I am prompted to write this entry about anxiety counselling as I am noticing on a regular basis during my work as a counsellor in Cork in all aspects of the work that anxiety is mistakenly perceived as a ‘minor’ issue that ‘just’ requires ‘coping mechanisms’ to be learnt and applied for a full recovery to occur.
In working primarily with young people I am astonished in all aspects of the professional process; from referral to meeting parents and then meeting the young person themselves or networking with their wider world, how widespread the fantasy of anxiety, anxiety therapy and its root causes has permeated our daily life. It has become a buzz word, often linked to another such word, ‘stress’. It seems there is a growing yet blinded understanding that both are intertwined and both are a sign solely of the need to cope better. I can appreciate fully that to manage and soothe our emotions is a very necessary and worthwhile endeavour, after all, we cannot begin to effect real change unless we can begin the journey of turning towards and healing what is a terrible emotional wound for us. However, it is only the first step in beginning this journey and never should it be assumed that coping is good enough when there is a full, loving and rich life awaiting us if we can make that commitment and be allowed to make that commitment by those around us.
I am noticing too often that anxiety is seen as a stand-alone issue, floating in a vacuum, a phantom in a person’s life, untethered to them in any real way. The game is about exterminating the cause of pain but never to understand it as a sign of a wider issue…an unmet emotional issue. I urge you, be it parents, educators, social worker, mental health services, doctors, community/ youth organisations etc, invest in a young person’s future by giving them the resources to commit to their emotional health. If you take it seriously, they will too.
In this possibility, I am all too aware of the urgent need for simple re-education in regard to what is emotional health and what prevents it. The central role of early childhood adverse experiences and the emotional development of each child plays in present problems. So much of my time in dialogue with those connected to and in a deep relationship with young people is to begin to shine a light on the role that this plays in the symptoms that arise.There is an enormous divide between what is filtered and disseminated into our ‘common’ knowledge of emotional health and what is real and factual. Anxiety is not the problem I say, it is just a glimpse of the lived experience of the person who feels unsafe. The work of therapy is to be a partner to the child AND TO THE COMMUNITY AROUND THEM to begin to address this feeling and the root causes. Therapy powerfully works when everyone has an understanding and places time and consistency to collaborate together. Yes, it is hard work but the possibility is that real and lasting change can occur. Real healing is now more possible when it does. I will strive every day for this possibility to become a reality, but I fear it will take the majority of my career to make it happen.
I will use my blog as a way to do the little I can to educate and inform whoever is willing to listen and I hope that can make a difference out there.