After more than 10 years of writing, I’ve written and re-written about a lot of topics. I’m sure I’ve written about the arising of fear after awakening, but I haven’t called it anxiety.
After a quick search engine check, my goodness, I’ve realized that a lot of people talk about spiritual awakening and anxiety.
So I might as well too.
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Because anxiety is very much in the vocabulary of the psychology and psychiatry worlds, let me be clear that what I’m offering is not a substitute for qualified psychological or psychiatric support. It’s not a substitute for mood-stabilizers, which can be necessary for some people and during some parts of their lives. Regular ole anxiety needs a lot of outside support to help people re-establish a healthy homeostasis.
What that means is the body is out-of-whack. It needs to be brought back into balance. When the body is making too much juju that makes someone feel scared all the time, they need help. Certain prescription medications when consciously used can provide that help along with therapy.
Additionally, the mind is probably involved in reinforcing fear responses. While meditation and other spiritual tools can ABSOLUTELY help with breaking patterns of anxious feeling and thinking, it’s always important to get support where it is necessary. Therapists, counselors, and other mental health practitioners offer that help. They should be embraced when needed.
With all that said, let’s talk about why anxiety arises for those who otherwise do not suffer from anxiety.
Anxiety and the Body
Also, before we dive into anything that is sounding spiritual, anxiety is a physiological experience. The body creates hormones, neurotransmitters, etc. along with physical reactions that we call anxiety.
That means that lifestyle and health choice also need to be looked at before we decide that anything spiritual is going on.
Because if, let’s say, your gut health is terrible that will have an impact on your mood as the gut helps produce serotonin which impacts how we feel. Apparently 90% of serotonin is made in the gut.
So be sure to really, really, REALLY investigate your lifestyle and health choices before deciding that this anxiety is spiritual.
Spiritual Awakening and Anxiety
Firstly, spiritual awakening and anxiety are two different things. Sometimes things get combined together that should not be combined. There are extensive online lists on spiritual awakening symptoms that combine ALL KINDS of experiences with awakening. This creates a lot of misunderstandings such as awakening is “doing” something to people.
Before I go any further, I want to be clear that I narrowly define awakening. On this blog, spiritual awakening refers to awakened energy that moves and transforms a person independently. This has nothing to do with what a person practices or believes. When this dam is burst, things are moving and changing on their own.
More commonly, spiritual awakening is expressed by people to mean some kind of change, but that’s really vague isn’t it? And for most people, the initial spiritual experience begins and ends in short order. Even if it lasts awhile, this type of experience is what I typically call a spiritual opening. It is often dependent on an external situation, person, and occasionally a substance, and it usually ends when the external situation changes. A person can have a spiritual opening at the level of the mind, heart, body, or energetic levels. They can have an opening at multiple levels at once.
Any spiritual opening can have a profound impact on the person, but that impact has everything to do with how a person interprets the experience. People can and do ignore spiritual openings all the time.
And sometimes, people interpret a powerful spiritual experience as a scary experience, and that creates a sense of anxiety.
Anxiety Disruptions and Physical Fall out
Any therapist or anyone with anxiety will tell you that fear itself isn’t the whole story. Anxiety greatly impacts how a person relates to others, sleeps, eats, and other things. Spiritual shifts where anxiety is either triggered or illuminated–meaning that it was already here–can cause a really nasty chain reaction.
For example, anxiety disrupts sleep. Bad sleep leads to chronic fatigue. Chronic fatigue wears on the body in different ways, and people often try to compensate with eating more, eating more sugar, using uppers including caffeine, and other things. A lot of serious physical problems can come from all of that.
So facing and resolving anxiety is a really big deal, and people are right to be motivated to want to address anxiety.
With all that said–and once again I’ll remind you about reaching out to mental health professionals if your anxiety is really bad–the following are at least 6 reasons that anxiety is experienced after a spiritual awakening.
1. Experiencing the Anxiety that Already Existed
People are amazing at numbing and distracting themselves. Then an awakening or significant spiritual opening breaks through the noise. Now, they see their experience for what it is. And if they get rid of some of their distracting tactics, they may be confronted by an immense amount of anxiety that had been buried under numbing practices and distractions.
Just for the sake of clarity, numbing and distractions can really be anything, but common ones include:
- video games,
- media of all kinds (like if you’re a news junkie–notice the term junkie),
- getting lost in parenting/focusing wholly on your child/children,
- work, and so much more!
Even the spiritual path can be used as a means of self-medicating and distracting.
Anxiety is particular bad with those who have had significant trauma, and it can feel unbearable without the numbing agents. Significant trauma are things like severe narcissistic abuse, sexual abuse, war PTSD, torture, and many other truly awful experiences. For those with such trauma, getting support from trained professionals is critical!
In short, what was being medicated is now more fully experienced. That means a person has to reckon with just how fearful they already are. This leads people into a time of reassessing who they are and if they need to find a therapist or counselor to start their inner work process.
2. Resisting Reality
A lot of fear comes up when people resist reality. On a certain level, there are a lot of things that we want to be true, but inside, we know aren’t true. We know when we don’t like the job we’re doing. We know when our best friend regularly lies to us. We know when our children aren’t doing well at school despite what they tell us. We know when we’re eating food that isn’t right for us.
