Can Anxiety Speak?

Have you ever felt a disturbance in the Force?  When something in lightning from Just Beautifulour world is amiss, something personal to which we could respond, there is disharmony or potential disharmony at the edges of consciousness.  If we are open or empathic, we will pick it up.  Call it a local disturbance in the Force, or simply a communication from spirits, archetypes, or the events themselves that something is amiss and we should take notice.

There are a number of ways we tune in to hidden disturbances. Sometimes folks will pick up on this with thoughts alone.  But many of us who are empathic are likely to pick up on disturbances through our feelings.  This can translate as a mild unease or a feeling of unnamed anxiety.

Qualifier
At the core of anxiety is a perceived personal threat, a disharmony of the spirit.  Anxiety is complicated, and I want to make it clear that I understand there are a variety of contributors to anxiety, including underlying physiological/neurological causes, stress, negative associations or conditioning, perceived pressure to perform, anticipation of events, a predisposition of personality, and a generalized fight-flight response.  Some anxiety is out of control and requires intervention.  But rarely are spiritual causes of anxiety explored.  I want to throw something of that into the mix.

Disharmony
The first type of spiritual anxiety can arise when something in our life is becoming disharmonious.  My spirit helpers have instructed me to pay close attention to anxiety that arises without apparent reason. Anxiety could be communicating internal or external events of which I may not be aware, events that require my conscious attention.  The challenge then becomes determining if the anxiety is internal, completely personal, or if there’s something out of harmony in the exterior world that requires attention.

Examples of situations in the exterior world that might be intuited through anxiety include having taken a wrong action (which you could rectify), sensing deceit, and feeling an unseen threat to oneself or tribe.  Anxiety has, for me many times, been a signal that I need to pay attention to something not seen with the senses.  I have also discovered that the more anxious I become, the greater the degree of external disharmony.  My anxiety seems to mirror the intensity of the unseen threat or unknown deceit.  I find that intuition generally, as well as intuition that comes through anxiety, is always stronger with those closest to me (or people I work closely with).  But I am psychically open to the possibility of divination through anxiety with anything that happens within my tribe – with all the people or events with which I interact. I find that the closer attention I pay to my anxiety the more likely I am to determine its cause  — coming into dialogue through free flowing attention or an altered state of awareness such as shamanic journey.  At that point, anxiety becomes an energizer.

Deep exploration
The second type of spiritual anxiety can arise out of deep exploration, especially exploration that is done solo – without the support of a mentor or circle of peers.  Deep exploration involves pushing the boundaries of human perception – rather like the physical explorers who adventure on unmapped trails.  Deep exploration can put a strain on our resources, since we are not sharing the load with the known.  But our actions will lay a thread, something that subsequent adventurers can use to support their explorations.

I recall once having spent a good deal of time alone, off the beaten path exploring consciousness.  At one point I felt some anxiety, and asked my spirit helpers for guidance.  They referred me to read Carl Jung’s autobiography, the chapter on his confrontation with the collective unconscious. I had not read this book since my junior year in college, over 10 years prior.  I correctly remembered Jung’s realistic encounters with a series of archetypal teachers who had knowledge to which Jung did not have access.  But what had escaped me the first time through was the extreme anxiety Jung felt during his explorations, which he described as “a constant inner pressure” and a “constant state of tension.”  These encounters were a major threat to his ego.  I think calling them a schizophrenic crackup is to misunderstand.  Jung was navigating the collective unconscious, as well as visioning the horrors of World War I (a tribal disharmony that affected much of the world).  I was being told not to regard my anxiety as aberrant or as a weakness.  When I’d integrated that message, I was instructed that I needed to spend more time grounding after the experience of deep exploration.  We become grounded by engaging in healthy activity — that which brings us home.  Grounding involves the senses — what we hear, see, smell, feel, or taste  — awakening to your body.  Sometimes I enjoyed spending time in a healing spot, like at the shore of an isolated lake.  Jung and I shared that remedy in common.

A new challenge – change, rebirth, or opportunity
A third type of spiritual anxiety develops when there is a new event or energy gathering force on our horizon.  Because change can be stressful, encountering a new energy or awareness can initially tax the ego.  The challenge is to smoothly integrate that new force.  Let’s face it, sometimes the challenge is to simply accept or express the new potential, even if we do so clumsily.  Clumsily, the word itself can get stuck in the mouth, but it can be said.

I’ve found that if we pay attention to the circumstances of our lives, we can generally identify an upcoming opportunity and translate anxiety into action.  But sometimes we either do not understand the nature of change, or do not consciously see it coming. In our night or waking dreams, new energy may reveal itself.  In my case, a new challenge would often come symbolically in the form of a whirlwind or mighty gale.  Then I knew: I might need to brace myself in order to ride it out – to discover the new territory.  Sometimes I might get hints or details as to the evolving change, and other times not. Either way, I was put on notice.  When the time came, I was more prepared to act.

Last thought
When weather systems gather repressed anxiety, storms are fueled. Our impulse may be to distract ourselves when vague anxieties are stirring our subconscious. But there is another choice.  Rally our spirit and journey to encounter and dialogue with the anxiety. If we have a spiritual and physical practice that empowers us and makes us stronger, then the anxiety becomes a backdrop within that practice – something that communicates without harm.

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4 Responses to Can Anxiety Speak?

  1. Irina says:

    Jim,

    The issues you raise here are complicated. As you point out, anxiety has a great many sources, and sorting them out is indeed a challenge.

    There have been instances in my life when I felt anxiety without an apparent reason, but when reflecting on them, I was usually able to find at least a partial explanation. Except for one recurring experience, which began when I was 8 or 9 years old.

    Occasionally, on a beautiful summer evening when all seemed at peace in the world, I would look at the sunset and suddenly feel overcome by such intense soul-torturing anxiety that I wanted to scream, writhe, and hide in a dark hole. It felt as though a powerful beam of energy was coming from the sunset in pursuit of me. I’d get heart palpitations and a throbbing headache. This lasted for the duration of the sunset and cleared up when evening began. I never told anyone about this and could never fathom why it happened. It still happens now, though rarely and not as strongly as in childhood.

    Odd that after nearly 25 years of practicing shamanism, it never occurred to me to investigate this experience. Your essay gives me an incentive to journey into it and try to get some answers. Thank you.

  2. Kate Sosinska says:

    I’ve often felt anxiety when things were going well. I used to think I was attracting bad luck (the old magical thinking!) by being at peace. Now when I’ve started to experience real peace, I wonder whether it wasn’t just something new coming, sensed by me (this former me used to fear new things), waiting to be incorporated. In other words, I wasn’t at peace, but at the brink of something, but I didn’t know and many a time have missed an opportunity. Looks like I was just being complacent…
    A spirit guide has warned me once never to let myself feel complacent, as this could be my undoing. Surely he understood more of all this than I do.

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