3. Anxiety as a Way of Life

If one dares to use the nearest source, including Internet, to ask what the source of her/his anxiety is, s/he will immediately find the absolute answer. Stress. Stress at work, stress at school, stress in family, stress in life. This is no different than describing the water as wet; it provides a correct answer, and simultaneously humiliates the asking person by putting her/him nicely in the position of an average Athean talking to Socrates. Obviously, when the intelligent is looking for an answer, it is the relativity, rather than the absoluteness; why this and that particular stress causes a much higher anxiety for her/him, while it seems to cause little effect on some annoying others. It is not so difficult, via reasoning or some research, and with the absolute help of some psychologists, to reach to unfruitful conclusion that the anxiety-owner must be more sensitive to such stress factors than that carefree men and women. While this is true from one point of view, like you may become wet under rain, this sensitivity is pronounced so negatively that the sufferer looks for miracle remedies to be non-anxious, as if one could do. There are even books to teach you how to be carefree person by ignoring stress factors, omitting all those arousals, and literally cursing annoying objects, persons, and the entire world. Perhaps you can scream into a pillow. Does it work? Can you become anxiety-free by transforming yourself, like renovating your home, modifying your car, or rearranging files on your computer? Perhaps you should add a little cheer, some charisma, hardworking and relaxing abilities, whatever you desire? Will that person, at the end, be you, as much as you know you?

In this part of writing, we now focus on the sister of depression, i.e., anxiety. And, without responding to my rhetorical questions above, the intelligent should prepare herself/himself to face the fact that anxiety itself is not the problem and any attempt to completely remove it via medicine or some other means, like magic books, without solving the associated paradox can provide only a temporary relief. Anxiety is the beautiful part of your character, but only if you keep it at the default level. It is you, yourself, who ironically reject to keep it at the default level and try to completely remove it, not so different than removing your heart from your body, which fails and will always fail as long as you live this life. That is exactly the reason why your anxiety is paradoxically elevated to higher levels, becoming something strange, an alien, that ruins your life. And, this is the part that we now learn how we should embrace the useful part of it to avoid painfully useless states.

Before explaining the paradox (that we must eliminate) and the associated loop (that we must break), I must first recall the strong bond between depression and anxiety. As explained in the previous part, depression and anxiety create each other, remarkably similar to the Yin and Yang. It is easier to accept how anxiety can lead to depression; when above its default level, anxiety consumes huge amounts of physical and emotional energy so that the beautiful mind finds depression as an opportunity for a nice break. As a rule of anti-symmetry, anxiety can be your own response to your depressive state, whereas its uncontrolled accumulation disables the break of the cycle. Considering this major loop that governs the intelligent’s life, one can argue that the prevention of depression could further inhibit anxiety such that we do not need to tackle with the latter. So, with the acceptance that the world has depressive components and that we should accept them as they are to paradoxically avoid depression, we may also escape from the anxiety itself. Unfortunately, we are not machines with fixed periods of depression and anxiety for a timely attempt. Many anxiety periods can take years, or they may overlap with depression periods with greater experiences of anxiety attacks on the top of silent depressive thoughts. Consequently, we should also consider how to tackle with the anxiety itself to be fully equipped and live as we wish.

While depression can be seen as an analog device with unnoticeable degrees of intensity, anxiety is more like a digital tool that lets us describe it in more discrete forms. This categorization is not scientific but based on my own experience, as I clearly experienced and noted them in detail, without knowing that they would be shared one day - today. To exemplify, I select an activity, i.e., public speech, which I do not suffer extensively, but recognize as one of the problematic performances for experienced sufferers. The intelligent who does not suffer from this activity may substitute any other scenario that fits into her/his own suffering experience.

Assume that you are about to give a public speech. It does not have to be a great ballroom including many people. It can be a small group with 4-5 people, to whom you are about to deliver an important message. Do not hesitate to add a couple of characters that you have not met before, or optional items to make the scene more dramatic.

1. Restlessness: Your heart pounds fast, your hands are a bit shaking, your muscles are tight, you are sweating, your breath is irregular, you feel pressure on your face, perhaps blushing. Your voice is not natural, but you speak. You suspect that the listeners notice your anxiety. After the speech, you return to a normal state, perhaps relaxed, and forget your anxiety after a certain period of time.

