Anxiety’s presence is felt all around the world in various ways. Some openly admit to their war regarding anxious thoughts and feelings, while others hide in shame. Many have not even come to terms with how much anxiety has effected their thinking.
For some, anxiety is a battle that comes and goes, for others, it’s an everyday struggle. Many people who feel anxiety’s presence on a regular basis often fall into deep discouragement and even depression, because they can’t seem to find hope for their freedom. The discouragement leads to thoughts such as, “what’s wrong with me?”
In order to find some freedom, we often need to find out why we are struggling in the first place. What are some of the inlets of our life that continually allow anxiety to break in and have a voice? We can’t really overcome unless we begin sealing up those open access points, so we can walk in more freedom. Let’s look past the symptoms of anxiety and look closer at what can cause anxiety
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Why We Struggle with Anxiety
Melissa: The biggest for me, I would say, is I think that it was something that is just in my family. The way that we talk about things, the way that we maybe look at things because there’s been a history of maybe things not going right or a lot of hurts and a lot of pains. There becomes this way that we talk and share about life, about … Was it last week we joked about even kids being sick? All the sudden this fear takes you on for size because it’s another thing to wipe you out. Be careful. Just see what’s going on at the local whatever. We got to be careful when you go out. You never know. Then these emails come through. Hey watch out. There’s a new scam going on to take women’s purses at the gas station. Then you get on the phone. Did you see that … It’s definitely passed down in our family but it’s just the way we seem to talk about everything, too.
Mark: The family issue is huge because pretty much every person I’ve dealt with in the subject of anxiety, there is a family aspect to it where it runs in the family genetically. We’re seeing that’s where issues get passed down in the family line. They increase and increase. The family culture reinforces it. That’s something that we see in both the concept of nature and nurture, that whole discussion that goes on. Which causes more? It’s a combination of both working together where yes, it’s there and then it’s reinforced in the family discussions, how we sit at the dinner with each other, how we talk to each other. I find that the propensity to fear is right there.
Melissa: Oh, it’s huge. It’s funny. We’ve looked at that in our own lives as we’ve processed through our healing in this area, but so many people that we meet when we start to … We like to do intake of people’s story and their life. A lot of the time, people just need to get their life story out, which is so helpful. As you start to uncover and unwind, “Hey how did your mom process things?” “She was always a nervous wreck.”
Melissa: We use that. “She was always a nervous wreck.” Okay, she had a lot of anxiety. She had a lot of fear. It is amazing, too, we don’t really … There is not a lot of the times where I can hear people saying … I think we recognized that a lot in the mom because the women are more outward in how they express things.
Melissa: Maybe you can speak to that, too, regarding even the men and the fathers that when you start to unwind it and you go, “Well how did your father react to … ” Really, fathers had a lot of fear going on. They just maybe didn’t manifest it as demonstrative as a mother would.
Mark: Their anxiety manifested more as an anger, their frustration, their maybe rage episodes. They either go into where they’re just angry all the time or they go into some kind of addiction. Really, they’re just unsettled. There’s an unsettledness in their life that doesn’t allow them to take their peace. I know I’ve had to, in many layers of my life, deal with how I feel settled and how I feel secure in my life and who I am and not allow thoughts and coping mechanisms to take me into those other areas that the anxiety just wants to fuel.
Melissa: If I could just stay on this topic for a second because it’s just … I don’t know if it’s a God thought or my own obsessive thought, but … I am reading this book. It’s about vaccines. The big crux of the book is about the history of our country and the history of disease and all those things. The author does a really wonderful job of walking through the history of things that happened in our country. I will tell you it is so sobering to me on so many levels of what has, for lack of better words, been passed down the generation because of what the previous generations had to endure.
Mark: That’s right.
Melissa: Not just in the level of disease but because that affected a lot, and people would die from just having an infection in their teeth back then. I’m talking 1800’s, early 1900’s. The amount of widows, the amount of … Even in the 1800’s there was an epidemic because doctors didn’t wash their hands. They had a massive problem of motherless homes. As I was reading this book, not just to get information on what the book is about, but it really started to open my eyes on to what has come down the pike, for a lack of better words, and how we process life and how we process things and the hurts and the pains. My goodness. Can you imagine back then all those families losing fathers and mothers so young, these little kids growing up, the amount … As I was reading the stories, I felt like I was sensing their fears. It started to make me think.
