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RELATIONSHIPS WORK

The Newsletter of Steven M. Harris, PhD

 

Volume 1, No. 3

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Center for Depth Psychology

Steven M. Harris, PhD

"Anxiety is the
hand maiden
of creativity."


T. S. Eliot

 

ANXIETY:
Friend or Foe?

Anxiety can be debilitating. It can hold us back from being with others, it can keep us from going places, and even from performing well at jobs, etc.  Anxiety is not a preferred way to feel.  

Yet, why are we anxious?  From a cognitive perspective, we are typically anxious because we have dysfunctional, irrational or unrealistic thoughts.  Our beliefs are not in alliance with reality. Sometimes this is true.  But not all things are logical and make sense. In fact, sometimes thinking can be a way to defend against what we are feeling.  Ironically, it can be illogical to want to make things rational, as much as we would like them to!

From a psychodynamic perspective, anxiety often comes because our minds are moving into something uncomfortable for us to feel. From here, if we do not allow ourselves to feel the feeling, we find a way to avoid or defend ourselves from that feeling. Common defenses include retreating into fantasy, rationalization, projecting blame onto others, displacing feelings onto other things. There are many more defenses. Although our defenses are importantly protective, when they become rigid or become our typical way of responding, other problems may arise.  These problems are called symptoms. If the symptoms grow and clutter over time, they become what we label disorders.  We all need our defenses, but when we persistently avoid things, our defenses can increasingly make a "mountain out a molehill."  Persistently not wanting to speak up, or avoiding asking someone out on a date can progress over time into more serious things.  Phobias, excessive shyness, avoidant personality, can becomes a self-perpetuating problem that becomes a deeper and deeper hole to try to climb out of.

It can help to learn about what we avoid, what defenses we use, and develop more awareness of ourselves and how we impact others as well as how the affect us.  Often, our symptoms and disorders begin to subside or go away when we find ways to face our feelings and sometimes, when necessary, get to the bottom of them...

From this perspective, finding out what our anxiety is signalling, can be a great help.

In my next issue...
I will discuss...Depression and kinds of things does it mean for us.
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Relationships Work Vol. 1, No. 2

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