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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Anxiety?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Anxiety

Generation of Anxiety

Of course all the myriad manifestations of narcissistic insecurity arise as certain ego identifications are dropped in the process of inner realization. Our unlimited hunger for love, money, admiration, power, insight, even inner development and enlightenment, come to the fore, and we see that they are continually generating fear and anxiety. Seeing these desires for what they are, and disidentifying with the structures they support, generally precipitates the experience of Being in the aspect of the Personal Essence.

How Anxiety Arises in the Ego

In other words, the ego relates to the superego just like the child related to the coercive agencies in his environment -- afraid of its attacks. So the moment that there is the possibility of unconscious material, that drew attacks in the past, surfacing to consciousness, the ego responds with anxiety, the danger signal anticipating a superego attack. The ego, to check the emergence of such disapproved of material, employs its defense mechanisms, which results in keeping such material out of consciousness. However, this simple repression, which is called the primary defense, does not always work perfectly; and so some unconscious material pushes towards consciousness activating a state of anxiety.

Indications of Unusual Anxiety

When the defenses start actually breaking down, a person will experience increased anxiety, followed by the repressed impulses and feelings. So under normal circumstances, the presence of unusual anxiety indicates that some defenses are dissolving and that some piece of the unconscious is pushing towards consciousness. The anxiety, therefore, can be seen as a preview to self-knowledge.

Influence of Body Chemistry on Inner States

One factor that is becoming increasingly appreciated in modern psychology is that inner states depend on the chemistry of the body. Many hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters are found to be central in regulating emotions, moods, and inner mental states. When the body suffers from some kind of biochemical imbalance, one’s inner state becomes disturbed. As a result, it has been found that many difficult inner conditions, such as some types of depression, anxiety and phobias, some forms of schizophrenia, etc., are due to such chemical imbalances, and that some pharmaceutical drugs can help alleviate these conditions by redressing the imbalance.

Overwhelming Anxiety Can Arise from the Loss of Contact with Being

Developmental psychologies usually attribute such overwhelming anxiety in early childhood to physical or psychological trauma. Kernberg, for instance, believes that the anxiety is primarily due to negative introjections; and that is why defenses, especially splitting, are needed … there is clearly truth in this, but it does not take into consideration that overwhelming anxiety can be generated from the loss of contact with Being, or that it can lead to the loss of Being. In the latter case the result is that the early defensive nature of the ego is understood to serve not only the defense against the overwhelming anxiety, but to also ward off the experience of loss of Being that generates the anxiety. This in effect leads to the building of identification systems that eventually become barriers against the experience of Being.

Separation Anxiety Blocks the Strength Essence

Separation anxiety is one of the main reasons the Strength Essence is blocked or repressed. There is a cul-de-sac that frequently occurs in relation to separation. One resists separation, due to anxiety or other causes, and thus blocks the Strength Essence. One then feels weak, and unable to separate. This weakness is then taken as the reason behind not being able to be separate, while in fact it is the result of resisting separation. It is really the state of the absence of the Strength Essence, and hence it is the state of lack of separation. This difficulty can be surmounted by confronting the weakness itself. This will then expose the anxiety that led to the weakness. Understanding the source of the anxiety then precipitates the experience of the Strength Essence.

The Challenge of Space Usually Manifests Anxiety

We have shown so far how psychodynamic understanding of self-image leads to the experience of space, and how space, in turn, by modifying or erasing self-image, brings forth the unconscious affects and memories. However, this is not the main action or usefulness of space in this process. As we have seen, the main characteristics of space are openness and the absence of rigid boundaries. It is precisely these characteristics that make it most useful; for when space is present, it acts by challenging and exposing the unconscious self-boundaries of the individual. Since its nature is the absence of boundaries, it will naturally challenge any existing boundaries. This challenge usually manifests as anxiety, because the exposure of unconscious self-boundaries actually lifts certain repressions, and the possibility of lifting any repression arouses anxiety. This is because repression is a response to anxiety.

The Void, pg. 53

The Ego Responds to Anxiety with Repression

As awareness expands, the person becomes aware first of the necessity to find ways of dealing with his superego. This is the first important task. Without this ability, the individual will find it extremely difficult to expand his awareness and deal with his unconscious. The reason is that the status quo of the personality is maintained by the superego. In particular, the status quo is continued by keeping the unconscious unconscious, by enforcing the defensive mechanisms of the ego. The agent that enforces these defensive functions is the superego. We need to understand the process of repression in order to understand this mechanism more fully: awareness of unconscious material causes anxiety to the ego. The ego responds to anxiety with repression; it cuts off awareness from the arising unconscious material. In this way it avoids experiencing the anxiety and thus avoids the disintegrating effect of the anxiety on the ego structure.

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