We’re very big on that. What has come down the generation? Even science has proven, we’ve talked about this on other shows, that memories get passed down in your actual DNA. Memories get passed down. They’ve studied this. This is not some spiritual thing I’m just throwing out at you. It’s actual science, too, that they’ve recognized this. How much of that in the hurts and pains that have come from previous generations of loss, of all of those things that they had no idea back then and the primitiveness of how they even lived, but that was still real pain even though they didn’t have the stuff we have access to today. That was still real pain. Am I getting too deep with this right now? I don’t know.
Mark: No, keep going. Keep going.
Melissa: There’s a big aspect of that that was very sobering to me of what we are carrying on us from the previous pains of our generation.
Mark: It’s true.
Melissa: I don’t know. Maybe I went too deep with that. I’m sorry. It’s just on my mind.
Mark: I think that … No. That’s a great point because we don’t realize a lot of that pain and stuff is just embedded in the network of our families. We’re at a responsibility now where we need to overcome what previous generations weren’t able to overcome. Here’s one of the problems that I think your story brings up is that one of the reasons we struggle with anxiety is we are doing everything we can to insulate ourselves from any pain and discomfort. We are … You talked about the subject of vaccines, people dropping like flies from diseases. Now we live in a culture where it’s like, we’re so afraid of every disease.
We’re so afraid of everything and so we’re wanting to not just shelter, we’re wanting to bubble boy everything in our life and it’s causing us to be very, very easily bent towards living under fear’s affects, living more under, I’ll just say it like it is, a lot more like cowards than we are the brave sons and daughters of God that we were designed to be. We end up just constantly avoiding discomfort, moving away from pain as quickly as we can. We want to get comfortable. Anxiety is sometimes showing us that there’s more things we need to face that we’re not facing. We live, we’ve been trained to not take adventure. Most people work in cubicles and …
Melissa: Which is not a bad thing. It makes a good living. Don’t knock the insurance capital of the world over here.
Mark: I’m not knocking it.
Melissa: I’m kidding.
Mark: I sit at my desk and I’m typing on a computer for my writing and correspondence for hours and hours and hours. What I’m saying is we’re in cubicles with no sunlight, no exercise, no adventure, no sense of stretching. We’re in a safe little car in our safe little world going to our safe little fenced in home. There’s no sense of being stretched, being stretched out of our comfort zone, meeting new people, going new places, having new adventures. Sometimes, people have anxiety over issues … I don’t want to say this in a demeaning way or in a shame filled way, so I want to be careful. We’re having struggles with things we wouldn’t have if we lived a life that would just stretch our comfort zone, if we were just always going, “You know what? I’m going to step into this new arena.” We insulate ourselves. Sometimes …
Melissa: So we don’t have to feel pain.
Mark: Then sometimes just everyday things where people come into my office and they’re having panic attacks of just doing simple tasks. It’s multifaceted. I’m not just narrowing it down to one reason. Usually, anxiety has multiple reasons why we’re struggling, so we have to find our way through it. I like to ask people, “Where’s the adventure in your life? Where’s the discovery? Where’s the new things? Where is the new challenges that you’re facing? Are you moving more towards the fear or are you constantly, every time it works, you retreat and you back down?”
That’s one of the things we have to retrain when it comes to anxiety is we have to start learning to lean into what makes us anxious to discover there’s a place there where I can build my confidence if I will go through the process of overcoming it. If we’re not taking that vantage point … If your goal is just to feel safer into your hole, into your insulated world, then you’re always going to struggle because it’s just going to pin you in and pin you in, and your fear is going to grow and grow and grow. It’s only really until we face it. I think that that’s a big one. What else do you think is a big …
Melissa: We’ve talked about this a lot on past episodes, but I think that a big one is obviously traumas that people have been through where your physical body … I could … A simple one is like a car accident where then it becomes everything … Your body … Let’s say you even get into a car accident. This morning someone almost hit me, by the way [inaudible 00:10:49] school. It took me an hour to come off of that.
Melissa: If you’re someone that’s already prone to anxiety, now the enemy can get in there and now that thing can snow ball. How many people do we know that we’ve had to help who don’t even want to drive, don’t want to drive on the highway, don’t want to drive? There’s little things, I shouldn’t say little things like that, but things like that where traumas have happened in people’s lives and now because of that not being dealt with in a proper way, now there is a constant atmosphere.
