I was a very anxious child. When I was five years old, my mother took me to a child psychiatrist. After we each spoke with him and we were ready to leave, he turned to me and said, "Tell your mother not to yell at you." I clearly remember thinking, "I'm only five years old and she doesn't listen to me. You tell her!" And my next thought was, "I can do a better job than you!" From that moment on I knew that I wanted to be a therapist.
I struggled with much anxiety and some deep depression for much of my life, until 28 years ago when I discovered the underlying causes and the secret to healing.
Statistics in the U.S., with similar numbers around the globe, are alarming:
• 18.8 million American adults, or about 9.5% of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year, have a depressive disorder
• Approximately 40 million Americans age 18 and older (18.1%) are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in any given year
11 percent of Americans take anti-depressants, an increase of nearly 400 percent over the last two decades, (http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/10/25/antidepressant-use-up-400-percent-in-us/30677.html), and an equal number are on anti-anxiety medication.
Part of the reason for this surge in numbers is that many people are being diagnosed with these disorders who were formerly undiagnosed, and many more of those who are diagnosed are being prescribed medication –- mostly due to intense advertising by the drug companies (despite the fact, which Dr. Irving Kirsch proves in his book, The Emperor's New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth, that the drug companies largely created the myth of 'chemical imbalances' and that antidepressants work mostly as placebos). Yet the fact remains that many people around the world are anxious and depressed.
While there may be many causes of this, in the 44 years I've been counseling people, I have discovered two major causes. Both fall under the heading of self-abandonment.
When children are physically, emotionally or sexually abused, they generally become anxious and depressed. The same is true of the way we treat ourselves, as adults, on the inner level. Imagine your feelings as being an inner child. When you emotionally abandon this child in various ways, you end up feeling anxious and/or depressed. Our feelings are our inner guidance system, letting us know when we are being loving or unloving to ourselves.
I have discovered four major ways we emotionally abandon ourselves which can lead to anxiety and depression.
• Mind Focus
Because many of us, as children, had inadequate role modeling for managing the painful feelings of life -- such as loneliness, heartbreak and grief -- most of us learned to disconnect from our body and keep our focus in our mind. This worked for us as children, to get us through painful rejection or abuse; but now, on the inner level, it is as if a child is coming up to you, hurting and needing comfort, but instead of paying attention, you are buried in your computer and don't even notice that the child is hurting. Ignoring our painful feelings by staying focused in our mind rather than our body, rather than embracing them with caring, gentleness and compassion, can lead to more pain – to anxiety and depression.
Most of us absorbed many judgments from parents, teachers and others in authority, and now we level these judgments against ourselves as a form of control. We use self-judgments to force ourselves to do things 'right,' in our effort to control how others feel about us; we judge ourselves first in the hope of avoiding others' judgments; and we judge ourselves as a way to avoid the deeper painful feelings of life –- our loneliness, heartache, heartbreak, grief and helplessness over others. This common form of self-abandonment also leads to anxiety and depression. In fact, I uncover consistent self-judgment in all my clients who suffer from anxiety and/or depression.
• Substance and Process Addictions
We turn to various substance and process addictions –- drugs, alcohol, food, sex, spending, gambling, work, TV and so on - in an effort to avoid our painful feelings. Every time we use addictive behavior to avoid our feelings, we are abandoning ourselves. The more we avoid our feelings with our addictions, the more anxious and/or depressed we are likely to feel.
• Relationship Dependency
Finally, we may try to make another person or other people responsible for our feelings and sense of self-worth. This would be like, instead of taking care of an actual child for whom we are responsible, we keep trying to find someone else to do it. The child will feel deeply rejected and will likely feel anxious and/or depressed. This same thing happens on the inner level when we abandon ourselves and make others responsible for our feelings.
In addition to the above, we also need to learn to take loving care of ourselves financially, organizationally, relationally and spiritually. These are all aspects of taking emotional responsibility for ourselves.
There are three major ways we abandon ourselves physically that can lead to anxiety and depression.
• Food and Hydration
We abandon ourselves when we do not nurture our body with clean natural food and pure water; instead, eating and drinking processed, sweetened, colored, pesticide-laden food-like products –- products that our bodies were never meant to handle. Food has a huge effect on feelings. Processed sweeteners such as sugar and high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and processed carbs that turn to glucose in the body, often contribute to anxiety and depression –- as well as many degenerative diseases.
Anxiety and depression often results from a lack of healthy exercise. Our bodies were created to move, so a lot of sitting is a form of self-abandonment. You might not realize that chilling out in front of the TV after sitting in an office all day can be contributing to anxiety or depression.
Our bodies need adequate sleep to regenerate and be healthy. Seven to eight hours of sleep a night is essential for physical and emotional health. Adequate sleep is a cornerstone of good health, and a lack of sleep often accounts for anxiety and depression.
All of these forms of self-abandonment are CHOICES. Rather than abandon yourself and then turn to anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medication to further avoid your feelings, you can learn to define your own self-worth, learn from your feelings, learn to manage them in ways that lead to inner peace and joy, and learn to take loving actions in your own behalf – actions that are in your highest good and lead to health and wellbeing.
The Inner Bonding process is an incredible tool for doing exactly this. It teaches you how to love yourself rather than continue to abandon yourself. You CAN learn to do this and heal your anxiety and depression – without medication!
Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a relationship expert, best-selling author, and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® healing process, recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette, and featured on Oprah. To begin learning how to love and connect with yourself so that you can connect with others, and take advantage of our free Inner Bonding eCourse, receive Free Help.
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