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The Role of Feelings in Anxiety-Related Problems


FEELINGS, nothing more than feelings... but they rule our lives.

What drives someone to scrub the skin from his or her hands or avoid doing things in front of others at all cost? How can some people starve themselves or harm themselves? What causes many to perform endless rituals or to believe they are seriously ill, and why do vast numbers of us feel we are worthless?

Feelings are everything to us; they reflect our inner-self's understanding of what is happening to us in the world and what to do about it. Part of an inner guidance system that conveys how our experiences are affecting us, they are related to survival and being in control. Feeling bad means that we are under threat, either directly or because we have no control.

We all want to stay longer and enjoy any situation that makes us feel good and we'll actively seek out such situations, but when something feels bad we are driven to stop it, get away from it as soon as we can or to avoid it altogether.

It is often pointed out that many people actively seek out feeling bad, particularly being scared, through such things as scary movies or theme park rides. But this is different, in these situations we are scared whilst actually being safe, we are scared with control. Millions may pay to watch the antics of a knife-wielding maniac on screen, but nobody would want to be in the real situation. To feel bad with no control is to be really scared.


"Do not give in too much to feelings. An overly sensitive heart is an unhappy possession on this shaky earth."

...Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (1749–1832)


"A state of uneasiness or tension caused by apprehension of possible misfortune, danger etc." and to be anxious is to be "worried and tense."

"To have a physical or emotional sensation of (something)."

(The Collins English Dictionary)


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More Resources:
Understanding My Feelings - MIND
List of Emotions -


1. For example: Greene, J. D. et al (2001) An fMRI investigation of emotional engagement in moral judgment. Science, 293, 2105–2108

2. In: Robertson, I. H. (1999) MIND SCULPTURE: Your Brain's Untapped Potential. London: Bantam Press. p.194


And we don't need direct experience to feel in certain ways. Our brains are programmed to empathise with others and how they feel(1). Feelings are shown by the expression on our faces for it can be advantageous to know what another person is feeling. To know whether someone is pleased to see us or not and to sense what others are going through without having to go through it our self can save a lot of pain. In mimicking the feelings of others we feel the same way as they do to some extent. Watching a depressed relative may truly make us feel depressed.

With feelings, we feel something happening to our body: our heartbeat often speeds up, senses can sharpen or blur and we may get 'butterflies' in the tummy. But feelings are not just about physiology, they also involve thoughts, experience, memories and associations. The meaning we give to our bodily sensations, a meaning that stems from past experiences associated with those sensations, colours what we feel. A rapid heartbeat on a theme park ride may feel scary and exciting, but a faster heartbeat when we are harshly criticised means a threat and it can come to be associated with fear more readily than excitement for many. The speeding heartbeat of those people with anxiety-related problems, as it increases, can become an instant reminder of insecurity and fear, whatever the cause.

Most people who seek therapy do so because of feelings and emotions. Even if the main problem is one of incessant negative thinking, it's usually what we feel about the thoughts and our inability to control them that hurts the most. How we feel about having an anxiety disorder or depression, or even illness for that matter, makes it worse. Feelings and emotions are paramount.


We have feelings for a reason, even bad ones. When a person is nice to us we feel good, when someone is nasty to us we feel bad. Feeling bad tells us that we are in a state of distress and we need to do something about it. And often we do: we may express anger appropriately or even fight if we have to and we can atone for guilty deeds. Problems arise when bad feelings are not resolved and we still hold them inside.

It's as though feelings are a form of energy that need to be released and if not released they create a tension, a pressure inside us, until they are resolved. We see time and time again, people reliving bad situations – those involving family confrontations, abusive partners and sexual abuse are common. We seem driven to relive painful situations until we gain control and remove any potential threat.

It's as if our inner-self is telling us, "That painful situation wasn't resolved, you are still distressed, not in control and under threat. Go back and relive it again and this time take control, resolve it and everything will be alright, the threat will have gone."

Feelings also shape our memories. With anxiety and depression problems we seem to remember the bad things more than the good. The greater the feelings and emotions involved in an event the stronger the memories that are formed. And this makes sense: emotional events don't only provide greater chunks of information with which to form long-lasting memories, they also affect us in various other ways and we need to remember them for the next time. When something makes us feel bad, strong memories of it (and the events and circumstances that surround it) are formed, memories which, when recalled, bring back all of the associated emotions.

Of course, feelings aren't just about feeling bad. Feeling good reflects the joy of being alive. It relates to feelings of ease and contentment, being happy, safe and free from stress. And we can take control of our feelings; we can make ourselves feel good. Experiments have shown that just reading different statements associated to emotions can affect our feelings(2). However, this has to be done in the correct way; we cannot suddenly go from feeling terrible most of the time to feeling great, just as we cannot go from being totally unfit to supreme fitness in one leap. For now, it is enough to realise that feelings can be resolved and changed – think about something you have seen in real life, or on television, or have read that was really really funny. Imagine it as strongly as you can... how do you feel?


Feelings are vitally important to our survival; they reflect our inner-self's assessment of what is happening to us (or what may happen), irrespective of the actual, in-the-moment physical reality in the world around us.

Feelings explain how a painfully thin anorexic girl can look in the mirror and see herself as fat; they are the reason the obsessive-compulsive person can lock a door, turn away from it and have to turn back and re-check it is locked... turn away from it again and have to turn back and check it again... turn away and back again... and do this again and again and again. In both of these cases, based on previous life experiences and what we feel, our inner-self is only trying to protect us. But just what is this inner-self?


Excerpt from: Evolving Self Confidence: How to Become Free From Anxiety Disorders and Depression  ›› More Details




See also:-  Help for Anxiety Book

Calm Anxiety: Taking Back Control


A totally new way to understand and deal with the increased anxiety that plagues so many of us today, this book reveals why we become too anxious in the first place and shows how to stop it naturally.  More Details | Read the First Chapter




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