By Joanne Highley
“Distress or uneasiness of mind caused by apprehension of danger or misfortune” is the traditional definition of the state of anxiety. In psychiatry, it is defined as a state of apprehension and psychic tension found in most forms of mental disorder.
As I have worked with many people who have anxiety, either chronic or dependent on circumstance, I have found the root of this problem to be lack of trust which began in early childhood. This lack of trust of authority figures (parents) was fostered by the changing basis of truth in the home. The child could not find a secure foundation for knowing truth because the parents kept changing what they put forth as truth. This could be the case of a parent who is always promising the child something and not coming through with what was promised. Or, it could be the parent who put forth a Christian façade at church or in the community and when the doors were shut, the parent became an angry abuser. Another case is a parent who tells the child what is right to do and then the parent does what is wrong. Or, the parents who do a lot of fighting and the child begs them to stop. The child gets very tense trying to go to sleep because he or she thinks the parents will kill each other. The next day, the parents act as if nothing happened.
This lack of foundational constancy in regard to truth, not telling the truth and not living by the truth gives the child a weak area in his or her emotions and causes great fear and incsecurity. This is not just fear or apprehension of some impending misfortune, but a deep feeling that the child could not stand up with the necessary strength to face the misfortune. The lack of consistency on the part of parents—will they be there when I need them and will they do what they say they will do—makes the child have a shaky interior feeling that leaves him or her insecure and fearful.
This feeling definitely reads into the child’s perception of God. Will He do what He says and will He be there when I need Him? Of course, the early childhood experiences of unreliable parents who give mixed messages have already conditioned the child to doubt the reliability of anyone and especially God, who seems to have abandoned them or let bad things happen in the past. God has not abandoned him or her, but they feel like He has.
In light of not trusting parents and then reading that lack of trustworthiness into God, the child turns to his or her emotions as the guide and counselor. The emotions become the truth to the child and he or she builds an unreal world in fantasy where everything can be perfect and some modicum of protection is felt.
However, when bad things happen, all these techniques begin to fail—the emotions panic and the unreality does not hold. The child is faced with a reality that is painful and fearful. This makes waves of dread and feelings of shakiness and inadequacy because there is nowhere to go for help. Only the awful feelings of anxiety and no help or answers.
Some people experience physical manifestations of this anxiety as well—prickly feelings in the stomach, light-headedness, palpitations, dizziness, sweating, chest pains.
This is a form of physical symptoms of anxiety called a panic attack which is nothing more than inappropriate feelings of fight or flight. The body has an inbuilt response to imminent danger that is called fight or flight in which the body gets ready for some threat or approaching peril by quickening of the heart rate and tightening of the muscles to brace for the blow. But in the case of a panic attack, there is no danger but the emotions tell the body there is. The accompanying physical symptoms will not kill you, even though many say it feels like they will. So as you learn to relax when these physical symptoms begin you can begin to defeat the panic attack and soon you will not experience them anymore because you will know what is going on and that you are not in danger---only an inappropriate response of the body and emotions.
Lately, I have been working with a number of people with these problems. I suppose, in reality, everyone I work with has this problem of anxiety to some degree at times. Until uprooted, this can be a major factor in homosexual bondage. Because of all these shaky, inadequate, fearful feelings of having no one and no truth that is trustworthy, the emotions scream for the quieting by an addictive fix. You can see why people tell me that they do addictive acts because they feel so bad if they don’t.
In working with one man in particular, we went through weeks of pointing out how the anxiety had been established as an emotional pattern at a very early age. No one to trust and no constant reliable truth. As we discussed this, he could finally see that the anxiety he felt was not from today—he was only living out today the effects of stored-in anxiety from his childhood. He was able to separate the anxiety of his childhood from who he is today. It’s in him but not current—not who he is now. So, as he was able to put it outside himself, he could fight against it because it was not who he is. It influenced who he is, but it did not define him. He was not anxious—he had anxiety to deal with but it was not him. He then felt stronger after we prayed against the anxiety.
The next week, as he stood against the anxiety, he prayed for it to leave his body and he felt something leave. At that point, we could begin to renounce and pray against many lies that had been spoken over him in childhood. He saw that lying was a standard mode of speaking in his home. As he began to dedicate his speech to truth and catch and repent of lying, more anxiety left. We are now at the clean-up stage as he practices speaking truth. We will need to establish a trust relationship with God-but this is beginning naturally as the anxiety fades and the Spirit of Truth is becoming established in this man. This is only one case and is meant to suggest possible ways to rid the person of anxiety. Obviously, every person must work in light of his or her own childhood experience.
One man said when he could trust God he felt the anxiety lift. Another said he found out the emotions of anxiety were not his, but the emotions of his mother he had absorbed. As he rejected those emotions we were able to pray them out of him.
What I want to show forth is the need for standing against these feelings and working to be free. Never feel you are captive to an emotion or a syndrome. There is freedom and cleansing from old bondages if we will look at the problem carefully to understand the roots—and if we are willing to yield to reality and truth. May God bless you as you work to uproot these old lies and fear of the unknown.