2. Alerted State: Your heart pounds fast and irregularly, your hands are visibly (to you) shaking, your muscles are so tight that you move your arms with difficulty, you feel pressure in your entire head. Your speech is deformed as you cannot move your jaw properly. You are sure that the listeners notice your anxiety. After the speech, it takes time to return to a normal state. You sadly remember how much you were anxious after hours and perhaps days.

3. Alarmed State: You feel like having a heart attack, your body is shaking, you feel nausea, you have blurred vision and you think that you may faint, your breath is so irregular that you cannot produce some of the words you wish to do, or, particularly if you practiced before, your speech sounds extremely strange to you - like somebody else is talking. You experience derealization, depersonalization, or both. You stop talking without completing, as your state makes a peak. You think that you crapped up.

4. Panic State: This is the top of anxiety. A first-time experiencer may find her/himself in an emergency of a hospital at the end, where doctors (if they take the issue seriously) try to convince the sufferer that there is no physical problem.

Now, these different states can be visualized as a pyramid, restlessness at the bottom and panic state at the top. This is not only to establish a hierarchy but also to distinguish their existence and absence within the same body in different time-space patterns. Specifically, the higher-level anxiety states have less durations, as they consume more energy, and it is physiologically impossible to actively maintain them, unless you medicate yourself with special mixtures. Yet, as much as I practiced, one can spend even months in an alerted state, days in an alarmed state, and hours in a panic state. In any case, once the body spends almost all mental and physical energy, one passes from a higher state to a lower state, until conditions allow the person to rise back to the higher states or make her/him enter a depression state for a break. Each is worse than the other. And, strange enough, at a certain position and time, the more emotionally powerful the sufferer is, quicker s/he reclimbs the pyramid.

The intelligent with an extensive experience may recognize all these different states of anxiety, while finding the example completely redundant. Indeed, after years of practice, one can achieve these states even without any particular action, e.g., while simply sitting on a bench or doing daily jobs. Sadly, once only triggered by real actions and situations, anxiety sufferers easily become professionals of their anxiety, generating it even in the most relaxing environments. For experienced sufferers, actions and situations become simple facilitators, which push them to move upward the pyramid with little effort, if any. This makes the overall status worse, as the sufferer acknowledges the primary role of the internal mechanism.

To clarify, for a patient with a liver disease, her/his liver becomes the object of the disease such that its health is handled from a third-person perspective. When the treatment is applied, the liver becomes the object to be improved, independent of the self. So, the self is the responsible and the liver is the issue, whether it improves or not. If unimproved, the liver is the faulty part, despite all efforts of the self and others, who may blame (and even be angry with) the liver for not becoming better. But, in the case of anxiety, it is the mind that makes the mind suffer. What kind of a mind does this deliberately to itself? This is the unfortunate point of realization, both correctly and incorrectly, making the sufferer be panicked to seek for the overall removal of the anxiety by all means, solidified as rejection. If this was possible, would not it be an instant recovery? Just say it. “I decide to be not anxious after this point.” Why doesn’t it work? Even one achieves little relaxed moments, or develops a bud, namely, little self and even little-self of self who is annoyingly carefree, why does it become worse and worse in average or in the context of any statistical metric?

Considering the four states above, even though the higher levels are more complicated and denser than the lower ones, this does not indicate any difference in severity. The structure is more like video games, where a player at level 1 faces enemies at level 1, and a level up means that the enemies to encounter also become stronger. This is to keep the excitement of the game, to make sure that the player enjoys the game until the end. In anxiety, the levels are well-constructed to make sure that the sufferer suffers fully and thoroughly during her/his life. As you systematically go upward the pyramid and explore the amazing darkness of your mind that you could not imagine before, you mark that point with a white stone to return in a next cycle and even to go beyond. There is literally no limit, as much as I observed, other than the finite energy one has. This is the problem. You consume your energy, time, and literally yourself, again and again, as you travel upward and downward the pyramid, while thinking that nobody will experience exactly what you experience.

