“Anxiety is the hand maiden of creativity.” – T. S. Eliot, poet
“I’m so fearful at times…!”
Colleen was a youngish, middle aged woman, an educator who had no children of her own but took great pride in teaching other people’s offspring. She had divorced Bill, her spouse of 20 years, and was on her own now. She enjoyed her independence, had a small circle of close friends and a busy, active life. She was a gardener and had a three year old German shepherd who was the center of her world.
Colleen’s friendly manner spoke to her skills with kids. You could tell children would like her and respond to her warm overtures quickly. But today she was uncharacteristically serious with a sobriety of manner which indicated there was something very important on her mind and she needed to talk about it.
“I’m so fearful at times…Ken, I just don’t know what to do about my spirituality at this point in my life…everything has changed so much…I lay awake at night thinking about it over and over …and get nowhere!” She said with an anguished expression on her usually friendly face.
“Colleen you sound very upset and confused about this. Would you tell me what you mean by your ‘spirituality’?” I asked her with concern.
…experiencing a sort of spiritual identity crisis.
“Ken, I was raised in a Christian home…we went to church every Sunday, read the bible on occasion and believed if we did the right thing, we would go to heaven!” she replied.
“Well that sounds like a pretty typical upbringing for a lot of people I know as well! So what has changed for you that is generating such turmoil?” I asked hoping to help her pinpoint more clearly what was on her mind.
then I added, “Colleen, it sounds like you are experiencing a sort of spiritual identity crisis…where your life experiences are challenging you to evolve your thinking…your beliefs…your spirituality. Can you see that?”
“Anxiety is part of creativity, the need to get something out, the need to be rid of something or to get in touch with something within.” – David Duchovny, actor
What is most important to us in life’…this it is our real spirituality.
“Yes, I can see what you’re saying but why am I so upset and stressed about it…it is not like it affects my daily life or anything like that!” she replied.
“Colleen, the best definition of spirituality I have come across is that it is…’what is most important to us in life’…this it is our ‘real’ spirituality. So to be upset, concerned, anxious or stressed seems a very appropriate emotion for you to have.”
“I’m glad to hear that Ken because I have been losing a lot of sleep lately and I need to figure what is going on with me and my spirit.”
“So tell me about that Colleen…how do you view your spirit…your spirituality…at this point in your life?”
She paused for a moment then said, “I think my spirituality have evolved a lot since I was young and especially since my divorce. When I was married, Bill and I kind of just followed our relatives and friends to the local church. We sat there and half listened to what was going on and daydreamed about other parts of our life. We were kind of like those proverbial sheep who are following the goat where ever it goes. Then after our divorce I started wondering what I was doing there. So I began visiting other churches and then other denominations and then other religions. The similarities were striking and Ken, …so was the daydreaming among the congregations.”
”Nothing in the affairs of men is worthy of great anxiety.” – Plato, philosopher
We were all looking for answers to the same question!
“What did you learn from this journey you took exploring other belief systems, Colleen?”
“Ken, it seemed like we were all looking for answers to the same question!”
“It has been said every religion strives to answer four basic questions: Who am I?, Why am I here?, Where did I come from? and Where am I going? Do these questions reflect your search Colleen?”
“I have never heard it expressed that way before…but it does kind of describe my journey! The toughest part for me has been the last question…Where am I going?”
“So your worry and stress has been focused on what happens next…is that what you mean?”
Does there have to be something else?
“Yes Ken, I don’t believe in the idea of hell anymore…it is too bizarre for me to buy into. And I guess the same applies to heaven…they seem like something from Grimm’s Fairy Tales. So, if that’s the case, what is next for me…I just don’t know what to think, or even, how to think about it.”
“Colleen, if you don’t believe in heaven or hell anymore, does there have to be something else?” I asked her.
“That’s a good question and I have thought about that a lot! I guess, I don’t want to believe that this life is all there is to my existence…I want to believe there is something more…that the play of life continues on in some way.”
“Colleen, the play does continue, but, just in a new form. Scientists tell us repeatedly matter and energy are constant in our universe so nothing can be created or destroyed…only transformed. So if we are transformed into new forms of energy then the play does really continue. So, for example, I could end up being plant nutrients if they eventually make my graveyard into a part of the neighbouring potato field. What is it about becoming a new form of you …a new form of energy which you don’t like like?”
“Ken I guess I would like to be able to retain my consciousness of myself after I die…is that too much to expect…is that realistic?”
“What do you think Colleen? From your life experiences is that a likely scenario?”
“I really don’t think it is Ken…but if that is so, what has my life been for?”
“If I take death into my life, acknowledge it, and face it squarely, I will free myself from the anxiety of death and the pettiness of life – and only then will I be free to become myself. – Martin Heidegger, philosopher
To appreciate, not just me but, all the people around me…
“Well, what have you concluded so far from your analysis?”
“It drives me to evaluate my life, the people I’ve met and the events I have experienced all in a new way. I think it was part of why I needed to divorce Bill. It wasn’t about him…it was about me…I needed to find out who I was and where I was going. You know we still talk regularly and are good friends…just friends on different paths.”
“So you needed to figure out your life in your own way. So what has been the result Colleen?”
“Ken, I think it has enabled me to appreciate, not just me, but, all the people around me from a new perspective. You know I have even started to appreciate my illnesses and my old conflicts, and, even, my so called enemies. It is like my life is starting to make sense and fit together in a new way.”
“It looks like you are figuring out not just your life, but, also, your spirit. Maybe you’ve been thinking it couldn’t be that simple…life couldn’t be about learning to appreciate it as it is.” I volunteered.
I feel present and grounded and centered in some way…
“Maybe that’s what has been my real struggle…my spirituality…my spirit… is simply learning to appreciate myself and my life! Could it be that straightforward Ken?”
“When you think about yourself and your life that way, is it OK inside you, does it feel right for you?” I asked her.
“Actually, yes it does, Ken…I feel present and grounded and centered in some way that is perfect for me!”
“So maybe all that anxiety and stress you were feeling before was just the catalyst you needed for you to clarify and honor your spirit? If that is so, would it be OK…would it have been worth the pain you have been feeling to finally learn to appreciate you and your life?”
“It looks like a fair deal to me Ken…and thank you!”
“Anxiety is an opportunity to evolve ourselves!” – King Ayles, author
Until Next time…
July is all about ANXIETY, WORRY & STRESS and how to manage it. There are at least seven forms of anxiety: spiritual, (which is today’s topic) mental, vocational, financial, social, familial and physical. We will be looking at them all so stay tuned. Remember to send us your feedback and monthly theme suggestions…we love to hear from you! If you have a specific question about dealing with the anxiety or stress contact me.
POINTS TO PONDER AND REMEMBER are:
- Anxiety motivates you to learn important things in life.
- Your spirituality is what ever you are most committed to in life.
- Uncovering your evolving spirituality is a life long journey.
- Life’s basic questions are: Who am I? Why am I here? Where did I come from? Where am I going?
- You can’t be destroyed only transformed into another energy form.
- Searching for your spirituality uncovers appreciation.
- Searching for spirituality develops appreciation for your self and your life.
Further information: www.kenpiercepsychologist.com