“You are never anxious for the reason you think you're anxious. There is always something coming forward from your past.”
Working as a couples counsellor in Vancouver, I've learned that underneath most of our anxieties is some trauma or past experience, however mild or severe, that is informing us on our new experiences today. To explain this concept further, imagine the following story:
A 3 year old child is happily playing with her Mom in her bedroom. She is happy because she is getting attention, feeling connected to her Mom and feeling loved through play and touch.
Then the phone rings and Mom leaves to answer it. To you and I this seems on the surface that Mom has simply left to answer the phone. However, to her 3 year old daughter this could represent abandonment. So to get attention to this wound and try to recover the love, the 3 year old cries and screams, but Mom does not come back as the phone call is an important one she feels she has to take. Even if she hangs up the call early and returns to her child, the damage may already be done. Her 3 year old may now feel that she’s going to be left alone to fend for herself whenever the phone rings.
In addition, the 3 year old now knows that screaming and crying may not work in getting attention. In future she may try throwing things, or perhaps just shutting down and going silent, maybe self soothing by sucking her thumb.
Now this may seem a little far fetched, but in the world of psychology it is proven that what seems inconsequential to us, feels like a huge trauma to a 3 year old. This is because children cannot cognitively, rationally understand and process information on an intellectual level until around the age of 7. Up until this point, between the ages of 0–7, children connect, relate and make decisions about themselves and others on pure emotion.
So how does this relate to you today, many years later? Well, like many of my Vancouver individual counselling clients, if you’ve experienced a scenario like the one above repeatedly in your childhood then your feelings of abandonment and the anxiety around it will show up in later life. This is because our unconscious and emotional mind remembers past experiences and connects them to present day events.
For instance, you may start dating in later life and feel in love with your new date quickly. This might because you are craving that loving connection you kept losing from your parent(s) in childhood. If your new love suddenly stops taking your calls, then the feeling of abandonment will come to the fore and you’ll feel, on an deeper emotional at least, just like that 3 year old screaming for her Mom.
One of the best ways to deal with emotion is to simply sit in and explore it. We have a natural inclination to move away from anxiety because its uncomfortable. We do this by keeping busy, by distraction, by getting angry or perhaps acting out in other ways, such as watching pornography or tuning out to trash TV.
By sitting in our emotional anxiety and feeling it we get to know it, to understand it and see through the emotion to what’s driving it and get into the habit of relationship counselling ourselves. By paying attention to it, you will feel more uncomfortable for a while, but like all feelings it will pass far quicker than when you suppress it.
When sitting in your emotional anxiety ask yourself some introspective questions like:
When did I first feel like this?
What’s hurting me right now?
What do I fear?
Why do I fear it?
What will happen to me if I sit with this feeling right now?
What am I needing on an emotional level right now?
What am I really anxious about (remember you are never anxious about the thing you think you are)?
By talking yourself through this process, and perhaps sharing it with somebody who can empathize and understand what you are experiencing, will go some way to helping you move through your anxiety quicker and minimize your anxiety in the future. You’ll ultimately feel less fear and more confident on a deeper emotional level.
Oh, and here is one simple tool you can try right now that is AMAZING and will calm your anxiety in an instant! Just watch and follow what's below...
Matt is a specialized couples counsellor in Vancouver, working with individuals and couples heal their relationships troubles and pain. Contact Matt today for a free consultation on how he can help you feel better and happier in your current relationship.