I consider myself very blessed. I may have some worries occasionally about the usual things in life like health, money, my family, the state of our crazy world etc, but getting deeply caught in a feeling of anxiety or having a panic attack is kind of alien to me. I can only imagine how awful that must feel and my heart goes out to everyone going through this.
Depression, yes, I can relate to that very well. I suffered from depression on and off over the last 10 years so I know the feeling well. Not anymore I can happily say! Ever since I started seeing and understanding the true nature of the human experience, EVERYTHING shifted for me, without me having to do anything in particular, other then seeing and understanding this.
Ever since I started learning about the three fundamental principles or the three natural laws of life if you like, my life has been free, you read that well, FREE from episodes of heavy depressions in which the light went off completely, or so it seemed.
Yes, I have my low days (who doens’t) but understanding where my low mood and low state of mind is coming from makes it so much easier to sail through those days in a more light hearted way.
My daugher is another story.
Feelings of anxiety started when she was 7, on a family holiday in Tenerife. I first became aware of what was going on when she was standing in her suitcase changing into her swimming costume.
I asked her why she was standing in her suitcase. She looked round, clearly feeling nervous. ‘There might be something on the floor that might harm me,’ she responded. This was the spick and span floor of our hotel room she was referring to!
During that holiday she kept obsessively checking and asking whether we were sure her food and drinks were not poisoned. Later that summer when camping, she refused doing the dishes because the dishwasher liquid might contain something ‘damaging’, if not ‘deadly’!
I remember my husband and myself being very puzzled! Where did this extreme and irrational fear suddenly come from? I was intrigued and also slightly worried as you can imagine.
Fight Flight Response
At home, I started doing some research and learned about the fight-flight response (also called the stress response) and about the part of the brain called the amygdala and how it functions as an alarm system for when there is life threatening danger, so the body knows when to prepare for fight or flight.
I learned about how all sorts of trivial events and situations can cause a false alarm in our brain. We perceive the situation as dangerous and life threatening but in reality it’s not.
Being threatened with detention for not doing homework can cause the same stress response as having a face to face encounter with a sabre-toothed tiger. A crashed computer is very annoying and unsettling but it is certainly not life-threatening. However, the physical response to both events can be exactly the same.
Our daughter’s amygdala was definitely working overtime, that much was for sure. Her body was in fight-flight mode, more often than not.
I had to find ways to help her calm down her nervous system, adrenal glands and amygdala. Because in the meanwhile I had started teaching yoga and mindfulness to children, I decided to try out different techniques and exercises.
This needed to be fixed and as soon as possible!
So I embarked on a journey of trying all sorts of techniques and methods, using tools from my yoga and mindfulness experience like relaxation, yoga nidra, mantra singing, massage, acupuncture etc. We also made major dietary changes and you name it, and they all were helpful and useful to a certain extend in some way or the other.
However, all those wonderful techniques, exercises, and methods didn’t get to the root of the root.
Apart from that, most of it was a LOT OF WORK, some of them cost a lot of money and it took a lot of energy!
I remember a time where helping her to settle for sleep at night would take up 2 hours.
In the meanwhile, her anxiety kept coming back in full swing when we were not ‘busy’ relaxing, massaging, singing and finding the most healthy recipes for her.
At times it felt like I was having a full time job ‘fixing’ this.
It was clear we had to step of this spinning caroussel of trying to manage and get rid of her anxiety,
Before I reveal to you what helped us eventually to understand what was going on, let us first have a closer look at what anxiety is and where does it come from?
What Is Anxiety?
So… what is anxiety? The dictionary definition of anxiety is: “An extremely strong feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome”
Almost every one of us experiences moments of anxiety – that’s not a problem in itself, it’s just being human.
The problem is that we misunderstand where our anxiety comes from.
Most of us believe that our anxiety symptoms come from outside events such as:
The situation we’re in
The people we’re with
In other words, the world out there.
And then we become double anxious because we are concerned that at any moment something can happen to trigger an anxiety attack. So in essence, we become anxious about our anxiety!
It is this horrible feeling of never knowing when the world is going to make us feel bad. It is feeling like life was akin to walking in a field of landmines, waiting for one to blow up in our face any moment.
Many understably and innocently believe the label of being an anxious person – someone who is, whether by nature or nurture, predisposed to anxiety – but this turns out to be a not so accurate assumption.
Fundamentally, anxiety is simply a misunderstanding of why we feel anxiety – and then feeling anxious about the prospect of more anxiety.
I’ll explain further.
