Madeleine Eames

- Psychotherapist
- Mindfulness Teacher

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The Truth Underneath Anxiety

As the summer ends and the school year approaches here in Canada, I’ve been thinking a lot of anxiety and how it seems to be steadily increasing ‘out there’ in society and ‘in here’ in our kids and ourselves.

The sun continues to rise and fall, the seasons come and go, the natural world continues on, yet we have created a system ourselves that breeds fear. Fear of each other, fear of failure, fear of not doing enough, getting enough, being enough, fear of our own shadows. All created by us. Unintentional and unconscious of course, but still, man-made.

So I am reminded of a story I read recently that touched me about a woman who was the friendliest person in her workplace. She was the one people went to to get cheered up, to solve their problems, to get support. She greeted everyone with a smile and asked question about their life, their dog or their children.

One day in a meeting, a question arose about an error that was made that was traced back to her. No big deal.

But it was a big deal. She rose and responded angrily “I can’t do everything right! What do you expect me to be… perfect?” She stormed out in a torrent of tears and anger absolutely uncharacteristic of her.

Uncharacteristic. People looked at each other. Some scoffed, some laughed, some shrugged their shoulders.

But one colleague followed her. Turned towards her reaction when so many turned away. He caught up to her at her desk.

Compassionately he inquired.. what was up? She initially protected herself with her anger, then softened and said “I can’t take it anymore. I need a break. I hold up my work, my friends and my home. I’m exhausted.”

The proverbial straw that broke the camels back. The last little bit of weight that crashed the load to the ground. That little nudge that sent everything flying, broken open.

It could have been brushed off as ‘she’s having a bad day’ ‘what did she put in her cereal today’ or ‘wow.. unstable’.

But with a kind, compassionate understanding, a ‘moving towards’, a willingness to hold a loving space for the camel’s back to break, the co-worker changed everything. She could be human, vulnerable, and share her load with another human.

It made me think about anxiety and how we approach those who appear under stress or angry. And there seems to be a lot of anger out there right now.. nothing inherently wrong with that. But what is underneath it all? Fear, loss, grief… the list goes on.

How can we approach and understand, not revile, reject or judge others when they are clearly upset?

Also, how do we express or release small bits of the camel’s load as we go along? What load are you piling up right now and when will it break?

You see, I believe that anxiety often comes as a result of repressed, unacknowledged feelings that are not expressed, felt and welcomed. When we become vulnerable enough to share them, anxiety lessens.

When I look around out there and in the world today, I see all the sickness that arise from the hidden, stuffed, bottled-up energy of emotions that erupts, usually in anger for those who are externally focussed, to anxiety for those who are internally focussed.

All anger is unexpressed emotion. Check it out yourself next time you feel angry… what is actually underneath? What is the truth?

What emotions are not acceptable to you to express… sometimes it’s love, gratitude, appreciation. Or fear, guilt or that one that lives in hiding… shame.

For me, I am going to try and express the truth, what needs to come out because it is MY truth. Not in anger, but in the loving truth. I also will try to be aware of others who are in the pain of anger, whose camel’s back has broken.

How about you? It all starts here.

Lots of love,

Madeleine

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