by Don Ollsin
I want to talk about anxiety and depression from psyche's point of view. Two healing awareness systems that I want to talk about are exploring edges from process oriented psychology and challenges and skills from the flow paradigm. I'll explain the theory behind both systems. Theory is limited and to understand them you will need to experiment with them. To achieve full benefit you need to internalize them. That means that you apply the theory when you feel anxious or depressed. I will explain them one at a time.
Process oriented psychology is a system of psychology developed by Arnold Mindell. He calls it a daughter of Jungian psychology. An earlier term that he used for his work was dreambody. I still prefer to use dreambody. In my book Pathways to Healing, a Guide to Herbs, Ayurveda, Dreambody and Shamanism, I refer to his work as dreambody. There are many facets of dreambody. The area that I'm going to focus on for this article is edges. Edges are the juicy spots in our life. They are often our growing points. Because they are usually uncharted territory they can be a source of anxiety. So one of the first things you want to ask yourself when you feel anxious is whether there is an edge around? Where are you at with this edge? Are you just approaching it or are you already over it and possibly feeling overwhelmed or extremely anxious? The goal is to track your anxiety. Are you thinking of doing something that is scary or maybe downright terrifying? As you become aware of your different edges through tracking your bouts of anxiety you can learn to process them and greatly reduce the level of anxiety they produce. We'll discuss ways to work with edges in another post. For now we are learning to identify and find our edges. So anxiety is a signal that we may be near or over an edge.
Depression on the other hand, can often be a signal that we have gone off an edge. We were going to sign up for that course or apply for that job or reach out to that person but we decided not to. Now all the edge juice is gone. So, the next time you feel depression visiting you, ask yourself if you are avoiding an edge, some change, that you know would invigorate you. You can take antidepressants until you die, but they will not get you over that edge; to the career you want or the job you are after. This is deep, transformational work. This is using your awareness to find out what your anxiety and or depression is possibly telling you. Then apply the medicine of change to bring about less anxiety and depression and make more fulfilling life choices. The good news is that you only need to move 1/4 inch in the right direction to start feeling better.
The second awareness paradigm I would like to address originated with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He calls it the flow paradigm. It is similar when it comes to anxiety and depression but he frames them differently. I teach both of them in my Online Herbal Course, since I think they are both valid. In the flow paradigm he also uses the term anxiety, but he uses boredom and apathy instead of depression. Instead of edges, he uses challenges. The thing to watch for now when feeling anxious is what level of challenge you have set for yourself. The theory is that when your challenges are beyond your present skills then you naturally feel anxious. The first step in exploring your anxiety is to ask yourself what challenges am I facing right now that make me anxious? Once you identify the challenge or challenges, then you need to ask yourself if you have the necessary skills and support to meet those challenges. If not, then you need to develop them or you need to lower the level of your challenge to your present skill and support level. The other side of the spectrum is depression or boredom. If you're feeling depressed about your work or career for example, you need to ask yourself, is it challenging enough? You are the creator of your own life and you can create a life that is challenging and rewarding as you also develop your knowledge and skills. Next time you start to feel bored (depressed) you can look for some new challenges. When feeling anxious, look for ways to develop your skills so you can perform at a higher level of participation. I have included the flowchart as developed by Csikszentmihalyi.
Just like dreambody there is a lot more to the flow paradigm then I cover here. The purpose of this article is to give you psyche’s point of view on anxiety and depression and the knowledge that you do have the power to transform your life. That anxiety and depression can be guides and signposts of where you need to change. I use both of these healing awareness systems in my own life, and I encourage my mentees and students to use them when treating clients and themselves.