The Message of Anxiety and Depression


October 4, 2018

Frequently, I get blank looks from clients when I suggest that it’s useful to pay attention to the message of anxiety and depression.

What? Aren’t those experiences something to get rid of ASAP their surprise conveys?

Well, not exactly. Anxiety and depression can signal that there is something going on in our lives that is asking for our attention.

When the symptoms of anxiety and/or depression interfere with life it’s time to ask yourself some important questions. What in your life is calling for your attention?  Unsatisfying work? Relationship doubts you haven’t voiced? How are you engaging your life and your relationship with yourself? Are you in alignment with what’s important to you?What beliefs and conditioning might be contributing to symptoms?

These are just a few questions that can orient you toward the message of your symptoms. Viewed this way depression and/or anxiety can be signaling what’s right: Life calling your attention to something that isn’t working for you.

Often, people are prescribed drugs too soon to alleviate symptoms. The drugs inhibit the natural feedback loop of life. If you take drugs before you’ve had the opportunity to understand the symptoms, sometimes the message of depression/anxiety is dulled or lost.

Simultaneously, the way we relate to challenge or stress is conditioned.

Sometimes, the conditioned responses to life’s challenges contribute to anxiety and depression. It’s useful to tease that out as well to learn skills to address challenges.

When I engage in body-centered work with clients, there is always a physical component to symptoms. There is always some kind of contracting that contributes to distress. Human beings in our culture are conditioned to shut down aspects of themselves early in life. Usually in early childhood we learn to constrict parts of our self and thereby lose contact with different aspects of self.

These aspects then go underground and come back often in the form of unwanted symptoms.

In therapy its common for people to hold their breath or try to stop themselves from crying when feeling distress. The anatomy involved in crying is actually contracting. Physical contraction happens often habitually to not feel the things we’ve been conditioned are not okay or feel uncomfortable. Sometimes people experience anxiety or panic attacks when these feelings are looking for expression

In somatically focused therapies clients learn to ease the rigid ways shutdown is held. With the therapist’s support clients learn reclaim and embody previously unexperienced emotional material and parts of the self that were exiled as protective measure.

In body-centered work the focus is on connecting with the body by tending to what is experienced and learning to allow the direct experiences of body to be there. Allowing what is present to be there is in and of itself healing additionally the pressure and tension eases.  As the emotional material is tended to what emerges is  the part of each of us that is calm and steady presence.

Often when people engage themselves in that way they encounter material about their lives, choices and ways of being that no longer work. The message comes forth when we can pause, pay attention and begin to ease the contraction.

It’s much like the practice of meditation.

The lasting benefit is that when we learn to trust our bodies to relax and not habitually contract or say no to life, emotions and life is experienced more fluidly. By uncovering experience we liberate it and then we experience something within us that is a deep resource of inner calm we each possess.

It takes patience and willingness but if it sounds like magic it’s because it often feels that way to people.