Anger, Angst, and Anxiety
My Journey Through the Shadows with Julia
By Richard J. Loebl, LCSW, BCD
One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light,
but by making the darkness conscious.
As a practicing psychotherapist, I’ve treated people with anxiety disorders, anger management problems, and general angst for almost 40 years. (Angst is not a formal diagnosis. It’s a condition I see in many of the people I work with. Angst includes anxiety and worry, along with frustration, irritation, and negativity.) One reason I’m an expert in these conditions is that I have suffered from them myself.
Recently, a trusted friend suggested that I talk to Julia. He told me that she helped him with a relationship problem. He explained that Julia is a gifted spiritual guide and a Jungian therapist. I wondered how my friend knew that I was struggling with anger, angst and anxiety. It doesn’t really matter. I called Julia (“just out of curiosity”) and I could tell right away that she knew me (even though we’d never met). We met together for 10 sessions over a period of 3 months. Today I feel better than I’ve felt in months – less anxious, less angry, and the days seem brighter and more colorful now that I’ve passed through the shadows.
I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.
Who looks outside dreams; who looks inside awakes. Carl Jung
A word about shadows: Julia is a Jungian therapist at heart. Carl (C.G.) Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist (1875-1961) who had a lot to say about angst, anger and anxiety. He said the most troubling parts of us tend to hide in the unconscious mind or self. We often deny – or we don’t identify with – dark, “negative” personal traits (even though they often drive our emotional lives and our actions). Anger, angst, anxiety and depression are among the least desirable aspects of our personalities – so they hide in the shadows. And the more we remain unconscious and hide from our shadow selves, the more angry, anxious and depressed we become. Jung once said that “What we resist persists.”
We tend to deny and minimize our negative traits. As a result of this denial, we become angry, and we judge and blame others (this is referred to as “projection”). Carl Jung said that “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to a better understanding of ourselves.”
We worry, obsessively ruminate about our problems and fears, and develop anxiety disorders and physical problems associated with all of this stress. We also judge ourselves, feel like victims, and suffer from “depression”. I’ve observed these patterns hundreds of times in clients, family members, friends… and in myself.
We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.
Julia guided me through the shadows (my shadow traits), into the light of consciousness, acceptance, and self-love. The process of letting go of anger, angst and anxiety is actually fairly simple, and include several necessary steps.
1. Identify “negative” thoughts. The process of journaling all of my negative thoughts every day was emotionally painful – and very revealing.
2. Use mindfulness techniques for self-awareness, internal calm and balance, and to keep negative behaviors in check.
3. Review your life “story”. Helps to be clear about where all the negative thinking comes from (along with shadow traits).
4. List positive and negative traits of parents and other influential people during childhood. We learn, and in other ways “inherit” these traits growing up.
5. Identify the shadow traits that drive negative thoughts and behavior. Another painful process of recognizing and journaling about these traits every day. And very revealing.
6. Re-parent your inner child and affirm positive traits.
7. Practice every day (mindfulness, affirmations, self-love).
8. Observe and journal negative thoughts, negative traits, and destructive behavior.
9. Practice a specific method for fully experiencing and then releasing negative feelings and thoughts, using mindfulness techniques.
10. Practice these methods every day, several times a day.
Our shadow traits are indelible aspects of our personality – they will always be with us. There are many opportunities in life to revisit anger, anxiety and angst. When they appear again, it’s simply a reminder of those parts of us that linger in the shadow – and another opportunity to practice bringing light into our lives, and to love the child within.
It all depends on how we look at things, and not how they are in themselves.
In gratitude to JC for introducing me to Julia, and to Julia for her insight and wisdom.