Solitude and Anxiety

I have always thought of anxiety as something outside of my control. I thought anxiety was an expected result of dealing with stressful situations or people. I come off easy going but I often feel anxious.  My thoughts on anxiety are evolving because of a book I started reading this week.

I have begun reading, Solitude by Robert Kull. He spent a year alone in the Patagonian wilderness. He went to “integrate Ph.D. research into the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual effects of deep wilderness solitude with personal spiritual practice.” I am not sure how that sounds to you but, it is a page-turner. I will hold off recommending it until I have finished it or at least until he has survived the harsh winter months. What I have read so far (including the scripture below) has me reflecting differently about anxiety.

Robert Kull's Cabin, Photo by Bob Kull

I want to explore the anxiety I so often feel. It’s deep and poisons my life. I’ve seen over and over that things work out — not always as I’d planned, sometimes much better — yet still I look ahead with fear. Instead of relaxing into life, I’m often needlessly tense and worried. This last storm was an example. I worried that the cabin wouldn’t hold together, that the plastic over the tent would tear loose, that the boat would break free, or that some other undefined bad thing would happen, but I hadn’t thought at all about what actually did happen. Once faced with a real problem, I dealt with it. Even when things get really nasty — like my foot getting ripped off in the motorcycle crash — life continues. So why not let go of the worrying? Kull, Robert Solitude, page 104.

Anxiety is not based on reality, the way things are. “What if,” is the name of the anxiety game. Anxiety is an uneasiness of mind caused by fear of a future possibility. It is a state of uneasiness caused by a future uncertainty. Living in the present moment brings certainty, serenity and tranquility.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life… Matthew 6:25a

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day. Matthew 6:34

Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 RSV

Do you have trouble with anxiety? How do you let go of worrying? The way the verses from scripture read below it sounds like anxiety is in our control. Outside of an anxiety disorder would you say that anxiety is your control?

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5 Comments

Filed under Beaches, Canyons, Deserts, Mountains and Monasteries, Poems, Books and Reviews

5 responses to “Solitude and Anxiety

  1. joshuaseraphim

    Hello Father! I have been thinking about anxiety lately as well, mostly because it seems to haunt me like a ghost – like you said: beyond my control. I have found that it’s initial presence seems beyond my control. After that, it is up to me to let it dissolve (praying or dealing with a matter at hand), ignore it (repress?) by listening to music or distracting myself with sudoku, or simply freaking out. Depending on my state of body/mind – level of sleep/ health, discord from my studies or world events, etc, my ability to deal with it varies. Overall I think I do okay – I oftentimes think about how I don’t understand how other people can navigate this life without faith and trust in God and his goodness and providence – but lately this anxiety seems to bubble up inexplicably and manifest odd behavior in me, that I can only describe as melancholic discord or malaise. I suppose one has to be healthy of spirit (as well as body and mind, at least it helps) to be able to be in a situation where one can deal with anxiety when it manifests itself. Anyway, sorry for the ramble; thanks for the post.

  2. Fr. James Coles

    Joshua Seraphim – you describe it exactly how it happens. I am not an anxious person but without faith and trust in God I would find life very difficult to navigate. Thanks for the comment.

  3. I often think about solitude, not so much anxiety…Perhaps it’s because of the anxieties that I think of solitude on occasion!
    Looking for to your further reflection on this Father.

  4. Laura

    For some, anxiety is an automatic response to certain stressors and, for others, an automatic response to life in general. But overall I think that we have much more of a choice in our reactions than we give ourselves credit. In fact, it’s one of the only things we can choose. It’s everything ELSE that we can’t control. Approaching life with the acceptance of what will come and the trust that God will lead and protect us–and do so better than we can ourselves–has the power not only to help us choose a reaction of peace and certainty but even the power, I believe, to change ourselves from being automatically anxious to automatically calm. It’s not a novel idea, but I think that that attitude can only be acquired through prayer and only perfected through ceaseless prayer. If our humble awareness of God is always on our hearts and in our minds, if we do “everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving,” then it is only natural, I think, that we will at all times know and be guarded by “the peace of God which transcends all understanding.”

  5. An excellent book on this is “Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart” by Fr. Jacques Philipe.

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