I recently wrote a tweet that ended up being one of the most liked and retweeted ones I have put together, so I decided to expand on it in the blog post. It will explain not only what causes anxiety but also what keeps you in the cycle of it.
Firstly the original tweet is below
Recovery is not just about going through a process of healing past suffering: it is also about truly understanding what created that suffering so that you no longer recreate it. You can’t recover while doing the exact things that caused you to suffer in the first place.
The point is pretty obvious, in that if you are going through a process of healing, yet still doing the things that caused you to suffer in the first place, then healing will not happen, as all you will do is keep recreating your initial suffering.
One of the main things I did through my recovery from anxiety was pinpoint the very thing that was causing me to suffer and then concentrate on that. I had no hope at all of recovering if I didn’t understand what was initially causing me to feel the way I did.
Eventually, I had zero interest in treating my symptoms; I just wanted to pull out the root. Going for massages, doing yoga, meditating and drinking chamomile tea is all well and good and I have nothing against it, but in most cases, it is to try and calm the symptoms and not eliminate the cause of the suffering. I know of many sufferers who go on relaxing retreats and while on them feel great, but yet come home and carry on as they were before. They often get addicted to how they felt when they were on the retreat and so continually book in for another. When they would be far better finding out why they felt the need to go on the retreat in the first place, what is the cause of their constant stress and discomfort?
The analogy below may seem a bit silly, but it was the one that I used because it made sense to me.
So let’s say I had this baking machine at home which made lovely cakes and as these beautiful cakes were being produced I started to eat them. The trouble is I could no longer eat the number of cakes being produced, so I began to store them. The only problem now is that they were taking up vast amounts of space in my house and I could barely walk around.
So to deal with this, I approached a local company who said they would transport the cakes to the local tip to be disposed of for a small daily fee. At last, I had found a solution to my problem. So each day as the cakes were being made, I would place them in boxes and load them on to the van. The concern now was that this was getting way too expensive and it was also very tiring work: I had not solved the problem at all! Then one day I realised that the only lasting solution was to no longer create the cakes in the first place, I needed to pull the plug from the machine and all my problems were solved. Why had I never thought of this before?
Again this may seem a silly way of putting my point across, but it is the same principle. If you are still creating your symptoms, then the problems will always exist.
So, in the same way, you can’t recover from the symptoms of worry and stress, while you are still worrying and stressing. You have to stop creating the worry and stress so that you can then go through a healing process of the symptoms that the initial worry and stress created.
I will give you some of my own examples from my days of suffering. When I was at my worst I used to worry and obsess daily about how I was feeling; I would spend all day continually trying to think my way better. This constant mental effort eventually pushed my mind beyond its limits, so it became incredibly exhausted, and so I felt the symptoms of this.
The outside world would look very grey and lifeless, my thinking became slow and laboured, and I had no motivation or interest in anything while also feeling detached from my surroundings. What I mistakenly did then is worry and think deeply about these new symptoms, which only served to exhaust my mind even further. This process is precisely what kept me in the cycle of mental exhaustion and why nothing ever changed.
To recover I had to realise what was causing me to feel the way I did, why did I feel so detached and confused? Why was the world appearing so grey and one dimensional? Why was my thinking so laboured? Once I realised that I was mentally exhausted through over thinking, worrying and obsessing about how I felt, then I knew for me to recover that not only did I have to stop doing these things but that I also had to give space and time for the suffering I had created to heal.
So this is what I did, I just allowed my mind to feel as detached and as worn out as it needed to be. I no longer tried to fix the symptoms. I didn’t worry and obsess over how I felt, and so with the break my mind now had, this symptom of exhaustion healed. It didn’t have a prayer of healing before with the cycle I was in, as through a process of trying to fix myself I was creating the exact thing I was trying to get rid of.
Overcoming feelings of self-awareness
It was the same when I felt extremely self-aware, it was like I could no longer get my attention off the subject of anxiety or me. I had seemingly lost the ability to be part of the world around me. I would be talking with someone, and my thoughts would always be reverting back to me, which made me no longer feel part of the conversation. Even when doing everyday tasks I found I could barely concentrate: my attention would not shift from me and my inner space, it was terribly frustrating.
Again, I initially fought this feeling, trying to overcome it through more deep thinking and fighting. Going from trying to ignore it to trying to defeat it and yet nothing worked. Again I didn’t know that the very trying to get out of it was the exact reason I was staying in the cycle. Eventually, I understood that my awareness was always on me through a habit that I had created. All I had thought about for years was me so of course my awareness was always focused there.
I had not thought or been part of the outside world for so long, the only thing that ever concerned me and took up my attention was my inner world. So the desperate attempts to try and defeat this symptom just had me back on me, my awareness was on me more than ever, and this is why nothing was changing. Again, I initially failed to see the root cause of the problem and just kept trying to treat the symptoms.
So, I realised the only way out of this was just let go of obsessing about me and my inner space and shift my awareness to the outside world again. Of course, this would take time, and my awareness would still revert back to me for a while as the habit died down and this was absolutely fine. To recover from this was a slow process as my attention had been on me for so many years.
I just started engaging with the outside world more, shifted my focus on to other things and in time the habit weakened and eventually my whole awareness was back on my surroundings, and I hardly thought about me or the condition anymore. Again, I needed to find out what was causing this feeling to be free of it. It is amazing when we drill everything down and realise we are the creator of so much of our suffering.
Coming through anxious feelings
It was the same thing my feelings of anxiety that I worried and fought with for years. My initial anxiety was brought on through stress and worry and then when the severe anxiety hit I had a new thing to stress and worry about and hence why nothing changed.
I had to realise that stress and worry was the initial cause of my anxiety and so find a way to cut right back on this and then allow the symptoms of my anxiety to heal. This is the whole basis of what allowing is about; you are not doing it to try and feel better, you are doing it to allow your mind and body to heal.
I took a while before I realised that I had created this anxious energy within me through stress and worry and me feeling anxious was just my bodies way of releasing what I had created. So the best thing I could do was to allow this anxiety to be present, it was the only way I could be free of it. Trying numerous techniques to suppress it was utterly pointless and counterproductive. No one has ever defeated anxiety through struggle, effort or through suppressing as it doesn’t work that way.
It is the same as someone who suffers from panic attacks: this is just a more intense build-up of this energy. Going through a panic attack is just your bodies way of releasing all this extra energy. It is the same principle as when a volcano explodes: it is just releasing all that excess energy within that it can no longer store and then when it has released it then goes back to being calm.
The reason many people who suffer from panic attacks continue to suffer with them is that they always worry about things or how they are feeling and so end up recreating the energy that has been released, again it is a cycle that continues until seen.
Recovery comes through understanding and not through fighting
So as you can see, my recovery came through a deep understanding of what was causing the suffering in the first place. Realising I had to stop doing what was causing me to suffer and then going through a process of allowing my past suffering to heal.
There was no amazing realisation that made all my suffering go away: I had to go through a process of healing like everyone else. A big part of ending the constant search is to realise that there is no miracle answer out there or quick fix. You just have to be able to see the truth behind what is causing you to feel the way you do, cut out what is causing the suffering and then go through a process of healing. There really is no fight to be had.
When you truly understand the process, then you realise that all your attempts to get out of the condition were the exact reason you stayed in it.