Do you often feel anxious? Here’s Where It Comes From And How To Reduce It

Everyone experiences a feeling of fear or tension from time to time. This is therefore a determining factor in the lives of many people. In this article, Sheryl Paul, author of The Hidden Wisdom of Tension, Stress, Worry and Uncertainty, explains what may be the origin of your anxiety and gives you tools to reduce your anxiety.

It’s nearly impossible not to develop tensions or fears when family, school system, and media are constantly letting you know you’re not up to the job.

The Origin of Fear

Anxiety can develop as a result of a multitude of different factors, all of which can influence its origin: your family history, the influence of schools or religions, and the influences of global, cultural and social factors. Understanding where fear can come from will help you accept it. You will be much less ashamed of your fear as a result, because you know there is nothing wrong with you.

Today we know that anxiety also has a genetic component: if (one of your) parents suffered from anxiety, you are more likely to suffer from it too. The tendency to fear is not only ingrained in your genes, but it is also a well-known fact that experiences and impressions from early childhood have a much greater effect on the development of a personality than things that are explicitly taught to us. In other words, if you’ve witnessed one or both parents struggle with anxiety or chronic worry without taking action or actually doing something about it, it’s very likely you’re displaying the same pattern of behavior.

All clients I ask if one of their parents was often tense, answer in the affirmative. It is important to mention the following: even if you come from a lineage of chronic nerve tendons and one (or both) parents suffered from tension and depression, you are not yet condemned in advance to a life full of tensions. Information about ancestors helps you understand where you come from, it says nothing about your future.

The anxious brain

One of the suckers at the tentacles of the fearful brain is the firm belief that you must always fight against your fears, that you will never feel liberated and light. The anxious brain tends to think in terms of black or white (all or nothing). Those who regularly use the words ‘always’ and ‘never’ are probably ruled by fear.

You can also think of tension as sensitivity that has run amok. What if you used to be a dismissive or unkind response to your sensitivity at home and your parents were unable to teach you how to deal with intense feelings of sadness, anger, jealousy, loneliness, disappointment, or frustration? What if your parents didn’t give you rituals or tools to help you cope with death? What if they instead told you not to whine and just keep going, just because they themselves never learned how to deal with such feelings? Then your sensitivity has no other option but to transform itself into tension and fear.

Viewed in this way, tension is simply a defense mechanism that protects you from the most painful feelings people experience. However, if you are constantly under stress, you will eventually only rely on your ‘safe’ head and lose touch with your heart. This brilliant defense mechanism used to work great, but now it has had its day.

childhood fear

I often ask my clients who suffer from tension whether they struggled with this subject as a child. They almost always answer in the affirmative. It is interesting to note that the development of tensions and compulsive thoughts often follows the same lines. Young children wonder what to do if something happens to their parents (“What if my mother dies?”), slightly older children worry compulsively about their sexuality (“What if I’m gay/straight?”). Anyone who then tries to answer the question and tries to find out his or her sexuality, approaches the problem too superficially and therefore sees his or her fears and tensions only increase. Problems so entrenched require a more rigorous approach.

The child is now a little older and is probably worried about his health. When people eventually come to me, relationships, pregnancy or careers have also become the subject of tension. Individual stories differ, of course, but the underlying need is the same: to find security and safety for a child torn by a range of ever-changing and overwhelming emotions, and who cannot count on an adult’s reliable guidance to guide them. guide them until they can do it themselves.

The school system

In addition to family history, the school system is a major source of tension for many children. Consider, for example, the social pressure to conform and the performance orientation of the school system. In addition, at least twenty percent of children have learning needs that this system does not meet.

Some children have to move while learning, but that is not possible in the classroom, and visual thinkers have great difficulty with the auditory-linear way in which schools prefer to present their subject matter. Sensitive children need a quiet place to learn, because they can’t do that in a crowded, noisy classroom. After many years – or sometimes even just a few days – of being part of a system that doesn’t respond to their rhythm and temperament, every child thinks that there is something wrong with him or her, that they are damaged in some way. or that they are not smart enough. And that leads to fear.

Media culture as a cause of fear

Finally, modern media culture causes an abundance of fear. Everywhere you are confronted with messages that something is wrong with you, that you are not doing well, that the world is not well and that you are not safe. Almost twenty-four hours a day we are exposed to the images of fear, negativity, impending scarcity and catastrophes that all media pour out on us. Whoever turns on the news must be prepared to immerse themselves in images of the most terrible disasters. Each screen provides you with the latest information on the most recent political, social or environmental issues. Every advertisement and every expression on social media feeds the feeling that you are not good enough.

Our culture exploits our need for security to the maximum and has created a highly addictive system. Fear is addictive, negativity lingers very well and for a long time and it pays very much to take advantage of insecurity. It’s a vicious circle: those who experience a lot of tension make more use of screens, news and modern technology, and the more screens, news and technology people use, the more tension and fear they experience. This screen culture blurs our vision so powerfully that we don’t even perceive its message (‘you’re doing it wrong’). It’s nearly impossible not to develop tensions or fears when family, school system, and media are constantly letting you know you’re not up to the job.

Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety comes in many guises, but it usually manifests itself in the form of a compulsive, incessant stream of thoughts, physical symptoms, and compulsive behavior. The first email from clients struggling with their relationship is almost always the same: “I’m in a great, loving relationship, but recently I woke up suddenly at night with palpitations, a dry mouth, and a feeling that I couldn’t breathe.” and I thought: this is not the right partner for me. Since then I have been living in constant doubt. For example, Googling “how do you know you love someone?” just confirms those ideas. This must mean that my doubts are justified.’

