Healing the Anxious Heart.

We live in what W.H. Auden calls, ‘the Age of Anxiety.’
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“We would rather be ruined than changed
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
And let our illusions die.”  W.H. Auden.
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Like no other, our era is suffused with a nameless trepidation that trawls our inner landscapes…
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”like droves of cattle, like soldiers marching, or big flakes of foam on a flooded river pushing on through the brain.” P. Kennedy.
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It is also true that never has so much time and effort been spared to counteract anxiety. We spend billions on therapy and medication to little avail. In fact our efforts seem so fruitless that one cannot help but ponder at the possibility that our remedies are part of the problem.
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The fact is that…
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”nothing goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” Pema Chodron.
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Do we have something to learn from anxiety?
Could it be there for a reason?
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Our age is also one, as never before, that is rooted in material values and aspirations. We pursue comfort and security as if it were the Holy Grail. Our collective goals are not betterment or growth or being part of something, but relaxation, having the kind of life that has as the index of its success being able to lie by the pool.
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We work, not to contribute or to rise to a challenge, but so that we can be protected from tomorrow. Our hopes and dreams are circumscribed by palm trees, white sand and secure investments.
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We veiw pain and suffering as a malevolent force to be defended against at all costs, almost as if it were a sacred duty.
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This polarisation of life restricts us…
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”Consciousness must involve both pleasure and pain. The more we struggle for pleasure (only) the more we are actually killing what we love.” A. Watts.
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Because we can’t or won’t find meaning in anxiety, opting rather for the search and destroy scenario, so to are we compelled to eradicate the pleasures of life and fail to be replenished by them.
Wanting only half the pie we get none of it.
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The Western cult of consciousness leads us to believe that we really can have one without the other. We then suppress and project our anxiety onto unfortunate others, raising razor wire between our successful selves and those who seem to have lost their protective amulets. Like any projection, this exerts a fascination over us and so we sit compulsively glued to the endless newscasts depicting their misery.
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But anxiety is part of life. Material ruin, environmental disaster and the machinations of evil regimes are but a few of Anxiety’s playing fields.
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One of Nobel Prize winner A. Solzhenitsyn’s great insights is that blows of fate are not to be avoided or eschewed as meaningless. He refers to his own imprisonment as ‘concentrated living.’
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”It is extremely important to recognise that the uncontrollable caprice of fate await everyone. Illness, catastrophe, accidents and death are only another form of arrest, trial, prison and punishment camp.” A. Weatherall.
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The more we try to avoid it the worse it gets.
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”The desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing.” A.Watts.
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Despite our antipathies Anxiety’s roots are given considerable room to spread from the very start of life in Western culture. The suppression of the Divine Feminine does more than undermine the inner life of women. It undermines us all.
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”In emotional development, the precursor of the mirror is the Mother’s face. What a child sees (there) is…. themselves. What she looks like is what baby takes itself for.” Whitmont
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Regardless of mother’s devotion to her baby, the deprivation of access to the sacred mysteries of her sex, the lived experience of the Great Mother, is bound to leave her inner life anxiously uprooted. These cracks in life’s mirror..
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”interrupt (baby’s) going-on-being and give rise to threats of annihilation.” D Winnicott.
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So we have more than our fair share of anxiety from the start. Yet even this is an Ariadne’s thread to return us to the truth of Christendom’s inner impoverishment and longing that is the legacy of the lost Goddess.
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Moreover, life really is short, nasty and brutish. Our fragility, impermanence and mortality is something to be anxious about. Those who are not anxious in the face of such ontological givens are either sages or psychopaths. The former are liberated only by the paradox of accepting anxiety for what it is and the latter are hardly role models.
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Our issue is not simply that we are suffused with anxiety and continuously at war with it but that..
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”we have forgotten how to be anxious about the right thing.” S Kierkegaard.
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After all,  there is a sense in which the unconscious holds us in the palm of its hand.
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”Something unknown is doing I don’t know what.” E. Ramirez.
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The cult of consciousness dismisses these archetypal stratae of the psyche at its anxious peril. Rather we ought…
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”to experience these forces anew and not wait for our moods, nervous states and delusions to make it clear in the most painful way that we are not masters of our own houses.” C.G. Jung
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Our situation is not unlike the protagonist in ‘the life of Pi’, who finds himself on a small boat with a tiger, except that in our case we never quite get around to really acknowledging the fact and only ever concede to catching the swish of its tail out of the corner of our eye, giving rise to nameless apprehension rather than awe and cautious wonder.
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”Heart, alone in the night, beat.
Beat for all you are worth.
Be the night’s pulse,
Be the blackbird about to sing.
Somewhere under the earth the waters break.” J. Moat
 

Published by

andywhite

Psychotherapist/writer/artist/ author of, ‘Going Mad to Stay Sane’, a psychology of self-destructiveness, about to come into its third edition.

Soon to be printed for the first time, ‘Abundant Delicious.. the Secret and the Mystery’, described by activist Satish Kumar as, ‘ A Tao of the Soul’. This book documents the archetypal country through which the process of individuation occurs and looks at the trials and tribulations we might expect on the way.

In the meantime…..
Narcissisim is the issue of our age.
This blog looks at how it operates, how it can damage and how we may still fruit despite it.

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