Anxiety is scary, but it can also help us grow taller

After the long break in our pastoral journey due to restrictions related to COVID-19, the MSSP Oratory of Birkirkara has reopened its doors to host its monthly training courses. We decided to start over with a course that explores an experience we have become very familiar with over the past year and a half – that of anxiety and fear.

For the first time in psychology academia, research has been conducted on the emotional effects of a pandemic. The latest pandemic, which took place at the turn of the last century, came at a time when studies of emotions had not yet been formalized. However, Schimmenti et al. (2020) have now articulated all of the shades of fear we’ve been experiencing in recent months. While it can be said that the pandemic has generated fear and anxiety in many of us, these two inner states have always been part of our human experience.

Anxiety is generated in us; it is a sign that something in our being is not as it should be: a badly satisfied need; a painful memory rekindled by an ongoing incident; an equally exciting and terrifying new experience; loss of a loved one or other anxiety-provoking events. We are really not the masters of our own house; as our egos strive to keep everything under control, we are not flawless machines, but human beings on the way to hard-fought freedom.

The scriptures remind us that mankind’s deepest fear is that of death, not just physical death, but the possibility of being alienated from life, of being alone and powerless. Psychology explains how our deepest internal defenses are all set up to help us alleviate this anxiety and make it more bearable. Some of us find ourselves in such an inner fragility that we need help to claim as much inner freedom as possible, so as not to be overwhelmed by this anxiety.

But is anxiety something to get rid of? Or is it a necessary evil that we cannot do without? Maybe there is more to the experience of anxiety than meets the eye. Could this be a sign that deep down, things are not as they should be, that we are wandering outside our comfort zones, or that we are touching a raw nerve in our life story?

Our anxiety can also be a sign that we are being invited to take a step forward, like a child who is invited to take one more step to conquer the stairs and not give up. The basic truth of life, a life lived fully, is that growth is inseparable from anxiety. The latter can be the right motivation to avoid regressing or falling into the trap of mediocrity. Anxiety can be that right amount of discomfort that wakes us up from our sleep, as we all have a tendency to settle into a resting position, to find some balance even though it is unhealthy for us.

Anxiety can be the right motivation to avoid regressing or falling into the trap of mediocrity

It is for this reason that Abraham is invited to leave his country, to go to a land that God has promised him, so that he can bear the fruit of a new life. His destination was not just physical land but uncharted territory in his heart, to emerge from barren fear and become a blessing to many.

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