I have been a hypnotist specializing in anxiety issues for many years, with countless successes. And like most of my clients, I too have wrestled with anxiety myself at times.
Today as I write this we are all in an especially dangerous crisis with Covid-19 and anxiety is everywhere.
Online, I see a host of new age philosophers telling us to "stop feeling so anxious! Anxiety feeds the Covid-19 virus, destroying your immunity. We must stay positive!”
This advice isn’t helpful in the current crisis. Given that our economy is falling apart and a deadly disease is stalking our world while mad men are in charge of government, just thinking positive is not going to do the job here. Not with this “existential” kind of anxiety.
UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF ANXIETY
You see there is a difference between the “ordinary garden variety anxieties” that I work with on a weekly basis in my practice and the "Existential anxiety" which has our country in its grip now. In helping people with ordinary anxieties I find it valuable to separate out in hypnosis the relatively safe challenges the client faces now from the truly nightmarish horrors of their childhood... or sometimes even a trauma from a past life. Hypnotic solutions are all based on the simple principle: That was then (really bad.) And this is now (much safer.)
Unfortunately existential anxiety is not a residue of past traumas but a result of conditions that are seriously dangerous in our world right now.
The term existential anxiety originated with the philosophy of existentialism, a belief in the "complete and benign indifference of the universe" toward human life. This philosophy had its roots in the devastation of World War I in 1916 and the subsequent Spanish flu epidemic, both of which left Europe ravaged, cynical, and outraged. World War II followed within a generation. Albert Camus, the Nobel Laureate, wrote a most beautiful and terrible cry of existentialism in his novel, The Plague.
The hero in Camus’ seminal opus discovers, while treating patients during a terrible plague in Algeria, that existential anxiety requires us to do something more than recite positive affirmations, or talk to a counselor, or even doing hypnosis or meditation. Coming to terms with a threat to our very existence requires a complete overhaul of our internal beliefs and our will. And an overhaul of our actions. I know, because I faced near certain death and devastation in my earlier years and was able to learn how to control my anxiety in that crucible. You can learn to do this too.
PRACTICAL STRATEGIES FOR MANAGING YOUR ANXIETY
First let me explain which anxiety control strategies are not going to be very effective right now:
First. Making yourself wrong for being anxious. Remember that in the time of COVID19 your family and your country are in fact in danger, even grave danger. Although the media are eager to point out that most Americans won't die of this disease, many victims are dying now in their 40s and 50s. Many are without underlying conditions, so it's important to accept that it is normal to be very scared and instead of getting more and more frightened about the overwhelming terror, to recognize that it is completely normal in a crisis like this. Embrace your frightened inner child instead of judging and rejecting this part of yourself.
Second. Not using these feelings of fear. These feels of fear are here for a purpose. Use them to learn everything you can about this illness and how to protect yourself. Study natural methods for strengthening the immune system. Research the new drugs being studied. Observe physical distancing. Get a mask and wear it when needed. Learn psychic self protection, martial arts, use diet and exercise to build resistance. Fear is an important tool. Use it.
ADVICE FROM THE HOBBIT
When Frodo and his naive hobbit crew were hiding in an upper room at the beginning of their deadly quest to save middle earth, their new friend Aragorn said: "Are you afraid?" They admitted it. His response? He didn't advise them to calm down. He said: "Not nearly afraid enough!"
Aragorn, future King of Middle Earth knew that fear is the power that brings vigilance, discipline and action. As a war leader, he knew that any warrior who claimed to be "fearless" would likely be foolhardy. And that warrior represented a threat not only to himself but to the entire company. He knew that a true mark of courage is to charge forward in spite of one's fear, prepared to fight, using one's fears to know the face of the enemy, and to face that enemy. Thanks to Aragorn's message and his on going training these four cute little hobbits became some of the fiercest warriors in middle earth, saving their own shire from destruction, in the book.
In contrast, several new age teachers now assure us that if only we can ease our anxiety, we will be safe. (Only tired old folks will die and the rest of us will be fine if we just control the anxiety.) I find that just isn't true.
This virus is extraordinarily unpredictable. Misinformation and denial are not a good long term strategy for survival in an existential crisis like this.
In an existential crisis like this one, one has to also accept objective truth. A "positive thinking" delusion is exactly what's behind the outbreaks that followed crowds of cheerful celebrators at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, in the filled churches here and abroad, and at the spring break beach parties.
Putting ones head in the sand is not a solution.
LIVING IN A NEW WORLD
The world as we knew it has rapidly collapsed. It is unlikely to recover for a long time. Many of the joys we traditionally take, like the joy of familiar routine meals, gatherings with family and friends, jobs, recreations – are gone. Some may never return in the same form.
This is grief. We can learn from our higher self which of the cherished pleasures of the familiar life must be grieved and surrendered. We might even need to be willing to say a provisional goodbye to some we know who are old or have health challenges. We must weep. Recognize the losses.
Then we need to borrow a page from the work of one of the great philosophers who emerged alive from the German concentration camps of World War Two.
Victor Frankl said in his divine documentary of his incarceration, "Man's Search for Meaning":
Those who survived the camps were not necessarily those who were strong, or smart, or confident, or healthy.
Those who survived did so because they found a transcendent purpose for their life. It was that profound sense of a purpose BEYOND their own personal survival that allowed them to endure the unbelievable horrors of the camps.
LEARNING FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
A “sense of purpose” not only helps us survive, it heals our anxiety. I know this from personal experience. This was what I discovered when crippled as a young man with rheumatoid arthritis and a stew of auto immune diseases and chronic bronchitis.
I was ill, and alone in a place where I knew no one. There was no job, no money, no future, no friends, and no car. And I couldn't walk.
At the time it seemed like a slow path from near death to a successful career as a hypnotherapist and hypnosis trainer with over 10,000 students worldwide, but in fact it was only a short 5 years later I became an Alchemical Hypnotherapy trainer. While moving through what might have been existential anxiety were it not for my connection with inner guides, I kept the vision of this future goal always at the front of my mind: I will bring inner guide therapy to the world. By staying tuned to my guides, listening to their every word for me, I was able to stay focused on achieving this goal. And, I was able to achieve all this with a bare minimum of anxiety. Looking back, I wonder not only how I did it, but at how cheerful and happy I often was. It is important to remember what I learned then.
It was important that I love myself completely, fears and all. To admit a sense of helplessness and overwhelm and feel my inner mother's calming embrace, reminding me that each day I was walking a little more, each day making progress. Trusting my inner guides and resting my heart in their loving embrace.
And perhaps just as important: Believing. I still firmly believe there IS a heavenly kingdom on the other side where my struggles and my achievements are being duly noted, and in which I will finally find love and rest.
Inner guide work is what I have discovered to be the best way to calm "Existential anxiety".
Some call it faith. However this faith is doctrine free. Not the simple faith of the misguided that a politician will look after them. Not the childish faith of the new age acolyte trying to pretend everything is okay if we believe.
This faith requires facing truth and calling upon our true guides to show us our true destiny and our true purpose.
Check the website events calendar. As I write this, we have a class set for April 25 and 26. Conquer your anxiety, only $199 for two whole days of experiential transformation. Live online wherever you are.
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