I watched from my car as people were going in and out of the grocery store. I tried to stop crying just long enough to go in. It was my birthday, and I felt anxious. Recent changes in my personal life had triggered intense self-doubt and fear. Layered into my anxiety was an immense frustration about feeling so rattled. I’d done all the “spiritual things” to feel better. I’d “worked” on my anxiety for years, so why was I still so anxious? I had hit a new bottom, a level of surrender I’d never experienced before.
Moments later, I felt the anxiety lift. A profound sense of calm and peace came through me. I stopped crying and suddenly knew anxiety was not the problem I had to solve. I’d been filling in my puzzle with the wrong diagnosis. It was this subtle shift in perception that became the catalyst for the joy I experience today.
The following three misperceptions about anxiety summarize the awakening I had that day in my car. These are the same spiritual and mindset shifts I help my clients understand, discern, and experience. As they do, the results are incredible and profound. It’s necessary now for you to know and internalize that it is your lack of clarity, negative thinking, and disconnection that will cause you to continue to fall victim to the cycle of thinking, believing, perceiving, and feeling that will only perpetuate your anxiety. In yoga, this is called dukkha, or suffering. Conversely, clarity is the turning point that, when cultivated, will bring you tremendous sukha—ease and joy.
Anxiety Misperception Number One: Symptom or Diagnosis?
Disconnection from your soul circle—your personal, unchanging, and reliable inner guidance system—is the universal human diagnosis. It is the ultimate cause of suffering. Every form of disease is a symptom of this one diagnosis. When you are mentally, emotionally, or spiritually disconnected from your soul circle, you will suffer. You experience this disconnection in the form of a symptom called anxiety. Others may experience the diagnosis of spiritual disconnection with symptoms such as depression, loneliness, an eating disorder, drug or shopping addiction, alcoholism, and codependency.
You hold your deepest fears tight inside, hoping no one will find out. But that only builds a wall between you and your inner guidance system. You live under the misperception that if you work harder on managing your anxiety, you’ll find the comfort and freedom you seek. But because life always changes, your strategy won’t work. Something will always come along to upset your plan. It’s like trying to grasp at air. You can’t catch it, so it just breeds more frustration and anxiety.
When you reconnect to who you truly are instead of trying to solve the wrong problem, your life will radically change.
Anxiety Misperception Number Two: Pattern or Person?
You are never going to be more spiritual than you are right now. You are always part of spirit. You are, at your core, your soul circle. Trying to control anxiety with more spiritual tools when you are misperceiving who you are won’t work. From this viewpoint, your focus is still on the symptom relief, not the solution.
Anxiety is a pattern in your mind and body, what in yoga is called samskara. Anxiety is not who you are. It is a mental misperception, a physiological habit, and a spiritual misalignment. You most certainly have a personal history, a constitution, a predisposition, and an experience that has set the anxiety ball rolling in your life, but the point here is that your true nature is not anxious. It is a human pattern that you have developed in your mind and body, and it can be changed.
Anxiety Misperception Number Three: Failure or Feedback?
Anxiety is not failure, it’s feedback. If you’re not in danger, then anxiety is valuable feedback about what is happening within you. First, when you’re anxious, a negative mental state is active. If you take action while in that state, you could end up suffering more. Second, and most importantly, anxiety is showing you where you are in your relationship with your soul circle and true self. Anxiety is powerful feedback that can help you navigate your emotional and mental state with more mastery.
Everything is a reflection of your relationship with your inner being. Your emotional body is a powerful inner navigation system, and there are only two directions in which your emotions can take you: toward fear or toward love. Anxiety is life-changing feedback that you are moving in the direction of fear and that you must turn around and go back home—toward love. It is your connection with your true nature that will set you free and allow you to experience more joy.
This post is excerpted from Joy’s book, If I’m So Spiritual, Why Am I Still So Anxious: The Soul Seeker’s Guide to Reclaim Your Joy, now available on Kindle. The paperback will be released March 2, 2021; when you pre-order the book, you receive one month of free access to Joy’s private membership community, Soul Subscription. Pre-order the book in the month of December and receive a Soul Subscription for 50 percent off, starting in January.
Joy Stone is a Positive Psychology Life Coach and a yoga teacher. She combines the yoga tradition with modern positive psychology to help people move beyond anxiety, fear, and overwhelm, without medication or traditional talk therapy, so they can move forward in life and thrive. Joy works with individuals and groups from all over the country via phone and Skype, and locally in the Nashville area. Find out more at joystonecoaching.com.