November 9th, 2015 · anxiety and the future
Anxiety and the future have always been bound together, but, in our time, they often weave together in particularly formidable ways.
How can we deal with our anxiety, when the future comes calling, and asks us hard, painful questions?
Canada’s October Election: One Great Big Ball of Anxiety
Canada has just been through a very demanding and stress-laden election. It was a remarkable election, especially for the way in which anxiety and the future injected itself into every aspect of the election.
Anxiety drove events, through deep concerns about the economy, youth, terrorism, the environment, human rights — and so much more. The two main contending parties showed this in their campaigning. Stephen Harper’s Conservatives used the slogan “Protect Our Economy”, stressing the threats to Canada’s economic health. Justin Trudeau’s Liberals asserted that survival of the middle class was at issue. It’s not unreasonable to think that anxiety governed the decision of many at the polls.
Now, Canada is far from alone in these concerns. Depth psychotherapists know that they are rampant across the globe.
Anxiety and the Future Come Together in Our Lives
As James Hollis tells us, entire generations may be plunged into anxiety “if the mythological carpet is pulled from under their feet.” In our society, it’s certainly true that, for most, cultural values have become less clear and traditional cultural and religious institutions have much less capacity to comfort. Also, across our society, there’s much less of a shared understanding of the world.
What’s more, change –technological, economic, social — occur at breakneck speed. We simply don’t know what to expect of our world, or how to control it. To the depth psychotherapist, this is a clear recipe for anxiety!
Normal vs. Toxic Anxiety
We can focus our anxiety on the actions of politicians. Yet, what’s really behind the anxiety is our lack of control over an uncertain future. We get upset at politicians, perhaps with justification. However, this masks the greater fear that anything can and might happen in the future. We must face, while yet moving forward into our lives.
As Hollis tells us, to be alive is to have anxiety — but, there is an essential difference between normal anxiety and anxiety that is neurotically crippling. Our anxiety becomes a problem in psyche only when it restricts us from living our lives as fully as possible.
Security in Our Own Being
To deal with anxiety with resilience, we need to be grounded in secure acceptance and knowledge of ourselves, rather than repressing key parts of our feeling and emotional life, and being at war with ourselves. Many of us learn in childhood and youth, though, that we have to split off the unacceptable parts of ourselves. As commentators like famous psychoanalyst Dr. Alice Miller have noted, splitting from ourselves only makes anxiety about the future worse.
To move beyond this splitting, and to allow the liberated feeling underlying the anxiety to express the true passions of our soul — this is the most solid and lasting way to have resiliency in the face of anxiety. Such work is the flesh and blood of depth psychotherapy.
Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst
PHOTOS: © JasonParis ; Vanessa Pike-Russell
© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)