Anxiety is a mental health issue which affects over 40 million American Adults, 1 in 4 Canadians, 4.1 per thousand in Indians, 6 million in the UK, and approximately 100 million people in China. That’s already 200+ million people worldwide! I became curious about the global statistics as I seem to be dealing with more clients here in Vancouver and The Lower Mainland, who are battling this mental disorder on a regular basis.
Many of my clients visit my office looking for an alternative way to manage their anxiety and reduce paranoid thoughts. Imagine feeling like, believing even, that the whole world is already against you, and then being able to trust someone who hands you pills to numb these feelings. Though anti-depressants work for some they don’t work for all and let’s be honest, they don’t cure the disorder, they just suppress it.
Until I entered Life Coaching, I hadn’t realized how many different types of people this disorder affects. From business professionals and entrepreneurs, through to students and the everyday family member, it would appear that any of us can fall victim to severe panic and fear.
I’m a “look at the bigger picture” sort of guy, in fact, that’s how I help my clients step out from under their insecurities and march on forward toward the lives they’ve always dreamed of. So, when I started getting clients seeking support for their paranoia and anxiety, after having tried many other traditional routes, such as psychiatry for instance, I had to understand how mental illnesses fit into the picture.
One of the most remarkable things I’ve learned about people, is that we’re all living in different versions of a mutually shared reality. We’re all experiencing life through our own senses; we literally only see the world through our own eyes. Therefore, we can only interpret the world through our own senses too, for example, what one person sees as an opportunity, another can view as a threat. And with access to so much information and knowledge at the very end of our finger tips, we’re discovering how differently each and every single one of us interpret the world. So no longer are we alone in the way we think, it’s not so easy anymore to just dismiss our troubled thoughts.
Is it any wonder we’re becoming a more paranoid and anxious people? I mean, with so much contradicting information thrown at us on a daily basis, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to trust anything completely. Only just the other day I had back-to-back sessions with clients who were feeling anxious over the decision to go to college vs. independent online study. Back when I was growing up, obtaining a higher education from a recognized institution just made sense, and if you had the grades and could afford it, you seized the opportunity. Whereas today, it’s definitely not the only way to secure your future, in fact, in many cases it’s becoming detrimental because of the amount of debt one acquires.
I even remember back when Trump was elected president of the United States, I literally had clients concerned about this representing the beginning of the end of the world. Looking at what’s presented in the news today, it seems I can’t easily convince individuals to dismiss these feelings as paranoia. For all the information that is out there, there’s enough to justify and fuel our paranoid thoughts. From “Fake News” to Political propaganda, who and what can we have faith in today?
Perhaps this is what conscious evolution looks like? Maybe we’re in the midst of a shifting paradigm? Or maybe we’re just overworked and exhausted? Whichever way we look at this, we must learn to deal with our troubled mental processes more effectively. Otherwise, they’ll consume us to a point where we’ll start exploring more harmful ways to shut them out, because we are unable cope.
When you come across a paranoid thought, I wouldn’t be so quick to try and dismiss the paranoia. I think if your mind has entered into this perception of reality, then perhaps it’s drawing on information that you’ve consumed but have not yet processed. Almost likened to the evolutionary theory of dreaming.
I suffered from anxiety and paranoid thoughts when I was younger, and the only vice that worked for me was meditation. However, this is not what I’m suggesting to you (though I do recommend you try it), it’s how learned to interpret these thoughts through meditation, which enabled me to detach from them and keep them from infecting my conscious experience.
Each of us are experiencing the world differently, no two beings (not yet anyway) can occupy the same conscious or physical space at the same time. Think about when you go out for dinner with a friend, you sit at a table across from each other, or side by side. Though you’re having a mutually shared experience, how it is experienced physically is already quite different. Through your eyes you see your friend, but your friend through their eye is seeing you. So already our individual experience of the world is very different from each other.
Now think about all those individual experiences across a lifetime, what each of you have seen, heard, tasted, touched, and smelled, it’s all going to have an impact on the way you think and operate. So not only is your physical experience of the world going to be different, your conscious experience of the world is going to be very different from anyone else’s too.
