Reconnect to your Core
a practical guide on how to feel good and be happy

Anxiety has different symptoms

People differ in how anxiety is manifested in the body. The body channels anxiety through different pathways, and in this chapter you’ll learn about these different pathways. So far anxiety has been described as muscle tension. What we mean by that is the constriction of the voluntary muscles, also called the striated muscles. However, that is just one of three ways that anxiety manifests in the body.

There are three ways anxiety manifests in the body:

  • The striated muscles (voluntary muscles).
  • The smooth muscles (involuntary muscles).
  • Cognitive disruption.

The striated muscles are the big muscle groups that you can voluntarily move. They include your arms, legs, chest, shoulders, neck, and stomach. Every muscle that you can work out in the gym is a striated muscle. They’re the cause of the felt tension we’re aware of and is what people normally refer to as «anxiety» (or stress, nervousness, etc).

Our smooth muscles are found in the walls of the blood vessels, arteries, veins, urinary bladder, reproductive tract, gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, the skin, the iris of the eye, and most of our intestines. This means that anxiety can manifest itself in the form of headache, nausea, diarrhea or constipation, rashes, dry throat, impotence or vaginal pain, pressure on the eyes, irritable bowel, or gas pains etc. These are symptoms that often confuses medical professionals because they’re usually not first suspected as having anything to do with anxiety and unconscious feelings.

People will often deny the link between physical problems and anxiety and feelings. Their negative beliefs about the term «anxiety», their pride and lack of humility, and their lack of knowledge regarding the power of the unconscious makes them look for traditional medical explanations for their physical pain and illness rather than accepting that their physical symptoms might be linked to unconscious feelings. Many people get very defensive when someone suggest to them that their physical symptoms may have a psychological cause, but this defensiveness is only based on prideful and ignorant positionalities.

Our ego works against us because it doesn’t want to admit that maybe something could be «wrong» with the way we’re living our life, understanding ourselves, and emotionally relating to others. To admit that would mean to abandon cherished illusions of how the world works, and to our narcissistic grandiose ego that would be the same as admitting that it has been «wrong» (which is the worst the ego can experience). Therefore it’s «easier» to search for traditional medical explanations for our back pain or our irritable bowel syndrome and continue to live in denial, than it is to face reality and our painful unconscious feelings.

Cognitive disruption, which is the third pathway anxiety may take, includes losing track of one’s thoughts, dizziness, difficulty thinking, dissociating (i.e. loss of reality testing), or an urge to discharge anxiety in an impulsive manner (i.e. acting out feelings). Some people have anxiety channeled this way, and for them it’s an uncomfortable experience when their anxiety is triggered. It’s almost like the brain blanks out and doesn’t function properly. Often times this signifies some fragility of the ego, and it’s advisable to seek professional help if your anxiety mostly channels through cognitive disruption.

However, a lot of people with mostly striated muscle anxiety, can sometimes experience both smooth muscle anxiety and sometimes even cognitive disruption if the anxiety is strong enough and their defense mechanisms aren’t working effectively. Therefore it’s not a question of whether your anxiety gets channeled via striated muscle or smooth muscle or cognitive disruption, because the pathways of the anxiety may change due to what feeling that’s being repressed, the intensity of the feeling, and how well our defense mechanisms function in that specific moment.

Generally speaking one may say that striated muscle anxiety is the most healthy form of anxiety. When our striated muscles are activated (such as when we make a «sigh») it’s a sign that feelings are close to the surface and that you’re able to handle them. We may then proceed with added pressure to the feeling and allow the anxiety and the feeling to go hand in hand for a moment until the anxiety subsides and the feeling remains. But when our anxiety is mostly channeled through the smooth muscles or cognitive disruption we often need to momentarily step back and learn how to regulate our anxiety before we may add some more «pressure to our feelings». You will learn how to regulate your anxiety in the next chapter.

Key points to remember about anxiety
  • It’s wordless tension, just bodily activation without any thought.
  • It means that there exist unconscious feelings which you’re not experiencing.
  • It doesn’t mean that you’re afraid of something «out there».
  • It means that defense mechanisms will soon try to set in.
  • It manifests in striated muscle, smooth muscle, and/or cognitive disruptive pathways.

The article above is an excerpt from Chapter 6 in Reconnect to your Core.

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