From anxiety to openness- how to be emotionally free again
When as expats we cross our secure borders and start living in a new country, or whenever we have to face an unexpected event in life, we might end up in an anxious state.
We commonly think that the feelings of unsafety and unpredictability, coming with these experiences, are the direct cause of a state of anxiety, but it is not always true.
In my experience, it is how we approach these feelings that makes the difference. If we avoid them or resist to them, we prepare the ground for anxiety to happen.
Why do we fear unsafety and unpredictability?
We have the tendency to fear unsafety and unpredictability because they are unpleasant feelings. This is our general approach to what we don’t like: We reject it or avoid it.
The root of this attitude lays in the fact that we live in societies and often in busy cities like Amsterdam. After a while we completely forget that we are nature and we start to confuse life with society. Nature is in itself unpredictable, unsafe and full of surprises; while society is an attempt to control it.
It is a very useful attempt which guarantees our survival in a pretty easy way and makes us the most powerful creatures on the planet. But, at the same time, the more we are removed from our basic identity as nature, the more we suffer when an unpredictable experience happens.
Being in an anxious state
Control gives a sense of security, therefore it is easy to get addicted to it. We blame negative feelings as the cause of all our trouble and try to get rid of them.
In doing that, we reject also our primal identity as nature and lose with it our natural aliveness and spontaneity. We build an emotional cage in order not to feel and we pay the price of many psychosomatic problems.
If you are in this state, you need to make space in your daily life to relax and breathe; basically to feel the unpleasant feelings that are running through you. They are unpleasant but still they are your feelings and therefore they need to be acknowledged.
If you avoid them, you create a division and this is the opportunity for anxiety to grow, possibly even peaking in a panic attack. If you open up to them, they will reveal deeper feelings which were suppressed.
Don’t be afraid of this, as these feelings are part of who you are. Welcome them instead, because they are the outcome of a longing for more openness and space in your life. Once reintegrated in your system, your longing will be satisfied.
An exercise about anxiety
Follow the guidelines below step by step, again and again until you notice improvement:
Bring your attention on how you feel in this moment
(even "I don’t know", is a feeling)
Breathe deeply through your mouth a couple of times.
Don’t avoid or deny the reality of how you feel, resist the impulse to leave this present moment: Good or bad feelings, it doesn’t matter, just decide for now to consciously stay with them.
Now, observe them.
They might be uncomfortable or even painful, but they are already here, they already exist in you, they are part of you. If you deny them, you deny yourself. Understand this deeply in yourself.
Keep observing them and stay with them consciously, and you will realise that you are not even free to accept or reject them, because they are already here, surrender to this truth unconditionally.
Immediately for some, or after a while for others, these feelings will start to relax and you will relax as well.
Continuity of being
Once you start to practice this new simple attitude towards negative feelings, you might experience a coming and going from contraction (old position of avoidance) to expansion (new position of openness) for a while. After some time you will become stable in this new position. It will happen naturally because it is your natural state: Emotionally open and free.
In this delicate stage where you move from being closed to open, it can be useful to start doing some activities which can help you relax and connect at a deeper level with yourself.
For example, meditation techniques like zazen and guided meditations or body-oriented activities like tai chi and relaxation trainings, are very helpful in stabilising yourself in a more open and harmonious position.
Gaining a deeper understanding
If you want to understand at a deeper level what it is happening to you and, at the same time, approach your feelings practically and directly, I suggest you start a body-oriented therapy. It can help satisfy your needs and will guide you towards more openness and freedom, both internally and externally.
"The primary nature of every human being is to be open to life and love. Being guarded, armoured, distrustful and enclosed is second nature in our culture."
Alexander Lowen, Bioenergetics