Counselling for Anxiety: the Deep Story, 1
Counselling for anxiety is a matter of vital importance for a people who live in anxious times, but anxiety mustn’t be approached superficially.
Certainly, in our era, we live in the midst of a wide range of anxiety-provoking factors. There are economic issues, environmental issues, educational issues, social and technological change, issues concerning health — a multitude. Yet the profoundest forms of anxiety are connected with our sense of our selves.
A Depth Approach to Counselling for Anxiety
We will never escape anxiety entirely. It will always be a part of life. But to the degree that we are connected to the depths of our personality, and aware and accepting of who we are in depth, to that degree the factors that cause anxiety in our outer lives become more bearable, and manageable.
As Jungian analyst James Hollis tells us;
The willingness to open to depth is the chief way in which dignity and purpose return to life.
The Top Priority of the Ego is Security
The ego, that part of our personality that is aware and conscious, is involved in a continual search for certainty and security. The ego has a story it tells itself about its own life, and about the world, a way that it puts things together. The ego, which is to say, that part of you or I that is conscious, tends to be highly invested in believing this story. But what if, as is very often the case, the story that the ego tells itself, is either incomplete, or simply not accurate? What if my “certainties” aren’t really as certain as the ego would like them to be?
Doubt as Threat and Liberator
An example. Take the case of someone who in early life is given the message by those who are closest that other people — maybe all other people — are fundamentally unworthy of trust, even though there is no evidence of such general unreliability that the young individual can themselves see. Nonetheless the parental figures to whom the child is attached continue to deliver this delusory message that is contrary to the child’s own experience. What may well happen is that the child could absorb the message that, because Mom and Dad believe that such a thing is true, even though the child sees no evidence of it, it must be that the child cannot trust his or her own judgment or powers of observation.
This lack of trust in the self may abide in the adult self. The individual may carry a fundamental attitude of mistrust both toward the world, and toward his or her own judgment — even though such mistrust is actually completely unwarranted. Jungian case studies recognizes that it is only when the individual can come to the place of “saying no” to such an attitude, imparted quite possibly in early childhood, that any kind of real change can occur.
Return to Instinct
Initially, it might not be very easy to tolerate such “rebellious” thoughts — thoughts that are contrary to patterns developed over a lifetime. Yet such “doubts” can often be an essential gift. They can be essentially related to restoring the individual’s connection to his or her deep, instinctual self, and to the primary things which that instinct knows about the world.
Counselling for anxiety using the approach of /a-midlife-transition is often about the process of connection in a new way to the deep, often instinctual, levels of the self.