I also hear the same stories from many of the clients who come to me because of fear(s) surrounding their pregnancy. It will be clear that on the one hand you have the symptoms of fear (the thoughts, the physical sensations and the behavior, because Googling something as a result of your fear is considered obsessive behavior) and on the other hand you have the interpretation of your fear: ‘This has to be done soon. mean that I want to end this relationship’, ‘It cannot be otherwise than that I do not want this child.’


If we really want to tackle our fears, it is crucial to make a clear distinction between the symptoms of the fear itself on the one hand and the meaning we attach to these symptoms on the other. The better you understand the symptoms of anxiety, the faster you recognize them. As a result, you are better able to look at those symptoms with curiosity and a friendly look and not be tempted to jump to the (too) obvious

Again, the term ‘anxiety’ may be overused in our society, but many people have no idea of ​​the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that anxiety disorders evoke in them. And what we don’t understand leads to even more fear. I now give you a list of the most common mental, physical and behavioral characteristics of anxiety disorders.

compulsive thoughts

• Do I have the right partner?
• Have I found my calling?
• Have I possibly hurt someone?
• Could I have hurt a child?
• Suppose the world ends?
• Could I have a deadly disease among the members?

Physical Symptoms

• Chest pressure
•Throat tight
• Shallow breathing
• Restless, difficulty sitting still
• Insomnia
Dry mouth
• Headache and heaviness in your head
• Muscle pain
• Strong feeling of discomfort
• Fast heartbeat
• Excessive sweating
• Knot in your stomach
• Difficulty with digestion
• Light-headed


• Anger
• Irritability
• Addiction(s)
• Perfectionism
• Talking incessantly
• Compulsive (online) seeking for reassurance lists are far from exhaustive (you will be amazed when you see all the symptoms of anxiety). They are just the most common ways fear manifests in my clients and students from around the world.anxious

Responsibility: Key to Transformation

Taking responsibility for our own well-being is a crucial key to transformation. Recovery has no chance if we wait for someone else to do it for us or if we are stuck in a mindset of guilt and refusal. One of the ways (besides resistance) in which people shirk responsibility is to give in to the idea that their suffering really shouldn’t exist at all and that they wouldn’t suffer from any tension or fear at all if only an external factor changed.

As mentioned before, our culture is completely addicted to the idea that our inner state of being is completely determined by external circumstances. This is so strong that anyone who claims the contrary, namely that we ourselves are one hundred percent responsible for every pain we experience, has to swim very hard against the current. The belief that fear really shouldn’t be there keeps people from doing the work they need to. They are fighting with reality, because fear exists. Every time you fall prey to the ‘escape route’ mentality, you miss an opportunity for growth and recovery.

Develop your inner loving parent

To truly take responsibility for your life, it is essential to put a loving parent at the helm of your inner self. A significant part of the work ahead is developing this loving parent. Because how do we make contact with something that doesn’t exist?

We recognize that the idea that we would not have a loving inner parent is actually not true. It is your resistance that tries to make you believe that there is no inner loving parent, and that therefore you cannot take responsibility for your own life. But everyone has this in them.

Every time you assist a friend in need, you connect with your own compassionate friend within. Whenever you give your children space for their feelings in a loving way, your loving parent comes to the surface. When you connect with the wisdom that is within, that place that goes deeper than thoughts and feelings, you connect with your wise self. Every time you take care of your body, heart, mind or soul with love and attention, you act from this loving parent. Every time you care for a pet, you are that loving caretaker.

The definition of your wise self/inner parent is:

The firm, empathetic, curious part of you that takes loving care in all four of your worlds: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. That part of you that has access to wisdom that counteracts false beliefs, the part that can experience emotional pain without being overwhelmed and deal with resistance effectively so that you can make space and time each day to do your exercises and to work on yourself.

Those who first try to change the negative way they address themselves quickly realize that you would never think of addressing a friend in such a way. That’s an excellent starting point. The next time you feel sad or tense, imagine what you would say to a friend or child who would feel that way.

You may think that you will never be able to say such things to a friend, that you have no wisdom and sometimes just don’t know what to say. Just start at the beginning: reacting empathically and curiously to yourself is enough. Do you remember when the real work starts as soon as you exchange the mindset of shame and judgment for that of kindness and curiosity? So it doesn’t matter if you lack the right words. It matters that you are alert to your tendency to judge yourself or to fall for the shame story. What matters is that you make room for curiosity and a friendly look. Note: I use the terms “wise self,” “inner parent,” and “compassionate friend” interchangeably and recommend choosing the term that best describes you.

Exercise: Find Your Inner Parent / Wise Self / Compassionate Friend

Take a moment to consider when in your life you could be calm, attentive and clear with yourself. If it’s easier to think of times when you could be there for a friend that way, that’s fine too. Again: if you can do this for someone else, it is proof that you have this in you and that it can grow by giving it the right attention.

Think about how you felt when you heard that friend’s story, what you said to him, and how he responded. If you can’t imagine a situation with a friend, think about how you are there for pets: how you care for a pet, the sacrifices you make, and how you react if the animal is in pain or doesn’t seem comfortable . Whenever you can stand up for another being with a kind gaze, you connect with this part of you that we call “wise self” or “compassionate friend.” Identifying and entering this part of you is one of the crucial keys needed to break free from fears and tensions.


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