Therefore, if you think about it, there are an infinite number of ways to experience the world, and an infinite number of way to interpret the experience. It’s so easy for an innocent dinner between two friends, to turn into a nightmarish experience for either one of them. It’s common to feel threatened by something that was said, or something that was seen for instance, simply because of how something was interpreted. No one believes that they're the bad guy and I think this is why, because our experiences justify our view of world.
When you look at paranoia and anxiety objectively, and a lot of other mental illnesses for that matter, you realize that these troubling feelings can only grow, based on how much you invest into a perceived thought. The validity of which, is based on a collection of individual experiences you’ve already had. So, one way to break the grip of paranoia and anxiety, I’ve discovered, is to develop objectivity over them.
How do you develop objectivity?
1. Acknowledge and Accept
The first step is to acknowledge that these thoughts and feelings a quite real, after all, you feel them as if they are. Whether you believe the world is laughing at you, or you feel like the world is rigged against you, you have to accept and acknowledge that you feel this way. Don’t bury it, don’t dismiss it, acknowledge and accept that this is how you feel. This will then ease the pressure of trying to protect yourself from the thought and give you the energy to actually investigate its validity, and help you decide what to do next with more clarity.
However severe it may be, accept how you feel so that it doesn’t go unacknowledged. The reality that your mind has constructed is very much present and to deny it, only causes you to distrust your own mind and weaken your self-belief.
2. Investigate and Learn
Remember, you’re reacting to a perceived reality which hasn’t manifested around you, it’s just present in your own mind, for now. Right now, in this moment, are you literally being laughed at? Are you literally being stopped from seizing an opportunity? If so, then you’re not being anxious or paranoid, it’s actually happening. If not, then investigate the world that your mind has created. Raise questions within until you get an answer, and with each answer, you raise another question until you develop a pathway back to conscious clarity.
The questions are a series of, who, what, when, where, why and how? Most of the time, we only ask one or two questions in this series, and then give up when we cannot arrive at any conclusion. To know the answer, you have to raise the right question. If you want to know the source of your fears, then you need to dive in and investigate the fear. Like a good reporter, you keep digging until you unveil the truth, also like a good reporter, you detach yourself from the story you’re investigating.
The answer may not come from the question, “Why am I being paranoid?”, nor may it come from “How have I become paranoid?” but it may just arrive from, “Where have I developed this paranoia?” or maybe even, “Who is making me paranoid?” – When you feel you’ve stumbled on a fragment of truth, you’ll have connected something you feel to something you’ve actually experienced, then start the series of questions again with this new information. However, this time, you’re learning how you arrived at the experience and as a result, you’re learning about the way you navigate through your life; you’re essentially developing your self-awareness.
As you explore your conscious experiences, you become aware of your conscious experience, thus, you arrive at conscious clarity.
3. Take Action and Regain Control.
When you feel like your mind is once again clear, and you have successfully eased your troubling thoughts, you must make a decision. A decision supporting a truth you have uncovered about yourself/your life, so that you do not continue to fuel an insecure fate, or, continue a life of ignorance. If you have discovered that it’s something you’ve done, or taken perhaps, then you stop it. If you realize there’s a person in your life who is causing you to feel this way, then you move your life away from this person. If you realize that the sum of all your fears comes down to a behavioural pattern, take it as an indication to change behaviour. If you’re still unsure as to why you feel this way, then take it as an indication to seek support and maybe someone else can help you develop objectivity.
If all else fails…
…enact what I call “The Fire Drill Theory” which is something I derived from spiritual teaching. Basically, the higher-self; your imagination; the subconscious mind; or whatever other function of consciousness is at play, is working/are working together to create a ‘sub-reality’ of sorts. A reality of which you need to prepare for in case this sub-reality becomes your actual reality. Therefore, similarly to playing a virtual reality video game, you’ll need to enter your mind and successfully navigate yourself through this nightmare world, that your mind has created. For example, if you feel as though the world is laughing at you, then how are you going to do to deal with it, in a way which reduces most harm? Similarly, to the reason we have fire drills, how are you going to handle the situation and make it out alive? Preparation is confidence, so take your anxiety and paranoia as an opportunity to prepare, as a way for your mind to increase your conscious tolerance. Sort of like a contingency plan, if you will. Should ever this nightmare world become a reality, at least mentally, you’ll be ready to handle it.