The Spiritual Shift That Eased My Anxiety When Nothing Else Worked
For as long as I can remember, anxiety was my companion. As a young child, it showed up as severe separation anxiety where, even in the safety of my own home, my mother couldn't leave my sight without me hysterically screaming. By age 12, I had an ulcer and my anxiety morphed into constant worry about getting other diseases because various symptoms convinced me that I was developing a horrible illness. As time went on, I spent years experiencing out-of-the-blue panic attacks that were marked by an overwhelming feeling of impending doom, shaking, sweating, nausea, sleeplessness, and an overriding fear that I was going to die.
Talk therapy was a good start and it helped me in my journey of sorting through the layers of my thoughts and emotions. My super-high anxiety was reduced a bit, but simply questioning these unreasonable thoughts did not create rock-solid, lasting inner peace. This was like trying to plug a leaky, corroded pipe. One fearful thought might retreat, but then another would shift the fear somewhere else. For example, my fear of blood and needles diminished, but I couldn't fly without a tranquilizer. Another method I practiced was deep breathing, but again, this only brought a moment of relief before the displaced fear would just break through somewhere else.
I am definitely pro-therapy, but in the end I found that the core of my anxiety stemmed from a place that required a spiritual remedy. I needed a fundamental shift in the way I saw the world. The way I was seeing it constantly frightened me. I needed a miracle. And this miracle had to come from within me.
The spiritual shift that quieted my anxiety for good.
Unable to go on with such unbearable anxiety, I became determined to find another way. Inner peace became my number one priority. I began my healing journey by getting radically honest with myself. I started by looking at the benefits (yes, benefits!) that I secretly gained from my negative state of anxiety. For instance, anxiety was a good excuse to not do things that were scary to me.
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I realized that I falsely believed that my anxiety could keep me safe. I began reading, journaling, and meditating in an effort to be more mindful. And, I wholly dedicated myself to a spiritual practice. For me, that practice was and still is through the seminal spiritual text, A Course in Miracles, although there are a thousand paths to peace.
Through A Course in Miracles, I learned that the anxiety I was experiencing simply hid the awareness of Divine Love within me. I was open to believe that miracles could heal (in the context of A Course in Miracles, a miracle is a shift in perception. i.e., from anxiety to love). I no longer chose to see myself as a victim of my anxiety. Instead, I decided to see it as a mistake in my thought system—something that I was creating because I was somehow misperceiving. And I decided that there must be a way to perceive the world with love instead of fear.
After experiencing miracle shifts in perception and eventually turning them into my book, From Anxiety To Love, I evolved the following formula:
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1. Practice radical self-inquiry
I often ask myself, “What does this fear or thought show me about what I am believing to be true right now?” For example, if I am afraid of getting sick, I must believe I'm limited to a body, and separate from Divine Love. Once I acknowledge these beliefs, I am willing to look at all of them with my Inner Therapist.
2. Practice radical releasing.
I give the outcome I want to my Inner Therapist and ask for an experience of peace. I give my belief that I’m just a body to my Inner Therapist. I give my life to my Inner Therapist.
3. Practice radical prayer.
Instead of “please make me be okay” or “please heal me” or “please heal them”, I instead say: "I am willing to witness miracles" or “Help me to see this differently.”
By deeply questioning my beliefs, releasing everything to my Inner Therapist, and praying for a healed perception, I make space in my mind for a miracle. This miracle shifts my perception from fear to love, so I’m more aware of the interconnectedness and eternal Love that permeates everything. As the awareness of Love returns to my mind, anxiety falls away. As a result, I no longer live with anxiety. I live with peace. This awareness of Love heals and it is joyfully available to each one of us right now if we so choose.
Inspired by Corrine's story? Here are 10 real women on how they cope with anxiety.
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Corinne Zupko, EdS, LPC, is the author of From Anxiety to Love. As a licensed counselor and keynote speaker, she has helped thousands of individuals through her one-on-one counseling, weekly meditation classes for corporations, and the largest virtual conference of ACIM in the world, through the organization Miracle Share International, which she cofounded. Visit her online at http://www.FromAnxietytoLove.com