, during periods of intense anxiety, we tend to forget important things. Like if I decide that I want to become aware of my bodily sensations or something the next time I feel anxious, when the feeling actually arrives I won’t remember that decision. It’s infuriating, really.

Instead, what tends to happen is I direct myself to the nearest thing that can comfort me, be it sugar, porn, sex, weed, alcohol, or whatever. There are many ways of dampening, or even forgetting, anxiety. Some of them are relatively healthy. Exercise or meditation are good examples.

But unfortunately, the easiest ways of dealing with anxiety seem to also be the most harmful in the long run. Sugar, porn, booze, ganja, stronger drugs… These are all very effective, but they also carry with them great risk of bodily and mental harm and dependence.

I recently published a two part series on porn addiction, which happens to have been my poison of choice for the last decade.

The thing is, during bouts of anxiety or even depression, you crave whatever will relieve those horrible feelings as fast as possible. It’s very difficult to be disciplined and follow through on what you decided you were going to do next time you felt this way, when you actually do feel this way.

I live in the hope that with practice and determination, and clear conscious mindfulness, I will in the end be free of my compulsions and become the arbiter of my behavior. A life of freedom and grace.

Until that day arrives, I’m going to keep developing my consciousness and self compassion through meditation, mindfulness and journaling.

I wish you peace and much love.

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