Mark: I remember this morning when I went to the dentist before we came in here to film today …
Melissa: Oh, speaking of trauma …
Mark: I remember when I was a little kid the doctor going and doing the cleaning with that little, that little thing that vibrates, that little [inaudible 00:11:38], I don’t know what it is. He went in [inaudible 00:11:41] right on the gum. Literally, as a kid, it did this [inaudible 00:11:46] where my whole body …
Melissa: That did it to me.
Mark: … shocked. Anyways, every time …
Melissa: Oh gosh.
Mark: … she goes in, there’s a memory recall of that event.
Melissa: Right, that’s what I’m saying.
Mark: I’ve learned to overcome that. I’ve learned to not let it own me, but my body does, because I’m not getting …
Melissa: Sorry about my [inaudible 00:12:02].
Mark: I’m not getting my teeth done every day. You only have once or twice a year opportunity to walk it out, but when it happens, it’s like, “Oh yeah.” It brings that recall back up.
Melissa: Do you know how many people don’t have self care of their teeth because they are afraid of doctors? That’s a massive problem.
Mark: Of dentists, yeah.
Melissa: Of dentists, of doctors. People don’t go … Do you know how many women I know that haven’t had a yearly exam in 10 years? That is not good because then it’s going into your not even taking care of yourself because of the anxiety.
Mark: There’s a fear …
Melissa: We could do a whole show on that.
Mark: There’s a fear from a bad experience. There’s a fear of …
Melissa: Even finding out something’s wrong with you. I don’t want to deal with that. If I have cancer, I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know.
Mark: We’re seeing that a big part of anxiety is we don’t want to face pain.
Mark: We don’t want to face hardship. We don’t want to face … That’s what it took for me. I would say one of the biggest areas that I had to come to terms with is I have to stop this passive approach of just wanting to avoid issues. The moment I started going, “That’s it,” and rolled up my sleeves and going, “Let’s do this,” I not only began to find leverage over anxiety, I found myself becoming way more confident in who I am and how to address situations.
Melissa: What about you?
Mark: I think that the pace of life is a killer for people right now.
Melissa: Huge. We could stay on this for the rest of the show.
Mark: If there’s a list of 10 things I’d like to help humanity with, one of them would be to help believers to push against the system of this world. When we think of do not be conformed to this world, we think don’t fornicate, don’t swear, be nice, pay your taxes. Sometimes we think we’re so shallow. When it says don’t be conformed to this world, one of the things I think of is the system of productivity and busyness and the buzz of just the next thing to do, the next thing to do, the next thing to do, the next thing to do. Everyday of your life, you need to have an armed response that says, “No. I’m not going to have my kids involved in 18 activities. I’m not going … ”
I don’t even care if your church has 18 activities. You don’t have to be going to all of them. You don’t have to be doing all of that. I think sometimes churches are just way too busy doing stuff that’s not really conducive to the core vision of what they’re doing anyways. Just being busy so we feel like we’re doing stuff for God and so then our busyness makes us feel like we have worth and value. It’s just nonsense. I think the pace of life causes us to live at a higher buzz of [inaudible 00:14:48] go, go, go, which then leads us to another problem, which is we are way over stimulated in our thoughts. How many of you, just in asking our listeners or our watchers, how many of you have time every day where you sit and think about nothing? Where you just give blank space to your day? I’m guilty of it. In the breaks in the action …
Melissa: The phone.
Mark: What do we do? Where’s my phone?
Melissa: Facebook is …
Mark: Pretend this is my phone.
Melissa: There you go. Tissue box.
Mark: We’re just …
Melissa: It’s so true.
Mark: You go into the elevator … I’m not knocking. I’m just, I’m not knocking. I’m there doing it with them. You go into the elevator and everyone’s like this, head down. Where I get frustrated, like today when I was walking out of the dentist or I was actually working to my office and there was a lady standing and she was on her phone just … I can tell it was social media because the flick of the finger, the flick of the thumb shows social media. You’re just [inaudible 00:15:50]. You’re just going through the feed. You can just tell. There’s nothing important. She’s just zoning out. I’m walking by and there’s no head up to acknowledge that a human being is walking by. That’s where I think we need to make some adjustments. I’m not one of those, “Put the phones down.” I’m not. Don’t get me on that train, because I’m not on it. I think that social media is a way people are finding to connect in ways we couldn’t before, so it’s great. I think that when it always overrides face to face interaction, I think that that’s where we need some adjustments.
