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The Power of Anxiety: 5 Questions to Change Your Life

by Christine DeSadeleer Jul 30, 2010
Spiritual gurus often teach to rise above anxiety. But what if anxiety is the most important signal to shake things up?

My cat has been scratching himself like crazy.

He started about two weeks before I left for SF, and though he is a completely indoor cat, I knew he had fleas. Damnit. I hate giving him those pesticide-infused flea and tick killers, but my natural idea, grapeseed extract, was obviously not working.

He was scratching constantly, especially at night, moments after I drifted off to sleep, only to awaken to him at my feet licking himself, searching, bribing for some relief.

One generic flea-treatment from Wal-Mart and the expensive professional one from the pet store later, he’s still scratching.

I looked at him this morning with sympathy, not only for his pain, irritation, and annoyance at these little invaders of his body, but because I’ve been feeling the same. I have that itch right now, where nothing is quite right, the one where scratching does little but egg those mind invaders along. The dream to crawl out of my skin wakes me up in the morning.

What’s the answer? Meditation? Retreating? Quitting all of my jobs, chopping off my hair and dying it purple, getting a nipple ring and starting over in Bali? Oh hell, I don’t know. I’m settling for a weekend of cleansing and reorganizing.

One thing I do know is that this resistance to my own life has some larger meaning – it is a push to the next level, the next phase. Although I often get tired of experiencing these “stunted” places, and feel I hit them entirely too often, it is a part of who I am. And accepting that is about all I can do.

And as Miranda Ward explained in her piece, Lost And Found: When Travel Is Not The Answer, right now for me, travel is not some magical process of transformation (even though I long for the escape. Mind you I just got back from the West Coast two days ago).

Inviting Anxiety Over for Tea

What can I name this? Feeling caught, maybe. Missing that jolt.

Anxiety is probably the raw emotion.

I love Danielle Laporte’s spiritual approach to well, life really, but more specifically, the work purpose of our life. I came across a post she wrote about anxiety, and wanted to share it here:

Tummy trembles. Brain fuzz. That discombobulating feeling that you’re not quite sure what you should be doing but you should be something to keep your act together. Anxiety. Sometimes it slips away with a few deep breaths, other times you need to beat it off with a stick or some little white pills.

Naturally, we want try to get as far away from anxiety as possible – which usually just results in us being anxious about being anxious. You resist and so it persists. But what if rather than pushing it away, we actually welcomed anxiety when it showed up? What if, rather than dreading the discomfort it brings, we looked at anxiety as a delivery service of inner truth and other such soul goodies? Because every time anxiety shows up, it’s our psyche’s way of saying, “Knock knock, I’ve got something to show you about yourself that you really should see.”

Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard explained anxiety is a natural condition. (How liberating!) He believed that anxiety is “a cognitive emotion that reveals truths that we would prefer to hide but that we need for our greater health.” And that it’s a valuable to for shaping our ideal lives. Think of it this way, beneath the butterflies in your stomach, behind the clouds in your mind … is your greater truth, and it’s trying to break on through.

These are her steps to turning anxiety into power, ones I will sit with and answer this weekend:

STEP 1: Face reality. “I’m anxious.”

STEP 2: Inquiry. “So, why am I anxious?”

STEP 3: Take responsibility.

My own questions that I will add to the list:

STEP 4: Where do I go next?

STEP 5: How am I going to make that happen?

I’ll put up my answers on my blog at the end of the weekend. If you answer the questions on your blog, come back and add the link to the comments sections, or just go ahead and answer the questions below.

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