TO OVERCOME ANXIETY and depression problems, the goal is not to get rid of the anxiety or the depression, for these are normal parts of being human. The aim is to understand why they have become so strong, deal with the cause and reduce them to normal levels.
Anxiety is a part of life; part of being alive and everyone experiences anxiety frequently. When this happens we feel shaky on the inside but relatively calm on the outside, this is normal, this is part of anxiety, this is how it feels.
On a popular television quiz show, where the
contestants answer questions and can double their innings up to a million, the quizmaster has said to many contestants, words to the effect: “You look remarkably calm”.
In nearly every instance, the reply has been the same:
“On the outside yes, but inside I'm shaking like a leaf”.
Anxiety and depression become a real problem (and lead to more serious problems and disorders) when we start to associate them with something being wrong with us (our self) rather than with life situations.
We start to believe that we have anxiety or depression because there is something wrong with us.
And belief is a very powerful thing.
If ten thousand people say you are good and you feel bad about yourself ... you will believe you are bad. Conversely if ten thousand people say you are bad and you feel good about yourself ... you will believe that you are good.
Our reality is shaped by what we feel and what we believe.
“A man found an eagle's egg and put it in a nest of a
barnyard hen. The eaglet hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them. All his life the eagle did what the barnyard chicks did, thinking he was a barnyard chicken. He scratched the earth for worms and insects. He clucked and cackled and would thrash his wings and fly a few feet into the air. Years passed and the eagle grew very old.
One day he saw a magnificent bird above him in the cloudless sky. It glided in graceful majesty among the owerful wind currents, with scarcely a beat of its stronggolden wings. The eagle looked up in awe. "Who's that?" he asked. "That's the eagle, the king of the birds", said his neighbour. "He belongs to the sky.
We belong to the earth – we're chickens." So the eagle
lived and died a chicken, for that's what he thought he was.”
... AWARENESS ... Anthony de Mello
AND THE ANSWER LIES IN CHANGING WHAT WE FEEL AND BELIEVE.
To change beliefs, we have to understand how and why they developed. We have to understand our experiences, and more importantly, the conclusions we drew about them. For it's not the experiences themselves that do lasting damage, it's what we make of them. We have to understand how we learned to think and behave because of our experiences.
Our mind and body are so interlinked that in some ways it is
difficult to distinguish between them, thoughts generate feelings and feelings generate thoughts. Anxiety leads to tension but also tension leads to anxiety.
Many people with long-term anxiety and depression problems exist in a higher than average state of tension. Their whole body can be tense to some degree for most of the time. It isn’t surprising that various body aches and general fatigue are often seen in many anxiety disorders and depression.
A tense body is already making associations with anxiety, prepared to spark off a worrying thought or image and start the ball rolling towards panic, incessant worrying, obsessive thoughts or despair. A relaxed body equals a relaxed mind and vice versa.
And so… insight and understanding are essential in order to fully overcome anxiety-related problems. However, from the mildest anxiety to the severest depression, there is something
else that’s equally important … changing behaviour.
We can't just think our way out of these problems. To change behaviour we have to do the behaviour (it isn't possible to learn to ride a bike just by thinking about it!)
But changing behaviour alone will not help if we still feel bad about our self or still have unanswered questions about our problem. Any force over which we have little understanding and even less control will always hold power over us, for it is unpredictable and could harm us and as such remains frightening.
Therefore, successfully overcoming anxiety and depression
problems requires both insight and behaviour change.