Healing Anxiety

Reflections from one who is often the sufferer’s last resort!

Over almost 30 years now, I’ve sat with people, offering reassurance and gift of hope and, for many who ‘get it’, an outcome of relief from the debilitating chains of anxiety.  I can make that statement with confidence knowing that there is a world of people out there who consider themselves to have been led on the proverbial wild goose chase.  It seems there are too many ‘experts’ offering complicated treatments that bring scant results.

The cases presented here at the Stillness Meditation Therapy Centre very often arrive as a last resort, when the individual’s frustration has reached boiling point.  If clients feel frustrated, then, with respect, it is somewhat exasperating to listen to stories such as these, repeated time after time: 

 “I have been everywhere, tried everything, searching for the cause of my problem.  I’m tired of trying, of doing, of relying on prescription medicine …with no sign of improvement at all.”

Searching for a cause is very often like attempting to uncover a needle in a haystack.  One could spend a lifetime in that pursuit, fuelled by chemicals while wasting that lifetime to an accompaniment of symptoms that do not disappear – even if such a ‘cause’ happens to eventually be identified.

In my view, one of the most powerfully exacerbating factors put forward to the bewildered anxiety sufferer is the list of diagnoses available for practitioners to dispense.  Diagnosis and the scientific exploration surrounding it create ‘labels’ to which the vulnerable anxious person unwittingly submits.  Once bestowed, a label compromises independence, increases the very anxiety to which it is targeted and halts progress to healing as the anxious mind conjures up all manner of further alarming outcomes from numerous categories of anxiety disorder, a variety of phobias, compulsions of all kinds and obsessive reactions. “If I didn’t have OCD then, well I sure have it now”, said one confused person who found himself catapulted from normal grieving to an overwhelming state of fear. 

The mind is a minefield of thoughts, ideas, creations, motivations and defenses.  It is our greatest human asset!  But science chooses to control its content, to isolate any aberration from the so-called ‘normal’, categorize surrounding symptoms and attempt to treat average people accordingly; this, in spite the fact that what science knows about the human brain is but a drop in the ocean.   

What does this mean for individuals of all ages and for the community at large?

It means a community steeped in fear, self doubt and insecurity.  And I believe it means that, generally, the matter of anxiety as it affects health, both psychological and physical, is not truly understood – not truly understood by professionals and sufferers alike.

What I know from personal and extensive professional experience is this:  the key to healing anxiety involves the notion of paradox – the ability to permit a contradictory approach to common knowledge and commonly accepted healing modalities.  Yes, I know these may well be supposedly evidenced based.  But evidence is always limited to circumstance and clearly many of the commonly accepted forms of healing are not effective: our community is suffering anxiety and associated symptoms (including depression) in epidemic proportions. 

Based on the rationale put forward some 50 years ago by my mentor, Ainslie Meares MD, the healer helps the sufferer, paradoxically, to learn to let go.  By ‘doing’ less, he or she will gain more.  For healing to occur what must take place involves no effort at all.  True rest for the mind is the solution – this is the essence of Stillness Meditation as a form of therapy: the simple and effortless approach which proposes a natural response to a natural intervention, leading to living calm.  In this very practical way, one is allowing the body to access an innate faculty that assists in self healing.  In that, this is a coping mechanism par excellence and one that really ‘works’. 

Yes, it is exasperating to be the last resort for those who have tried everything.  But it is also exhilarating to see such people change, grow and begin to enjoy once more and with new wisdom, the life they value and long for so greatly.  Here’s a philosophical thought from one who has successfully begun living calm. 

“I’ve inhabited this body for 46 years and only now am I discovering a new part of myself, a space I didn’t know existed.