Episode 1. Anxiety
Anxiety – be it rational or irrational – paralyses many a life. What causes it? What impact does it have? How can we get over it? And how can Jesus help? All questions that I’ll be asking experienced Christian counsellor – Bob Silberman. Well, something a bit different on the program this week because we’re […]
Anxiety – be it rational or irrational – paralyses many a life. What causes it? What impact does it have? How can we get over it? And how can Jesus help? All questions that I’ll be asking experienced Christian counsellor – Bob Silberman.
Well, something a bit different on the program this week because we’re going to be joined by a special guest, a long time friend of mine, Bob Silberman. Now Bob’s an interesting guy because years ago when I met him he was a teacher in the burgeoning field of electronics. It was a long time ago but after many, many years of training and practical experience pastoring Churches he now has a very busy counselling practice.
Now, I thought it would be really interesting to ask him this week what are the top 5 reasons that people come to see him? I mean why do people come and see a counsellor? So I rang him a few weeks ago and posed that question and he came back to me and said, “oh that’s easy, the top five reasons that people come to see me are these.”
Firstly anxiety and depression, fear, problems in relationships and finally addictions. I guess none of those are too much of a surprise for us so then I thought to myself, ‘What if we were able to see those from a different perspective – from Bob’s perspective – sitting, as he does, day after day listening to people, helping them through their problems?
So we managed to get him in the studio and we’re going to be talking through each one of those five reasons on the program this week, starting today with anxiety. So Bob, welcome to the program.
Bob: Thankyou. Good to be here.
Berni: Anxiety, is it a big thing? I mean is it number one on the hit parade with people?
Bob: Certainly is. We get more people with anxiety coming into the counselling centre than we do with any other disorder. If you’d like to describe it as a disorder.
Berni: Really, so what’s a picture? What exactly is anxiety?
Bob: We’re designed to have a little anxiety, it’s been given to us by God as a means of protecting us. Interestingly if we have a large tiger or lion running at us we’ve got to decide whether we fight it or we run and what happens is that our whole physiology, that’s our body systems, get us ready to either fight the tiger or the lion or run. In daily life we get stresses that cause us anxiety and those stresses can be very intense and so people get anxious. Hopefully throughout the day they resolve their anxiety but for some folk it just goes on day after day after day.
Berni: So what sort of things cause the anxiety?
Bob: Life stresses are probably the primary cause of anxiety because we all live in a very stressful society. I was speaking with someone the other day about the life stresses that they’re experiencing and we were talking about the time demands that are now on people. You’ve got to get it done by this time, you’ve got to be here by that time. And they find that very stressful, the demands from others, “I want this project completed by yesterday” type demand.
Berni: And I guess in today’s world too we used to be able to hide behind the mail and then someone invented fax machines and now we have emails and mobile phones and SMS’s so the time has become compressed hasn’t it?
Bob: Significantly and that demand of communication actually puts a lot of pressure on people.
Berni: One of the things I realised when I started using public transport was I really like public transport because it builds short delays into my day. I have to stand at the bus stop and wait for 10 minutes for a bus to come which, at the end of the day, is not a bad thing.
Bob: But isn’t it sad when we see most people turning their mobile phones or their technology on and spending their time on the technology rather than just stopping and thinking.
Berni: Absolutely. Yeah absolutely. I was walking around the park near my place and in the morning it’s a beautiful morning and the birds are singing and people are walking around on their mobile phones.
Bob: Correct and so that’s a constant stress and people build up over time a level of anxiety which normally resolves itself but that can cause a high level of anxiety, it can cause an actual physiological change, that is a change in their nervous reactions.
Berni: So how does in manifest? How does it come out? What happens to people when they’re suffering from anxiety?
Bob: It affects their whole responses to everything. Often in an extreme case they become shaky, their vision blurs, they become distressed by the littlest triggers and they literally can’t function very well.
Berni: Oh, and this is the number one on the hit parade?
Bob: It appears to me to be the case.
Berni: Wow, that’s amazing. I guess you could say in some cases anxiety is irrational, would that be true? If you look at it in an objective way you could say well it’s not reasonable to get anxious about those things but I guess it doesn’t matter whether it’s rational or not, my perception is my reality.
Bob: A lot of it’s got to do, I think, with people’s expectations of themselves or other people’s expectations of them. I can’t help but thinking of Jesus talking to Mary and Martha in the kitchen, very anxious about making sure that He was properly cared for and she comes to Jesus and complains about Mary’s lack of activity. Jesus challenged her and said, ‘Martha, Martha, try not to be anxious. Mary’s doing the right thing, she’s sitting and talking to me and listening to me.’
Berni: And she’s chosen the better thing.
Berni: Yeah okay, so what helps? I come to you and I’m suffering from anxiety. I’m anxious about this and I’m anxious about that, it churns around in my mind all night and all day, I can’t put it down. What sort of things are going to help me deal with anxiety?
Bob: The first thing I do with people is try to help them relax and I try to point out to them that it’s good to build some kind of relaxation method into their living. So I teach them simple methods of relaxation.
Berni: Like standing at the bus stop not talking on the mobile.
Bob: Of course but I also teach them simple breathing techniques so that they breath properly. Let me explain, when we get anxious what happens is we tend to shallow breath and our system becomes alarmed at that and so we can teach people to breath properly, deep breathing, lots of oxygen, it does calm their systems down. Then the next step is to begin to look at the things which we psychologists call triggers. The things that trigger the anxiety.
And it might be all sorts of expectations of others or themselves. Last night I had a woman who came and spent some time with me and her issue is she’s a perfectionist and she can’t ever reach that level and she gets very anxious about her lack of perfection. This lady is a teacher and she sets such a high standard for herself that she struggles to meet that standard. She loves her children but she’s so critical of herself.
Berni: Do people suffer from anxiety over expectations of other people as well?
Bob: Often. Sometimes children and I’ve treated children who are quite anxious about what their parents expect of them. I often treat husbands and wives individually about their stress associated with what their partner expects of them.
Berni: Now Bob I know you’re a Christian, you’ve pastored quite a few Churches, what practical solutions does Gods word have? What does God say about anxiety, if anything?
Bob: Well to me God gives the answer because He says, “Trust in me. Put all your cares in my hands. Trust me and I will help you through this.” I know He recognises that we can be anxious but He also says put our trust in Him and He will give us the answers.
Berni: I guess for many people that’s easier said than done.
Bob: Of course but where do we find that comfort except in His word and in prayer and it’s supported by fellowship of other Christians. We need other Christians to share that fellowship and to be able to talk in human terms about what we’re experiencing and then spend time praying together.
Berni: That’s awesome.