One function of anxiety as a “warning signal” is to divert our attention from things we are afraid to face on the inside to what seems pressing or urgent on the outside. As long as this defense holds we feel stressed and out of sync but continue to function as usual—albeit with less joy—and substitute hectic time pressured energy for calm energy. Calm energy is not only preferable because it feels better, but also because it generally leads to creative outcomes.
When anxiety ceases to function as an effective warning signal—sometimes due to personal growth—other symptoms may take it place. Where this is the case, we eventually realize that we can only make genuine progress by challenging our early mental models and beliefs. With that realization we are immediately confronted with loss. Although all change involves loss we tend initially to respond to loss in a couple of typical ways. We may respond with sadness realizing we are saying goodbye to our old paradigm, but can identify an inkling of happiness at the same time because an “unknown” and seemingly new paradigm is emerging its place. This new paradigm is not a bad thing and if courageously embraced may actually enlarge our experience and effectiveness. Or, we may respond by “saying no.” One symptom of “saying no” is depression which has been seen by some experts as an angry response to the loss of illusion previously offered by early mental models.
Persons who responded to not being seen or heard as children by creating an idealized self are probably more vulnerable to depression when their real selves remain invisible to those who are significant to their future. In a recent presentation on 21st Century Leadership, neuroscientist Robert K. Cooper, Ph.D. described the physiology of valuing as follows: “When a person feels genuinely seen or heard, the eyes moisten.” He then cites Drs. David Myers and John L. Lock who report that in 99%+ of daily conversations, there is no moistening of the eyes! Every day we choose how we want to live our lives.