The Outside-In Misunderstanding
Have you ever felt like someone made you angry? I think we all know this feeling. When someone does or says something we don’t like, we naturally think they made us feel upset. Have you ever felt like someone made you feel safe or loved? I hope you do. When people we love do something kind, considerate, or loving for us, we tend to feel love, and attribute that feeling as coming from them. That seems natural, doesn’t it?
“You make me so angry (or sad! etc.)!”
“She makes me very happy, so I want to be around her.”
“That crazy driver is to blame. I’m feeling road rage because that man was driving like an idiot!”
The reality is, though, that no one can make us feel any emotion. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” She was completely right, but it goes even further than that.
No one can make you feel anything without your consent!
I know it sounds crazy, because that’s not how we’re used to looking at the world. We like to think of life as happening to us, and our reactions and emotions as just a natural by-product of whatever comes along.
But what if we could get back in the driver’s seat of our own emotional well-being, stop being a victim to whatever emotions seem to come our way, stop allowing others to “push our buttons” and make us upset, angry, sad, annoyed, and also admired, appreciated and loved.
There’s two flavours of the outside in misunderstanding:
Flavour 1: It often seems like our feelings of worry, stress, boredom or emotional discomfort are coming from somewhere other than Thought in the moment. It seems like our feelings are coming from our workload, our boss, next week’s meeting, last week’s argument, the weather, our bank balance, our childhood, the list is endless.
Flavour 2: It often seems like our feelings of happiness, joy, relief, peace and excitement are coming from somewhere other than Thought in the moment. It seems like our feelings are coming from good company, a wonderful movie, a drink, a drug, a cigarette, gambling, sex, food, habitual behaviours, etc. But again, that’s not how it works.
We are always living in the feeling of Thought in the moment, even when it seems like our feelings are coming from somewhere else.
In other words:
There is no connection, at all, between how you feel and external circumstances, events, people, etc. You’re only feeling your thoughts ABOUT these circumstances, events, people, etc.
Your feelings aren’t informing you about the state of the world, they’re informing you about your state of mind.
In this light we can also start to understand where anxious or depressed feelings come from.
But what to do? Change our negative, destructive and fearful thoughts and replace them for more positive ones? No. This is not the answer. Although it may seem useful till a certain extend, at the end of the day this is just another manipulative trick of the mind.
Apart from that, it takes tons of energy to push negative thinking aside and mind manufacture a more positive thoughts.
Even though we understand that our feeling comes from our present moment thinking, this does not mean that we have to get rid of or replace negative thinking. Negative thinking is extremely natural. All we need to understand is that the true nature of thought is transient and illusory.
We cannot and don’t have to control what thoughts pop into or pass through our minds. All we have to know is that this thinking will pass. We don’t have to ‘purchase’ or unpack the content of our thoughts, we can let them pass through so new, fresh thinking will come through naturally and eventually, without us having to force anything.
We can relax and allow every single experience to flow through us.
All we have ‘to do’ is become really present and curious to these thought-feeling experiences. It is the power of our own presence and this friendly curiosity that helps us practice Self Inquiry.
It is a turning of attention and curiosity inwards towards ourselves and towards the truth of our nature. What thoughts and feelings are appearing to this presence and awareness inside of us?
Everything, all experiences are already welcome and accepted here before we welcome and accept them by choice.
I repeat one of my favorite quotes by Sydney Banks:
‘If the only thing people learned was
not to be afraid of their experience, that alone would change the world.’
Self-inquiry is allowing a natural healing to take place. It is an allowing of the ever so wise and in-built intelligence in our psyche and body to do it’s work without us interfering. Without us interfering with all of our fixing and analizing and our strong tendency to wanting to get rid of or improve to what ever it is we are experiencing.
This is true healing. It is the way of resting in that what is and finding courage to hold everything in love.
‘Stop trying to heal yourself, fix yourself,
even awaken yourself.
Stop trying to fast-forward the movie of your life.
Let go of “letting go”.
Healing is not a destination.
Your pain, your sorrow, your doubts, your longings, your fearful thoughts:
they are not mistakes, and they aren’t asking to be “healed”.
They are asking to be held. Here, now, lightly,
in the loving, healing arms of present awareness’.
Jeff Foster in ‘The Way of Rest’
Is it possible to be freed from anxiety?
Psychologist and three principles practitioner, Dr. Dicken Bettinger, who suffered form anxiety himself, talks about us not needing to work hard to look for freedom from anxiety once we start seeing and sensing who we truly are and what we innately have going for us underneath all the mental noise going on in our minds.
Innate health and well-being and Peace of MInd is our true nature. It is always there, it is what shows up every single moment in our lives, minus our thoughts.