Human beings are smart.
Unless we are trying to delude ourselves.
Then we are dumb. Ego-dumb.
Yet, early on after a spiritual awakening, a lot of people actively resist reality and make really dumb choices that perpetuate their suffering. They still want to believe their kids are doing great; their best friend is the best person in the world; and they love their job along with a bunch of other things. This creates a lot of frustration and anxiety that only is resolved by accepting the reality the person is in.
3. Confronted by Truths a Person Isn’t Ready for
Sometimes, a person realizes things that they aren’t ready for. For example, they may realize their insignificance in the vastness of all of life. For the little ego, this is terrifying!
This reason is different than realizing that your romantic partner doesn’t love you. That kind of realization that may evoke anxiety for some people is still in the resisting reality category. The person wants their illusion and wants to avoid the reality.
This category of anxiety is representative of a deeper anxiety. It arises in response to profound truths that a person may not just resist, but not even be able to intellectually and emotionally handle. This anxiety is along the lines of an existential crisis. A person’s fundamental understandings about the world have been broken, and the rush of terror a person can experience can be intense.
4. Resolving Unresolved Fears and Issues
People have a lot of unresolved fears inside of themselves. Much more than they know. This is different than already living in a high level of anxiety that needs all the numbing mentioned in section number one. This issue of unresolved fears and issues are experienced by most everyone after awakening that I’ve met, and this is an experience that includes people who have not suffered from anxiety or ever been particularly fearful. As such, this experience of anxiety is often extremely confronting for a stable, emotionally healthy person as they suddenly see this well of fear inside of themselves.
Why does this happen to emotionally healthy people and everyone else?
Throughout our lives, we have all kinds of moments. The ones we allow are experienced and released as they end. The ones we resist get stuck in us. We end up holding onto them. This is ironic because our resistance to fearful moments is actually an attempt to avoid them. However, it’s like shutting the doors on the annoying drunk guest at your party whom you want to throw out. She has no where to go, and she sets up shop inside your home for awhile. Sometimes years and decades.
Well, awakened energy kicks the doors down, and this drunk and many others are stumbling around finally moving towards the door. In this metaphor, they represent unresolved fears, and as such, that’s what the person feels. There’s no way around this. Unresolved fears are experienced as fear–that’s what they are. A person has to get used to allowing things to move through. As they do, this type of anxiety diminishes and disappears.
5. The Fear of the Unknown
Coming to wreck the party further is the fear of the unknown. No one going through a true awakening knows what is going to arise. Actually, we never know what is going to arise in life. In fact, this revelation could be one of the profound truths that someone has realized, but was not prepared for.
It’s very possible to have several of these sources of anxiety going on at once!
This reason for feeling anxiety, however, is purely reactionary. A person is scared by the experiences they’re having because they are new. And they may also be afraid of the fear they’re having.
Yep. There are now multiple levels of fear at work.
So things are mess, and it’s going to take some time and dedication to help a person get out of this kind of reactionary anxiety. As usual, surrender and acceptance of a new experience is critical. The person needs to accept their experience and let go of being afraid of the new experiences as well as letting go of being afraid of being afraid.
6. Transforming Density to Openness
I almost don’t want to write about this one because there’s a segment of the spiritual population that really wants to grab onto this idea of “high vibrational.”
Most of that is pure nonsense. It arises from egos trying to be special. Awakened energy and the path to spiritual freedom demolish egos. It’s a demolition project. All inner work is about cutting away ego and beliefs. It doesn’t make you special.
It reveals that you are nobody.
However, there is a quality of experience that feels like lightening the load. You feel more naturally open through this spiritual transformation. Part of that is just the density of tension.
Consider a closed fist. How dense and heavy does it feel compared to your relaxed hand? It’s the same hand. The weight hasn’t changed, but there is often a sense of lightness in the open hand compared to the closed fist. So this sense of becoming lighter–a light body–is in part a way of expressing resolved physiological tension.
But there are subtler things at work, and they need to be honored. However, early on when there is a lot of spiritual awakening anxiety at work, there are usually plenty of other things to attend to first. Attending to those others first tends to help a person surrender so that these more subtle anxieties resolve themselves.
Releasing Anxiety and Opening to the Truth
A spontaneous spiritual awakening comes when it comes. While there are ways to be prepared, no one is ever fully prepared. As I said, all of life is unknown, and the trajectory of how and when energy moves and transforms someone is beyond guessing.
But through surrender and doing the necessary inner work to let go of old attachments and unresolved fears, the anxiety does lessen. You do have to get to the root issues of things. This isn’t a superficial dusting of the book shelves. We’re tearing out walls and floors in this work.
With that clearing, the fear lessens. Eventually, it is even welcomed, but I won’t get into that for now.
Instead, I hope this blog post has offered you some pointers about what to do if you are experiencing anxiety after a spiritual awakening or spiritual opening. Be sure to follow the links in this post to go deeper and do what you need to do to break free of the fear.