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The Foot that Breathes

May 8, 2011

Spirit of Magnolia

Image Credit: Eric Montoya

There are fundamentally two approaches to treating anxiety. One treats the symptoms; one treats the root cause of the problem. When you treat just the symptoms, the person suffering anxiety doesn’t have to change. There’s a traditional Chinese saying that captures this approach: “You still walk your old path, constantly buying new shoes!” The individual still retains his or her old way of thinking.

Girl trying on mother's shoes

Anxiety, itself, is invisible. It is something we create. Each person who has anxiety creates it and has it in a different way. The basic cause is not the same because each person receives information differently, their body processes information differently, and therefore, the response to the information is different and the outcome is different. In one way you can’t really treat anxiety because it is of the mind—it’s nothing, it’s not tangible. Anxiety only shows up in the symptoms, so in a certain sense we can only treat the symptoms. For instance, high blood pressure or hypertension is a possible outcome of anxiety, it is not anxiety itself. It’s just like bad weather: we cannot “treat” bad weather; we can only treat the side effects of damage caused by weather—by nature—like the body aches and congested head of a person who has been out in the freezing winter and has come down with a cold. Essentially, anxiety is just a concept. What anxiety really is, you cannot say. It’s a person’s “feeling,” and this feeling will respond with different physical symptoms in each person.

In terms of treating the root cause of anxiety, the answer rests with the person suffering the anxiety. He or she has to meditate—there has to be a spiritual effort. That’s the second level of treatment. To really treat the root cause of the problem the person has to be willing to change from inside out instead of the outside in. All the treatment up to this point is from the outside in. And treatment from the outside in is never going to treat the root cause of the problem; it has to be from the inside out. This means the person has to change the way they see things, the way they react to things. That requires meditation; that requires a vision change—a change in perspective, so that they can see things in a different way. You come to see that good things are not always good; bad things are not always bad. Nothing’s all black or white. Unless the person can change in this way, he or she will most likely always suffer anxiety. [Source TCM World]

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