Dr. Dicken Bettinger’s book ‘Coming Home – Uncovering the Foundations of Psychological Well-being’ is helping and inspiring thousands of people worldwide suffering with anxiety, depression back to experiencing mental health and wellbeing.
He describes the following steps on our way to being free from anxiety and/or depression :
Step 1. Recognise that 100% of your experience of anxiety and fear is created by thought.
We are not our thoughts, we are the Awareness that is witnessing the thoughts.
All of our feelings are being created by our thoughts in the moment.
This is in direct contrast to what we’re taught – e.g. that stressors cause stress. It’s also contrary to how things look – if you’re in a room and feeling good but someone walks in the room and you feel anxious, it’s a very convincing illusion that your anxiety is being caused by the other person.
When we see that our experience of anxiety is coming from thought, it’s the beginning of us letting go of the misunderstanding of what anxiety is and what’s creating the anxiousness within us.
Step. 2 Seeing that a new thought will free us from the anxiety created by the current thought.
When we wake up to the transient and illusory nature of thought, we’re open to a new thought flowing through – and thereby creating a completely different feeling.
This is the opposite to what we tend to do – which is to focus MORE on the anxious thought that has created the anxious feeling. We try to identify it, fix it and change it – all the more we continue to think about – and therefore feel – more anxiety.
When we wake up to what’s really happening we focus more on our wellbeing than our anxious thoughts.
Step. 3 Understanding that we all have potential for infinite wisdom and wellbeing.
We’re not limited to the boundaries of our physical brains, we all have a connection to infinite potential – more love, more connection, more clarity, more creativity, more peace – when we look toward the non-conceptual, formless space that’s before our personal thinking.
This space is the deepest essence of ourselves that we can sense. It is our soul.
When we wake up from the illusion from our personal thoughts, we wake up from everything we have been thinking. We step back from our personal thinking and, as it quiets down, we become present. We enter into the now, into pure Consciousness – free of the distortions, the limitations, and the contamination of our personal thinking.
In that state, we rest in a space that is before all of our concepts of time, This is why it is often called the eternal now. The now is not in time. Time is a concept, and when our mind is free of concepts, we find ourself in the timeless now. We are not holding onto any concepts of past, present, or future.
When we are free of concepts of time, we are beyond our ideas of wanting or desiring something in the future. A mind free of wanting and desiring is a mind at peace.
Words such as quiet, silence, or stillness are used to describe this space before the noise, the busyness, the chatter, the worry, the panic attack, the feeling of depression and the babble of our personal thinking.
When we touch this infinite space our mind is at rest. It is peaceful and calm. There is true contentment.
When we rest in this space of pure Consciousness, we may still have thought content passing through our mind but these thoughts are not paid attention to or listened to. It may feel like we are the sky and our thoughts are birds flying through.
Our inner sky is untouched by these birds. Also the birds of worry.
We start to see life directly, unfiltered by the distortions of our personal beliefs. We see life as it is, rather than as it isn’t.
It is a space within and beyond the personal, yet it is something that we already have and are. It is our true self. Some call it the impersonal self.
The more we touch this infinite, wide-open space, the more we realize the fact of tis ever-present nature. It becomes more and more real to us. It becomes more and more familiar. It is a space where we can experience directly our true nature. It is the space where we feel most at home.
Thoughts of worry can be received and held with ease within this space. It like a mother picking up her child after a fall and gently rocking it in her arms.
The Intelligence Behind The System
To better understand how our experience of life can change for the better without us having to do the changing, imagine waking up from a nightmare. One moment you’re totally engrossed in managing to drive a car with the brakes not working, the other your eyes are open and the experience is gone. You may still have a little bit of adrenaline coursing through your veins, but there are no lasting after-effects. No healing is necessary. You just get up and get on with your day.
In the same way no healing is required after an unpleasant or insecure thought – you just wake up to the fact of your thinking and before long a new thought comes along and you have a new experience. Waking up from negative, destructive or fearful thinking this way is like waking up from a daymare.
While the new thought isn’t necessarily better than the old one, when we just allow thoughts to pass through us, the intelligence behind the system seems to move in the direction of deeper thoughts and greater mental health.
This pre-existing intelligence shows up in neaerly every area of life. Take the human body for example. It’s designed to heal itself. If I graze my leg, I don’t need to get overly involved in the process of clotting the blood, creating the scab, or growing the new skin. That’s the intelligence behind the physical system at work. While we think of fevers and diarrhea and vomiting as bad things, they’re the body’s way of eliminating toxins in a hurry. It’s all built into the design.
