Wisdom of Anxiety by Sheryl Paul Book Review
Like many people, I have struggled with anxiety all my life. When I was a child I recognized it as my heart skipping a beat anytime I was in an uncomfortable situation or met with an emotional trigger. As I got older, the anxiety morphed into intrusive thoughts, self-doubts, constant worry and intense nervousness and confusion when in social scenes. My anxiety is my friend. She has been with me for a very long time. She let me know when I needed to retreat and be by myself, she let me know when I was hungry, and when I needed more comfort and stability. But as I got older, my anxiety began to betray me. When I had a new relationship, a new friendship, a new opportunity; my anxiety found a way to think me out of it. My anxiety was the root of my self-sabotage, my inconsistency, my moodiness, and my inability to show up in the ways I wanted to. Thus, I began to resent my anxiety. Like the Solange song, I tried “sleeping it away, dancing it away, eating it away…” You get the point. Yet, nothing would work. One night while meditating I felt the familiar feeling come over me. The increased heartbeat, the clenching feeling in my stomach, and the overall feeling of dread and worry. I got angry and frustrated thinking “How dare she come right now when I am trying to meditate?” And a small delicate voice (more like feeling) said back to me, “I am trying to tell you something.” It was at that moment I realized that my anxiety was not an illness or a condition, it was simply a symptom or as Paul says, “A messenger.”
I came across Sheryl Paul’s Wisdom of Anxiety from a book club that I am in. I finally committed myself to reading it and I am so glad that I did. During a time where the world is shaky and we are finding it hard to keep ourselves grounded on a day to day basis, Paul’s words are like a weighted blanket you want to sleep under every night. She speaks to all four realms of your being (body, feelings, mind, and soul). She demystifies our tendency to have dark and intrusive thoughts and our need for obsessive actions and rumination. Paul calls for sufferers of anxiety to befriend our longtime foe. She beckons us to go deeper than we have ever dug before, and get to the root of our fears and conditioning. Paul provides a perfect conjunction of philosophy, psychology, and spirituality. While reading this book, I felt like I was doing weeks’ worth of therapy. One big realization I made is how big of a role transition periods play in my life, and how I need to honor these periods instead of forcing myself through them.
Wisdom of Anxiety teaches that with every symptom, there is a deeper message. For example, she correlates the behavior of obsessive actions and rumination to the need for security. Thus, she prescribes that we find morning and night rituals that ground us and ignite our soul. She explains how anxiety is present when we are being signaled to pay attention to something happening at a soul level.
Anxiety is uncomfortable to say the least. But discomfort is always a sign of something else that needs to be addressed. When we are housing a soul that we are not tending to, we will begin to betray that soul by trying to appeal to the outside world. Thus, we develop anxiety when the soul is left unattended to for too long, when feelings are left to fester, when we do not have the tools to guide us through big emotions, when it feels like our bodies are shutting down, and when our minds are ruling instead of our hearts. In conclusion, Wisdom of Anxiety is the literary medicine for anyone who has battled with anxiety during anytime of their life. Whether you are prone to overthinking, worrisome and intrusive thoughts, negative thinking patterns, self-sabotage, or obsessive behaviors, this book is for you. It will provide you with a competent guide to building a friendship with your anxiety, and finally putting an end to the longtime feud between you and your soul.