I am a great fan of Richard Schwartz who provided plenty of evidence that our human mind is multiple, that it consists of different, quite autonomous parts with their own thoughts and feelings that are all part of us, part of who we are. This resonates so much with me because of my own life experience, but I also find confirmation every day in my work with clients. I am truly convinced that we need to embrace all aspects of ourselves to develop harmony within us. What does this mean now with respect to anxiety?

The great Danish Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard described anxiety as the “dizziness of freedom”. Does that mean that only people who have choices can feel anxious? If so, isn’t that rather a positive symptom, a symptom of freedom? If we would be locked away safely, with a bed to sleep and enough food to eat for the rest of our lives, would we feel anxious? We might feel depressed, but anxious? There would be nothing to fear because there is no freedom. So, maybe we can look at anxiety in a more positive way.

If you feel anxiety, there is one important thing to note first: Anxiety is not who you are; there is only a part of you that feels anxious and this part most likely has the good intention of keeping you safe. Instead of trying to suppress it you might rather try to connect to it, to befriend it, to ask what it is trying to do for you and what it is afraid would happen if it would not warn you with that anxious feeling. Ask it what it needs from you to be able to relax a bit. Establish a relationship with it.

Should it happen that your anxious part is on the brink of taking over fully, ask it to relax, to step back a bit and to trust a bit more that you can handle the situation.

Dr. Marion Mensing Young Minds Senior Fellow

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