The same thing is true of the mind. It’s designed to clear itself out all the time and to return to quiet and clarity. It’s like a self-cleaning cat litter tray – the cat poops, the tray senses the extra weight, and the arm comes up and clears the poop away.
The moment we understand this, we’re off the hook. Because the system is designed to take care of our mental hygiene, we don’t have to. It’s sometimes hard to trust the self regulating nature of the system to clean out our old crappy thinking and replace it with new thought, but the intelligence behind the system is always at play. And it works the same for everyone.
We feel our thinking, and it shapes our perceptions and creates our experience of life. This is true regardless of where we’re from or how worthy we think we are. New and fresh thought coming into our mind is just a natural part of how the system works. When we trust the process and allow it to do its job, our life becomes simpler and our experience becomes richer.
The Kindness Of The Design
The main question to ask ourselves is whether we believe the Universe is friendly or not. A lovely illustration of the idea that the Universe has our best interests at heart, is the short story I read in Michael Neill’s The Inside Out Revolution. It is about someone who was training for his pilot’s license.
During his first solo flight, he lost control of his Piper Cub ‘trainer plane’ high above the ground. The more he tried to bring the plane back under his control, the more wildly it span. His conversation with the tower went something like this:
Pilot: Mayday! Mayday! I’ve lost control of the plane – please advise!
Tower: Take your hands and feet off the controls. I repeat, take your hands and feet off the controls!
Pilot: Negative, tower – repeat, I have lost control of the plane! I’m trying everything I can to bring it back under control, but I just can’t do it! This is a matter of life and death – please, just tell me what to do!
Tower: This is a matter of life and death – take your hands and feet off the controls! Do it now!
What the young pilot didn’t know (and the air traffic controller clearly did) was that trainer planes have a self correcting mechanism built into them. When the pilot lets go of the controls, the plane levels itself out. Once the plane is back on an even keel, the pilot can take over again and steer the plane back to safety.
So how does this apply to us?
The principle of Mind seems to work through us in the direction of health and well-being. It’s a sort of spiritual immune system that will bring a return to peace the moment we step out of the way.
Would we even think of trying to heal our own cut finger? No, of course not. Same for our wounded psyche, we needn’t try so hard.
The reason so few of us get to experience that power working in our life is that we’re so busy trying to fix everything for ourselves. And ironically, like the pilot overworking the controls of a plane designed to correct itself, our constant affirmations and interventions often get in the way of our mind’s return to clarity and health.
We try so hard to remember to live by the wisdom and insights of others that we forget the source of that wisdom is inside us as well. Insights are the natural side-effects of living with a relatively quiet mind and a relatively beautiful feeling. Forget the words, stay with the feeling, and the insights will continue to unfold.
Feeling worried and anxious is the most natural thing in the world. If we leave it alone and know our experience is entirely created by thought, the mind starts to correct it self, naturally. If we don’t, our thought created worry may evolve into anxiety or a panick attack.
When we fully receive and witness the anxious feeling with purely our own Presence, we can allow it to be held by our own loving and all embracing awareness and gain our bearings and quiet mind naturally.
In my own daughter’s words: ‘Mum, knowing that my worry feelings are coming from my own thinking makes feeling scared less scary!’
Because of my daughter simply understanding that her feeling scared is not caused by something outside of herself (even though it may seem very real to her that the tiny spider in her room is freaking her out!), she is able to relax a little more.
And as she relaxes, anxious thinking then has the chance to settle and the mind naturally returns to a calmer state. Now there is space for new, fresh and more healthy thinking to come in, with a different feeling as a result.
Not long after I got engaged in the transformative conversation about the three principles I witnessed a huge shift taking place within my own life to start with. As a natural result of this something within my daughter shifted also, without me having to apply all the before mentioned teachniques and exercises. They were just a bonus, the cream to the cake.
She has a totally different relationship to her less and less frequently ocurring anxious moments.
As a natural result of this the relationship between me and my daughter also transformed into one that feels more free and relaxed.
A deeper understanding and awareness of the power and nature of thought changes everything.
The World Needs You!
I feel very blessed that my path crossed with spiritual teacher and transformative coach & consultant Joshua Benavides. He is the founder and director of Transformative Coach Institute. I signed up for my Profound Wellbeing Coach Training at the Transformative Coaching Institute with Joshua Benavides only 4 months ago.
I felt a calling from deep within to grow and ground deeper into my understanding of the 3 fundamental and universal principles: an understanding that is transforming my life from the inside out, an understanding that has freed me from depression, an understanding that is helping me to experience a deeper level of freedom, clarity and peace of mind and an understanding that is enabling me to help and coach other people.
