April 19, 2024

Managing Anxiety

Creative Connections & Client CommunicationsManaging Anxiety

The Time Magazine cover story, June 10, 2002 is on “Understanding Anxiety,” and so are the powerful pages in Synthesis & Counseling in Astrology, 351-365, and 378.

Several times in the excellent Time article, the point is studied, “Are some of us just born more nervous than others?” Is anxiety “hardwired in our brains?”

The Time report and we astrologers do agree that, yes, the propensity for worry, for preoccupation with fears, for headlong drops into depression are part and parcel of being who we are as individuals. Our brains are “hardwired” to one degree or another, into one set of directions or another. Indeed, parental modeling plays a great role [See The Astrology of Intimacy, Sexuality & Relationship]. But each of us seems to have a differently respondent rapport with the “sort of feeling that sneaks up on you from the day after tomorrow.” We can feel how we’re programmed to react, to behave, and it appears unavoidable and distressful.

I was pleased not to read in the report anything astrology doesn’t know. We have done our homework over the years and we assimilate the concept of anxiety well in our modern era. We’ve been guided strongly and effectively by psychology theorists like Rollo May who states flat out that anxiety is essential to the human condition, that it keeps us alive. He says “The positive aspects of selfhood develop as the individual confronts, moves through, and overcomes anxiety-creating experiences.”

Psychology theorists like Harry Stack Sullivan who emphasized that “the self is formed to protect us from [debilitating] anxiety.”

Theology theorists like Paul Tillich showing how important and interelated are the critical anxieties about death, meaninglessness, and guilt; and Soren Kierkegaard, “the more original a human being is, the deeper is his anxiety,” i.e., that person has more resources, options, decisions to make, paths to travel … [and] anxiety is always oriented toward freedom. Anxiety is the fuel to get us to freedom.

We’ve been guided as well by the grand psychological school of thought we call Behaviorism, all about respondent conditioning: we do “this” because of “that” and a chain of cause and effect is created.

I long ago submitted that astrology records not coercive pushes by fate but reflects guidelines to understanding an essential developmental process over time, fraught with growing pains. The horoscope shows the developmental tensions within the conditioning process in relation to the key areas of our individual personality growth. The judgements of these tensions that give them value evolve within the person during her or his emergence into adulthood, as experiences are assimilated, points of view are established, and behavior patterns are routinized. –People do things; planets don’t.

I was glad to see in the Time article the inclusion of a “What you can do” section that covered Behavioral Therapy, Antidepressants, Tranquilizers, Exercise, Alternative Treatments, and Life Style changes. And, as well, that which I think astrology can accomplish so well with clients who are dealing with nagging tensions or out-and-out anxiety patterns: Cognitive Therapy

Time reports: “Rather than expect patients to embrace anxiety, cognitive therapists encourage them to use the power of the mind to reason through it … to reconfigure their view of the world and develop a more realistic perspective on the risks or obstacles they face.” [Read that again, please.]

Now, all of these clinical references need not frighten us away. The references are precisely what we astrologers do in a rich consultation: we help the client understand creatively the connections between feelings/behavior and the sources of those emotive patterns, which very often occur in early life development.

Cognitive Therapy In the 1970s, two psychoanalysts, Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck, focused on the importance of their clients’ thoughts and beliefs about themselves. “Cognitive Therapy” embraces a number of psychotherapeutic approaches that have in common the assumption that our thoughts or cognitions (what we know) have a great influence on our emotions and the actions we take in life.

We all, to one degree or another, take on emotional disturbance because of the unhelpful way we [can] think about ourselves. –Think about that statement!.

This theorization is very powerful and was the beginning of our seeing depression as unexpressed anger being turned inwards. Phrases like “maladaptive thinking” and “overcompensatory or displaced reactions” became important to describe cognitive therapy at work.

**Frequently, into the place where I have lunch practically every weekday, a lady arrives with most subtle inner-self fanfare hinted at in her walk and demeanor. She comes in alone; usually there are friends in the café whom she joins after placing her order.

When she enters the café, her face lights up noticeably, a Leonine entrance –for herself or for whoever may be watching; she checks right and left, without really seeing; her arms lift reflexively about 4”, as if to begin to say “Hi!” to everyone. All these movements are spontaneous in start-up and then muted; held in check in expression, but they are there. Then she goes directly to put in her order, eyes straight ahead. –This lady makes these moves every day, even when there is no one there whom she knows!

It is as if she fears people whom she may join are talking about her arrival or will not receive her with a secure-making welcome. There is a behavioral knee-jerk, highly conditioned and patterned behavior going on here, which is just fine, but it is certainly a clear symptom of her mind working anxiously against her. –Where was she rejected routinely before? Why do those conditions still exist, perhaps 40-some years later? How real are they? If she understood this, maybe she could lose weight, feel less socially ill at ease, avoid the routined anxiety about entering a public place, etc.

I have subsequently found out this super-nice lady’s birth data: she has Pluto square her Taurus Sun, a Leo Ascendant, and Saturn retrograde. We are seeing the stifled pride still trying to emerge through confinements.

Explaining anxiety concerns/conditions like this to clients, with clients, is not difficult if we astrologers understand first, if we do our homework, read and study, and observe. Our job is not to read a planetary riot-act and pronounce gloom and doom; rather, our mission it is to support and free up our clients; to help with efficiency, helping to cast off extra, useless baggage, and illuminate the individual’s light as never before within the human condition.

Astrology is at one voice with the Time report.