Anxiety is poorly managed in Western society-mostly medicated with very little inner methods being taught to children to manage emotions.
Growing up in my teen years I felt a barrage of anxiety that I had no idea stemmed from my calling to be a herbalist healer with its attendant heightened sensitivity.
Expectedly, my parents suggested I see a psychologist that quickly led to antidepressant medication that I could never stomach longer than a week with all its intense side effects, though I do recognize now that they do serve a powerful buffer zone for those who are bordering a crisis.
So what I found was my anxiety became an issue – having heard of anxiety disorders I quickly labelled myself and saw myself as being sick.
What I learnt though, from reading about shamanic traditions is that healers often go through this “trouble” where they need to transform something and let go of their old life or parts of it and the identity they grew up with-I wish I knew this earlier and had found a mentor earlier, as I would have left my old associations much earlier.
In our Western society there is very little education on this cultural classification of illness, -we tend to focus on the medicalization and psychiatric DSM categorization of illness-that really is superficial and tenuous in many cases. Further to this there are very few “elders” who recognize a healing calling and who can guide young people going through stages of development -a very sad condition in the West. We need elders to take youngsters on vision quests.
So I went through seeing a psychologist here and there and made one or two friends who understood the heightened sensitivity that was part of my calling and the challenge of working with this. This heightened sensitivity is necessary for healers to “read’ patients issues, and that allows the healer to feel the emotional wounding of others thereby allowing the healer to help them. At some point I recall meeting a Dr of social work who was also a healer and she taught me the invaluable skill of inner child work-that great ability to tune into disturbing emotions and talk to the emotion as you would an inner child that needs acknowledgement, a powerful magic trick that works. Acknowledge any hysterical child and very soon they are magically better. Ignore them and see what happens. This emotional intelligence work together with visualization proved to be as- if not more effective than benzodiazepines-tranquilizers.
Then, why do we suffer from anxiety-well for one we have not been taught how to engage our inner landscape in the schooling system, and it is true that much anxiety stems from the place of the wounded child-who at the sign of a trigger (a new environment, social situations they may not have been accustomed to growing up etc) will flare up in anxiety. This is when we can tune into that emotion and re-assure that part of ourselves: it its ok, we know how he/she feels and we are there for him/her.
Sometimes if the anxiety is crippling we either need to change the environ-space we find ourselves in, or use a pattern breaker; that is something to cause a change of wavelength: music or moving the body, dancing or laughing can often be this catalyst to interrupt the anxiety circuit, or also engaging people long enough to find there is no harm in the situation, etc.
What I also came to realize is that anxiety is a messenger from the inner self indicating that there is something one needs to know or pay attention to or that one is not doing in ones life-for me it was a calling to the path of being a herbalist and living in a way that aligns with that. The anxiety wants us to make a change of some sort.
This article is inspired by a friend who asked me if I can help his friend who is suffering from high levels of anxiety.