And guess what! After only 3 months in, I’ve started coaching other people as part of my training and I am LOVING every minute of it. Next week I have my first paying client. A lovely mother who is seeking help for her son suffering from negative and painful thinking as she describes it.
Can you imagine? This mother gaining this same profound understanding of the transient and illusory nature of thought will have a huge impact on how she will respond to her son being negative. It is a no-brainer. And YES, it is that simple! Simple yet profound and life changing.
I am thrilled and so excited to see my calling is turning into reality. And I know this is possible for you too, if you feel called!
Do you also want to learn ‘how to’ free yourself and help other people become free from anxiety and/or depression and become a Transformative Coach?
This is possible. Within only 6 months! And all online so you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your house!
This Transformative Coach Certification program gives you a comprehensive training to help you become the best coach you can be and build a coaching practice that you truly LOVE.
If you’re just starting out, this training will give you everything you need to become a transformative coach and launch your coaching practice in just 6 months.
If you’re already a coach, this training can exponentially increase your coaching skills, awareness and transformative impact.
The Transformative Coach Certification training has 6 key modules. When you link them all together, they work in perfect synergy to develop you into a powerful coach who can help transform lives from the inside out.
If you’ve always felt a special calling to deeply serve others, and you’ve always dreamed about doing the kind of work that makes a REAL difference in people’s lives… join us and turn your calling into a reality.
Waking Up To The Inside-Out Understanding Is The Way Out
Waking up to the inside-out understanding is the way out of suffering from anxiety and depression. I have seen it in my own life. I have seen it in my daughter’s life and I have seen in it in so many other people’s lives.
However, we have to back up a little further and realise that everything that is being done today in the mental health field is a reflection of the prevailing model or paradigm. This model consists of a set of mostly unspoken assumptions and beliefs about psychological and emotional health & illness.
There are certain things that we have collectively come to believe about mental health, and all of our treatments and interventions are based upon – and limited by – these so-called truths.
For example, it is widely assumed in the psychiatric field that:
Mental and illness is largely a biological problem caused by an excess or deficiency of certain chemicals.
Some people are born mentally healthy and others are genetically predisposed to develop a mental illness
There are certain psychological conditions that are permanent, and the best a person can hope for is to learn how to cope with and manage their symptoms
In the wider field of psychology and psychotherapy, it is generally assumed that:
There are external ‘stress factors’ in people’s lives that make them feel bad
Childhood trauma and past events are the main cause of psychological suffering
Healing takes a long time and a lot of ‘processing’ of a person’s issues
People need to practice techniques and relive their past in order to feel better
The most widely-recommended treatments such as pharmaceutical drugs and cognitive behavioural therapy make perfect sense based on the above assumptions about ‘what is wrong’ with people who are suffering psychologically and emotionally.
But what if those assumptions are fundamentally untrue? If we were to think differently about mental health, we would automatically treat people differently, and it is quite conceivable that we would experience very different outcomes as a result.
What Sydney Banks introduced to the world in the mid 1970’s was a radical new perspective on mental health that is only now beginning to be more widely recognized.
Just take a moment to reflect on what Syd Banks realised through his own direct experience:
Every single person has innate mental health that can never be lost (although it can be temporarily obscured)
Only a person’s own thoughts in the moment can create their feelings
The past can only affect a person to the degree that it continues to feature in their own thinking
We are only ever one thought away from happiness, or sadness, or any other experience
People can recover their mental and emotional well-being quickly and easily via insightful understanding of the simple principles behind their psychological functioning
Imagine for a moment what a mental health service may look like if it was based on these kinds of assumptions. What might be possible if we were to start out from here? I can tell you from my own experience that we would have every reason to be hopeful and optimistic.
And we would see results on a daily basis that would be considered miraculous or ‘unbelievable’ from the ‘old paradigm’ viewpoint.
When we begin with a presumption that there is something wrong with a person, that they are somehow ‘broken’ or lacking something essential, we are embarking on an endless path of ‘trying to fix and make things better’ for them.
When we can see that people are inherently mentally healthy right behind their psychological and emotional suffering, we start out from a different place.
We can offer them real hope and have total faith in their capacity to come home to their own innate wisdom and wellbeing.
And experience Peace of Mind.
If you have any questions or would like to share something or if you need a hand in any way, please do leave a comment below.
Love & Blessings,
Transformative Life Coach | Functional Nutritionist | Yoga Teacher | (trauma-sensitive) Mindfulness Facilitator | Founder/Director of Young Yogis® Academy| Teacher Trainer | Cat and Ice cream lover | Dutch | Traveling House sitter| Wife and Mother