Anxiety as a Path to Liberation

Why do you get anxious? Is anxiety just an unpleasant feeling you need to try to shake? Is anxiety merely a dysfunction that randomly takes over some people’s brains and needs to be managed? There is actually a lot more to the story of anxiety. Like so many disturbances in our lives, anxiety actually has an essential role to play, and it has something to do with our working models of the world.

There is more than one way to make sense of the world. We all move through life with a sort of working model: a set of guesses and assumptions and beliefs and explanations we’ve cobbled together to help us make sense of the world. Working models are always limited, never as rich or complex as life itself. Sometimes, however, those limitations become too great. Anxiety is what you get when you outgrow your working model of the world. Anxiety is the stuff that leaks out when your working model of the world starts bursting at the seams. Anxiety is what compels you to come up with a bigger, better model.

Whatever you’re anxious about is something you’ve failed to understand. Or rather, you’ve come up with a way of understanding it that’s too limited. Anxiety will point out to you exactly where your understanding is in need of revision. If you can revise your working model of the world, not only will anxiety lift, but so much more will become possible as well . . .

About the Author

Steve Bearman, Ph.D., earned his doctorate in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He founded Interchange Counseling Institute in 2002 and is the lead teacher of Interchange's San Francisco-based year-long counseling and coaching training. When he's not counseling people, leading workshops, and advocating for social justice, Steve climbs mountains, adventures in the urban wilderness, explores the edges and limits of what's possible, deconstructs everything, and finds new ways to put it all back together.