There are many times when people withdraw to themselves when they face hardships, in order to defend themselves against circumstances they view as threatening. In such cases, the feelings of anxiety or panic become prevalent, leading to unpredictable consequences. People become literally paralyzed. Such instances require very careful treatment to avoid classification as mental illnesses, which must meet very specific scientific criteria. Moreover, such cases should be treated by experts.
The problem stems from people and how we think and process our realities and what expectations we have, in order to be able to exercise control over each and every aspect and detail of everything we experience in our daily lives. The goal is to predict and prevent all possible dangers by taking timely actions.
It is important to know that we live in a highly competitive society, pressured by time to constantly set new goals, while we hardly dedicate any time at all to listen to ourselves and discover our true desires and needs.
This is because we haven’t been trained for that. Since our childhood, we were obliged to serve “necessities” dictated by others. As a result, we now find ourselves facing the difficult situation of having to decide for something through our own inner negotiations between needs and desires. At the same time, the outcome may risk our acceptance by others, which often comes into conflict with our personal feeling of freedom.
A factor responsible for triggering intense anxiety is the trap of too many expectations. Very often, these expectations aren’t even our own, but those of our parents, which we have unconsciously appropriated.
Luckily for us, we also have our emotions, provided that we listen to them and trust them. Anxiety can be a useful emotion, because it motivates us to take necessary measures in critical situations, as long as anxiety isn’t strong enough to paralyze us. Paralysis occurs when the emotion of anxiety combines with mental processes to create unreal scenarios and assumptions. Why is this happening? We can make some conjectures: we might be feeling that we aren’t strong enough to deal with a particular difficulty or challenge. It may be that we allow ourselves to unreservedly serve the necessities of others, which we have appropriated as our own, without identifying with them and without serving our own personal needs.
In the end, despite what one might think through the perspective of intense anxiety, things aren’t all that difficult. We aren’t what we believe to be; we are actually more capable and more skilled than we think, as long as we allow these capabilities and skills to come into prominence.
By cultivating self-esteem and developing self-confidence, we allow a different reality to emerge, which is more in tune with our own existence.
If we look at the difficulties and challenges posed by life as an opportunity for our own self-growth, we can unleash our inner strengths, ones we aren’t even aware we possess. This way, life becomes simpler, less anxious and less complicated.
If we feel paralyzed in a situation, this is not because of the situation itself, but because this is our way of processing reality. In such cases, we need to distance ourselves for a while and develop the ability to see things through a different and more functional perspective. By doing so, we leave behind the prison and the dead ends created by nothing other than our own minds.
Spyros Metaxas Psychiatrist – Psychotherapist