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What Anxiety Is

Written by: Ryan Light, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


The Truth About Anxiety

Have you ever feared leaving the house, speaking in public, or keeping a doctor's appointment?

Have your palms ever begun sweating out of the blue? Your pulse began racing, or your heart felt as if it was going to leap out of your chest?

Those are just a few signs and symptoms you might be struggling with some form of anxiety.

How do I know this?

"I get you cause I was you!"

Twenty years of my life were spent attempting to justify my behaviors with a diagnosis and coping in any way, shape, or form possible. I didn't understand at the time these actions were inevitably making everything worse.

I was running, avoiding, and trying to escape all I was too terrified to deal with. As in my case and most who struggle with anxiety, the reactions were manifestations of deeper-seated issues rooted in unresolved trauma.

What Anxiety Is

According to How Anxiety and Depression Are Connected, Anxiety describes a certain type of feeling. It may represent a sense of fear, dread, or a sense that you are in immediate danger, even when you are safe and have no reason to feel this way."

When you get down to the nuts and bolts of anxiety, there are two main categories: Generalized and Complex.

Generalized is what I've termed "What If?" anxiety. This is where you constantly worry about the future:

"What if the relationship fails?"

"What if I don't get this job?"

"What If I make a mistake?"

This anxiety is ongoing, difficult to control, and interferes with day-to-day activities. Many believe the anxiety they struggle with lies within this realm.

However, most who struggle with anxiety fall within the complex category or what I've dubbed "What Was" anxiety. This is where fear keeps you stuck in your story, self-limiting beliefs and continuously reliving the past.

No matter your type of anxiety, neglecting the heart of the issue is what will land you smack dab in the middle of what's known as The Anxiety Cycle.

The Endless Loop of Anxiety

Avoiding or distracting yourself from anxiety is going to do more harm than good. You might find yourself struggling to break free from the cycle of anxiety described below:

  • Triggers produce thoughts (usually of something which occurred in your past)

  • Thoughts produce feelings (an unwanted sensation somewhere in your body)

  • Feelings produce actions (run, isolate, pick up a drink)

  • Actions produce habits (habitual reaction to the feelings)

  • Habits produce behaviors (they become a part of your everyday life)

  • These behaviors keep you stuck in your story by running from the unwanted feelings and when triggered, the cycle begins all over again.

The thing is coping will never be enough! Those feelings you are trying to avoid will continue to reappear and most likely become worse. This is where depression tends to set in and you get stuck in an endless loop, feeling like there's no escape.

The first step to healing anxiety is acknowledging you have a problem that needs to be worked through. The second is diving into and discovering the root(s) of your unresolved trauma.

Trauma at its Root

Trauma is categorized into two forms: Big Ts and Little Ts.

Big Ts are those you're probably most familiar with, such as physical abuse, natural disasters, sexual abuse, violent crime, spiritual abuse, serious car accidents, etc.

We fail to realize, however, much of our unresolved trauma falls within the Little Ts. These include bullying, parent(s) with unresolved trauma, relocation, being shamed or humiliated, failure experiences, infidelity, and so on.

It's important to understand that with trauma, your emotions have no age.

When someone has hurt you, there is more pain involved than just your current experience of it. These emotions and feelings are a combination of past, present, and future fears.

Added into the mix is the interpretation of how you view yourself. Those dealing with anxiety view themselves through what I call a "broken lens", made up of our self-limiting beliefs.

How these beliefs are formed can be explained through what I teach as The Pac-Man Theory.

The Pac-Man Theory

As in the popular 80s arcade game, the Pac-Man's job is to gobble up the dots the ghosts drop. In this adaptation to trauma, the Pac-Man is you, the ghosts are your abuser(s), and the dots signify your beliefs.

As the abusers drop those dots (abandonment, verbal abuse, neglect, bullying), you eat them up and take them on as your own. This process often begins in childhood during those formidable years of 6-13. These dots then become ingrained within, forming such beliefs as "I am fat", "I am a loser", "I am a failure", "I am a mistake".

These self-limiting beliefs manifest phobias, fears, social isolation, dissociation, people-pleasing, self-harm, and addiction.

Now, I'm not downplaying the Big Ts which may have occurred, but those are usually more identifiable. We often downplay the Little Ts and don't view them as trauma, when the compilation of Little Ts can create more of an impact than we are fully aware of.

4 Steps to Beat anxiety

Healing anxiety means dealing with your unresolved trauma-NOT coping with it!

This process involves sitting with versus avoidance of our feelings and walking through them in the following 4 step process:

  1. Acknowledgment of the trauma.

  2. Discovery of the root cause(s) of your actions and behaviors.

  3. Acceptance and forgiveness of those who hurt you, including yourself.

  4. Embrace your experiences and learn to live life alongside them.

When you heal your internal world, you'll be amazed at how your external world will change!

As your anxiety and depression begin to lift, perspectives will change, coping shifts to healing, surviving turns to thriving and this is where you will ultimately find purpose and meaning in your pain.

Follow Ryan on his Facebook, Instagram and website for more info!


Ryan Light, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Ryan Light is a mental health coach, author, thought leader, and influencer in the mental health space. Having spent 20 years of his life attempting to run, avoid and hide from the pain of his childhood and adolescence. He struggled with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), depression, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, and panic disorder. After contemplating suicide, Ryan decided to finally confront his traumas through what he now coins “Feeling Work” and heal the real issues plaguing him with various mental health disorders. Today, his passion lies in guiding others through their struggles with anxiety, depression, and/or trauma through such avenues as social media, public speaking, self-paced courses, e-books, live workshops, and 1:1 coaching.



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