I'm about to go on a trip which involves a training and certification. I decided to do this something like three years ago but really committed to this timeline about 10 months ago. So, I've known I'm going for awhile. But as the days get closer and the actuality of me boarding a plane and attending the seminar get nearer, my anxiety kicks into full gear.
I watch as I get edgier and more short with my loved ones, less patient than I normally am. I notice how my body becomes restless and I wander around doing errands, distractedly. And I feel it in my chest, like a tightness.
I have been dealing with my anxious mind all my life. When I was younger, I used drugs but mostly food to make the discomfort go away. I would stuff my face full of candy or baked goods to manage the tension. That stopped over 20 years ago but the anxiety never left. Instead, most days I manage pretty well. I exercise, meditate, use positive affirmations. But sometimes it is just there no matter what.
I used to think it was just me but then I read that the #1 diagnosis for people seeking psychotherapeutic assistance is anxiety. So perhaps it is our society, we are creating anxious people. Part of it is certainly our 24 hour world. We feel like we are accountable every second of every day. We can also be easily overstimulated by the media and technology, bombarded with information. And the speed of change continues to accelerate. It can feel hard to hold on.
Recently I have been exploring the Enneagram as a way to learn more about myself and manage my anxiety. The enneagram is a set of nine distinct personality types, with each number signifying one type. Although we often can identify with some aspects of all nine Enneagram types, one typically feels most congruent. This is your basic personality type. It took me awhile to figure out which one I was - a 6 - and I later discovered that this is a common trait of sixes!
Some interesting facts I learned was that the 6 is one of three (5, 6 & 7) enneagram types that are considered the thinking ones (in the head) as well as the "anxiety" personalities. The way the Enneagram people talk about it, is that sixes (I) respond to the my separation from One-ness by feeling anxious (or dread). My personality is simply wired to feel anxious. Instead of feeling worse when I discovered this, I actually felt better. It wasn't just ME, it was how I was showing up, it was my personality. And there are loads of other sixes out there who feel similar to me. Phew, that was a relief. Ironically, I find solace in that.
About a year ago I started receiving daily enneagram messages from the Enneagram Institute for my number. These messages have helped to remind me that, yes, I do feel anxious and yes, it is part of my programming but they also provide insight and tools to remind me that firstly, I am NOT my personality and secondly, that I can do something about it.
For example, here was mine from yesterday when I was worried about getting all my chores done, packing, etc., etc. "Remember there is nothing unusual about being anxious. Learn to be more present to your anxiety, to explore it, and to come to terms with it. (Understanding the Enneagram, 341)." Instead of it being bad, it is okay, normal.
And then today's was the perfect affirmation to remind me that my anxiety is not real. "Deep down, Sixes remember that the universe is benevolent and supports them completely. (The Wisdom of the Enneagram, 259)."
So as I embark on my trip, I will breathe knowing that anxiety lives in me, in my personality but is NOT who I am. And as I breathe that in, the anxiety really does dissipate. Knowing that my true nature never feels anxious. What a relief! Now I can smile and, hopefully relax.