Melissa: A lot of people have made parodies about it. There’s been the couple great Facebook videos made about just even the simple connection or when you’re laying in bed. Are you turning to your spouse and conversating or are you rolling over and Instagram and Facebook and all the social media sites are coming up? Then we wonder why when we wake up, we’re not rested or we have this just … I noticed for me when I get into those kind of ruts, I notice this tension across my chest where it’s like I’m just going from the next thing to the next thing.
Melissa: Making dinner, yeah. I know probably a lot of moms can relate to this. It’s like you go from making dinner to then you’re doing the dishes. It’s like you’re always on. Then when you collapse, you’re collapsing. I feel like I’ve got to catch up to the day. What’s going on in the world? We don’t have cable, so Facebook is our news source. It’s my newspaper. I go there and I kind of flick to see what’s going on and then it’s like, “Okay. Now get the kids ready for bed. Now do this. Now we’ve got to read. Now we’re spending … ” It’s like there’s always something going on and there’s this just, this slight tension. I’ve actually been very intentional on how I maneuver around our house. I would say for about the past year I was in go mode. Go, go, go.
Even when, now, there are days where I have to move to the next thing and the next thing, I am very aware of what I feel like and how fast I am doing them. I have become very intentional on how I even breathe through them, how I … The laundry needs to … I got to go get the … I got to change out the laundry. Nope, I’ve got to … There’s something on the stove. All those things that kind of just overwhelm you when you already have all of the other life stuff going on, being intentional about how my body is even interacting, because we can’t stop all of those things. People say, “Well that’s nice that you want to have peace all the time, but I have five kids. How do I stop?” I think there are little things that you can do in how you’re actually even engaging all of that, but we can get on that later.
Mark: Everybody has to find their way through this and what it looks like to have those moments. I think it’s revealed when we go to bed at night. We’re usually passing out. We’re not going to sleep, we’re just passing out. When our bodies are totally exhausted rather than landing into sleep, phones in hand, all those kinds of things that are going on. It’s just showing the whole anxious-ridden lifestyle. We want God to free us of our anxiety, but we don’t necessarily want to change our lifestyle. It’s like going to a fitness instructor and saying, “Can you help me lose weight,” but we don’t want to … You just want to do some weights and just still eat the same stuff. You don’t want to make the changes. We have to start making structural, lifestyle changes so that the enemy is not training us to constantly being geared up.
Melissa: Can I just say hi to Christina? Hi Christina. I want to acknowledge people that follow us because a lot of people are just very supportive, so Christina and Dove, so thank you for hi on Facebook.
Mark: Great to see you guys on the feed.
Melissa: Any comments, let us know. Thank you.
Mark: Please share this with your friends. I want to get to the one that I think is critical. It’s really the primary reason fear has a work in our hearts to begin with, and that’s the issue of safety, has the issue of feeling safe, has the issue of feeling loved, has the issue of how to we feel a sense of someone’s got my back and I’m okay. It comes out of first John chapter four which says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear because fear involves torment. He who fears has not been made perfect in love.” It gives us not only the root cause but the antidote for helping us to resolve every form of unease and anxiousness and fear and worry and panic attacks and even helping us get healed from PTSD or obsessive thinking or just in our thoughts in general. Love has to have it’s perfect work, but I think love needs to be panned out and discussed and what it looks like and what it feels like because otherwise, this love just becomes a generic kind of term.
When I think of love, I think of safety. I think of protection. I think of a sense of acceptance. I don’t have to achieve, perform. I don’t have to do to be able to feel a sense of belonging. I’m safe. That all gets developed in our younger years of how we feel, how we were trained in our identity, how we were trained in our security and our sense of esteem and how we feel about ourselves. Then it also moves into the cultivation of thought. I would say that the average believer that I talk to, and I have quite the myriad of different backgrounds of people that I talk to and interact with, do not have a heart connection to the love of God. It is a theory and not a personal discovery of application of engagement in their life. I think that’s going to be the prominent area you need to delve into to learn what it means to heal your heart and also to be restored, and what it means to connect to his love.