As we approach to define the paradox, and of course its solution, I will now group the states sharply into two, from the perspective of the intelligent. I will define restlessness as the only useful anxiety, while all others as useless forms. So, the source of the paradox is more or less mixing these groups into a single and uniform set of anxiety that one must fight. And, this false mixture is the reason for endless attempts without a solid conclusion. The following paradox includes all states; however, I will revisit the panic state in a separate part of this series, since it needs further elaboration and approaches in the form of short-term strategies. It is remarkable that the useless states are always accompanied by irrational fears, which also form a topic of a future part of this series.

Here is the paradox: You suffer from (useless) anxiety, since you think that you are doomed to suffer from anxiety.

And, the loop to break:

1. You suffer from useless anxiety (alarmed, alerted, panic).

2. You look at yourself with anxiety glasses.

3. You consider both useful and useless anxiety as a single state that must be eliminated.

4. You naturally and occasionally visit the bottom of the pyramid, but do not acknowledge its naturality.

5. You try to transform yourself into a non-anxious person, which does not exist.

6. You strengthen your anxiety and push yourself upward.

7. So, you suffer from useless anxiety (alarmed, alerted, panic).

But, what is so useful in being restless? Perhaps, it is useful to reread what happens in our example. Your heart pounds fast (to pump more blood to your brain), your hands are a bit shaking (to make you ready for any movement), your muscles are tight (to keep you grounded and solid), you are sweating (to remove excessive heat you generate), your breath is irregular (actually to regulate your oxygen), you feel pressure on your face (as your heart is pumping more blood), perhaps blushing (as your heart cannot selectively pump blood). Your voice is not natural (as it is supposed to be), but you speak. You suspect that the listeners notice your anxiety (actually, nobody does). After the speech, you return to a normal state, perhaps relaxed, and forget your anxiety after a certain period of time.

You, the intelligent who suffers anxiety: Restlessness is hardcoded inside you, at the very center of your selfness. If you are reading these sentences, you are old enough (i.e., not a preschool child) to be unable to remove it; it is already a part of your character, one of the basic components that describes you. It is the energy, power, and potential that makes you live this life - fully and meaningfully, definitely better than a non-anxious person. But, you call the useless anxiety by rejecting this fundamental property of yourself. You are supposed to be restless; this is how you and your life are defined.

So, the links in the infinite loop to break are the third one (you consider both useful and useless anxiety as a single state that must be eliminated) and the fifth one (you try to transform yourself into a non-anxious person, which does not exist). Whenever you are at the bottom of the pyramid, where you reach soon or already there, you need to acknowledge the restlessness as your core state, which does not require any treatment. Otherwise, by actively engaging with your restlessness, you will keep pushing yourself to higher levels to suffer. Readers of the second part may recognize this as “doing nothing”.

In the case of depression, our acceptance is towards the depressive components of the world, while we turn our attention into our inner world for anxiety. The intelligent who practiced the second part might have understood the challenge of “doing nothing”, as it is supposed to be. When we really do nothing, we actually keep ourselves from actively solving something that cannot be solved, as there is nothing to solve. So, it is hidden inside the notion of nothing, as you always tried to do something.

For the anxiety sufferer, it may be difficult to accept something, more or less related to anxiety. But, we should clearly distinguish what we accept and what we expect afterwards. Keeping parallelism, accepting depressive components of the world is only (and paradoxical) way to be non-depressed, as the world provides a mixture of good and bad, and a determined unacceptance of the bad eliminates the enjoyment of the good when it arrives. Likewise, accepting the restlessness is paradoxically the way to enjoy relaxed moments, as you will be ready for such moments without keeping yourself busy by jumping to higher states of the pyramid. So, accepting restlessness as your one of core properties does not indicate that you will remain restless forever, which is impossible. So far, we discussed the pyramid, but have not considered where it stands on: a ground of relaxation and fulfillment. By allowing yourself being restless and becoming in harmony with your true character, restlessness will be your part that energizes you, whenever required, to make you better, between warm relaxed moments that will arrive occasionally, even if you do not wish to have. This is also the way to have volume-control on your restlessness, by allowing it to exist to experience its variety and more moderate tones that bring joy and happiness.

So, do nothing… And, do not forget to meet your restless self when s/he arrives.

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