A Jungian psychology approach to anxiety focusses on the purposive and functional aspects of anxiety - what is the anxiety we are suffering trying to get us to change? The article shows how by ignoring or suppressing anxiety symptoms (such as through medication) we lose the wisdom that the psyche is providing.
Anxiety is a very common disorder in today’s world, largely due to the fact that we feel hurried, pressured and pushed to perform, pay the mortgage, deal with kids, and on top of all that, live a full life. No wonder we have anxiety. But what is anxiety trying to tell us? From a Jungian Psychology perspective, anxiety is the psyche’s way of telling us that the way we are living is out of balance. Rather than view anxiety as something to be eliminated, with medication, we need to see that the psyche is giving us a clear message about our one-sided life and is gently asking us to change this. Viewed in this light, anxiety symptoms are there to guide us out of a lifestyle that is no longer working. Carl Jung argued that anxiety symptoms are purposive, functional and have a goal – the alteration of our lifestyle. When we eliminate the symptoms through medication, we deny the wisdom of the psyche in making normal, natural change. Anxiety often appears in mid-life, when many of us experience a mid-life crisis. The first half of life is aimed at establishing our identity, our relationships, our occupation, and building up the necessary resources to accomplish all of these tasks. But, there comes a time when we need to turn inwards, to encounter the contents of the unconscious (often provided to us in the form of dreams) and search out the essential meaning of life. What is my purpose in life? Why am I here? How could I be living a more balanced, natural life? It is anxiety that often propels us towards answering these questions. When next you feel intense anxiety, ask yourself what the psyche is trying to tell you? What is it that I am doing that creates the anxiety, then begin to address the causes of the symptoms, rather than the cure. If we answer the question – what is the anxiety trying to tell me – we begin to address the cause. This may mean some change in the way you life your life, but this change does not necessarily mean that you become less competent, or less valued, rather, it means that you begin to value the wisdom of your psyche more than before. By addressing the causes of the anxiety and making lifestyle changes, the anxiety should diminish, having achieved its goal – leading you towards a more full, balanced lifestyle.
John Betts is a Diploma Candidate at the International School of Analytical Psychology in Zurich Switzerland. He has a Jungian Analysis practice in Victoria, B.C., Canada. He can be reached at : http://www.jungian.ca