Melissa: I think that that’s really the driving force of really everything that we talk about and do.
Mark: That’s right.
Melissa: As you were talking, it’s making me think about as a child, one of my very, actually the first real memory I have as a child is one of fear. Actually, I was just sharing this with my dad last week because we were talking about things, which I had … Whenever I have a moment with my dad, it’s so awesome and I get these windows with him and we just … I had a lane and we can share and talk and I’ve worked very hard to get to that point in my life with him. It’s really great. I shared this with him last week because I wanted to help him understand some pains that I had had. We’re at this journey in our adulthood of he’s trying to understand us and he wants us to understand him, which has been really cool. I shared with him my very first memory as a kid and it was of fear. My parents had been divorced and my mother had moved us to a different state and a neighbor had come out and I must have been playing in her weeds or whatever it was. We were living in a condo complex and she came out and she screamed at me.
The one big thing that I remember about that moment is that I did not feel safe. I felt my whole world was open to any … I had no clue what was going to go on in my life and I think … I was six years old. That’s been my point to go back to because not only do I remember that fear and remember feeling so unsafe, I remember what my physical body felt like in that moment. My father wasn’t there. My mother had taken us. She didn’t have the language and understanding to walk us through what we needed to at that time. That is then what the imprint was for me to then move forward in my life and deal with a lot of things. Now, I’m sure there was a lot of other things and all that, but that … When I think back to where did fear begin in my life? Where can I kind of go back to? It was as a kid. It speaks so much to what you’re saying about we need … Really our first encounters with our parents and how are they showing us love? How are they speaking to us about our fears? That is how we are trained up.
Mark: That’s right. We need to invite God into that to heal that, restore the image of that.
Mark: To lead us into what does love really look like? Our anxiety points are actually places to remind us to go into discovery of greater love. I’ve mentioned this many times. It’s even in my fear anxiety training that I have, which you can find on our website. It is something that was very helpful for me that when those feelings were coming up inside of me, I began to retain my thinking to, “Oh, I don’t feel perfected in love.”
Mark: I changed …
Melissa: We really want to help people get that.
Mark: I changed my language. I changed my language from, “I’m anxious,” to, “Oh, I need to be more perfected in love.” Wherever I’m at, I don’t feel safe in my world. I watch the news and I don’t, I’m anxious. I go, “I need to be perfected in love.” I changed my focus into what the real problem is versus I’m anxious, I’m anxious, I’m anxious, I’m anxious.
Melissa: Keep giving that attention. One thing that we do in our house to cultivate that when each of us may be individually are going through that is we go, instead of, which I used to do … I would just take it internal and I would isolate and I would either sit on the couch and go through Facebook or get busy with the kids or get something else to do because you can always find something at home to do. I then turned to Mark or he to me, “I need physical touch. I need you.” Recognizing that in those moments that we need that from each other, that that is really what’s going to help to fill me and calm my body is receiving love, receiving love from you or God.
Mark: Then to tag into people that are listening that are saying, “I don’t necessarily have a person near me.” Maybe you’re single or maybe you live alone. At the time, when I discovered this, we were not married. We were dating, but what I use is I use those anxious triggers as a signal. For example, if I’m anxious and I’m going to a gathering of people, it’s a signal of I’m going to use this as an opportunity to learn what it means to feel safe around talking to other people. I’m going to learn that. I can’t just get it and then do it. I have to learn this … Most walking out is learning it in real time, learning it as I’m going. We can’t just in a class get the information and then we get it and then we live fear free. No, I’ve got to take it and I’ve got to live it out so it gets into the cells of my being and I become more convinced in who I am that I’m safe in the love of God.
Melissa: So good.
Mark: Excellent. We hope this has been a help to you. I just pray that this discussion will help you around maybe the dinner table, around your friendships to start having more discussions about not only what’s going on, maybe have more discussion about what causes it. Maybe you can add some of your own thoughts to the comments section, which you can do on our website. You can use our social media platforms to add to the discussion as well. Then to also lead into encouraging each other to face your fears and to talk this stuff out and encourage people to live as true over-comers as the book of Revelations speaks of, “To him who overcomes. There’s many blessings available to those who take the route of the over-comer.” You don’t have to be a victim to this. You can be an over-comer. We’ll continue this, actually we’re go another episode next week and talk about it some more. We pray this has been a blessing to you.
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