being human,  breath,  embodiment,  learning

Harnessing Anxiety for the Good

Yesterday I had a peer group call with six others in and/or facilitating my Master’s Program. Because the program doubles as certification in Spiritual Direction (SD) and a Master’s in Pastoral Counseling (MPC), it very much asks us to get in deep contact with ourselves. I feel that I do that on the regular because of how I’m built, but I’m also seeing that I simply don’t have access to all parts of me.

This isn’t new news but it continues to be graced with greater nuance. After all of the work I did last year to regulate my nervous system, I was surprised when my bodymind exhibited so much pushback at the retreat last November. I felt prepared to go. I was prepared. But after only a few days with my cohort, anxiety began to settle in. My throat chakra closed and I wasn’t able to speak freely or easily. Instead of running, I went to the facilitator and immediately felt better. It didn’t solve everything; I still struggled, but naming it and being so lovingly held, helped me to continue on. I believe I wrote about this before, but additional layers seem to be revealing themselves.

Since coming home, I’ve immersed myself in the material and have conducted three Spiritual Direction (SD) appointments thus far. In doing so, I’ve realized what I want to do with the training, and what I don’t want to do. It continues to become more clear to me that I want to continue my education toward a Chaplaincy degree, the original program I was drawn to but decided to go a shorter route for starters … Why is this, and what is the difference between them?

In all honesty, I don’t know the answer to that question, except I guess I see chaplains as those who bridge the spiritual gap between our earthly pains and our heavenly aspirations. People come to chaplains not necessarily to grow closer to God, but to discuss the things they are struggling with related to earthly life, and the lives of their souls. Is that much different than what I’m being trained to do? Maybe not. Probably not.

But here is the rub: I just don’t see myself facilitating SD appointments via a paid client/director model. I am more interested in working with people within various at-need categories and at various stages of their lives. For instance, I am drawn to working one-on-one in disaster circumstances through the Red Cross, as well as at the Cancer Resource Center and hospice. The tools are similar, perhaps the same, regardless of the context in which I work but the certification matters more to the institutions I decide to serve.

And this brings me to point I sat down to write about: anxiety. Specifically, my anxiety. I believe it is part of what is driving the importance of serving within various contexts to me. I have not been comfortable in these regular SD appointments with clients but I was quite comfortable soothing people who were hurting while I was deployed with the Red Cross. Is it a matter of matching energies? Is this the language God is using to help me make sense of it?

If I choose to not medicate, will my anxiety always be present? I’m leaning toward a ‘yes’ on that question, which begs another question: If this is how I am, how God made me (or what God allowed/is allowing), how can I not make my anxiety into an excuse but instead harness it for the good of the world?

To me, it’s not only a personal question but an ethical one. If this is how I am, what am I going to do with it? What is the best way to give of myself? Are there particular contexts in which the anxiety is at bay? Do other’s feel my anxiety when I am with them? So many ponderings and I truly don’t have the answers.

God uses all things for good. What is God doing with this? In me? What good will come from it all? Without having the answer, all I can do is lean in, let go, let God show me what comes next and enjoy the ride. As someone quite fixated on how things should go (forcing them to go the way I want them to), this is a humbling endeavor. I’m up for the challenge.

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash