Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Intervention tidbit #7: Answering anxiety
There is a lot that can be said about anxiety (including the prevalence and mystery of it) from theory and therapy perspectives. I suspect the psychiatrists with their one-track minds would think of a “chemical imbalance” or something wrong neurologically. A depth perspective sees anxiety as the present-day residual effect (the smoke) of actual caused fears (the fire) in the past, typically in childhood. A branch, or root, of that view is that the earliest possible sources – prenatal, perinatal (birth trauma) – are prepotent and predominant.
The primal-oriented therapists would help clients pour out, through reliving unencumbered by the original shock and dissociation, the early unresolved fears – a violent father, a helpless and worried mother, a disturbing uncle, respiratory trauma at birth – in the manner of standard trauma therapy, the difference being the distance traveled: into the deep and forgotten past. A key, I believe, to the help given is emotive expression, the removal of pain outward, out of the mouth, the musculature, activity, tears. Expression is action – or will be so considered for today’s casual theory.
If a victim strikes back at a bully but makes no impact (physical or emotional), one could say that necessary action has been prevented. The message (expression) has effectively been denied. The same would be true for a verbal and emotional message: If our feelings are unheard by a solipsistic parent, are denied and ridiculed by an abusive older brother, are cried in solitude, there remains no action and the pain resounds within us: and we are weakened by its echoing.
We must emotionally act effectively, and – key number two – we must come close, as close as possible, to the original moment, the actual hurt. This may sound like going into the past, but it is really just being who we are, the Self with its unresolution embedded deep beneath our current life.
This idea can be applied to those situational anxieties that are birthed in the present (setting aside the likely deeper roots of one’s capacity to be an anxious person). For example, a client is highly anxious because his wife has found she is not mature enough to commit, and wants to return to playing around. She talks of giving up the marriage, toys with moving out. His fear is incapacitating. Or, his character incapacitation grows his fear. We understood that what will dissolve the anxiety is emotional behavior: Take action, take initiative. Face her with your feelings with intense eloquence so that she can’t deny you. Possibly move out first. Explode family secrecy and reveal to both families her neurosis so that you don’t become the victim of their gossip and judgment, the “actee.” It seems likely to me that much anxiety about present troubles can be handled so: Talk earnestly to the teacher; explain the raw truth to your creditors; summon a mandatory conference with your child’s bully’s parents and never back down.
I believe we will find that within nearly all anxiety lies a scenario of unexpressed pain and injustice, a stifled voice. It is almost as if the anxiety is merely a different form of mute fears. If we state ourselves, emotionally; if we answer the question mark of fear with action, we will have solved the past in the present, whether that past is ten minutes or fifty years ago.