Over the Christmas break, I got tagged in a post of a group I am a part of that was considering the concept of “free-floating anxiety”. The person who had asked the question found themselves (and I’m paraphrasing) dealing with a ball of anxiety that never seemed to go away, and what’s more, there didn’t appear to be any reason that she observed in her riding and horsing life that gave the anxiety validity.
For any of us (and I know that there are many) who have experienced something similar, it can be a frustrating and bewildering experience. There we find ourselves fundamentally ok and yet there is a part of us that is… not. A fragmented piece of emotion circling and swirling through our orbit, broken off from the whole and yet influencing our responses and interactions.
When we lack context and understanding of what it is happening, it’s very easy to internalise our confusion and interpret it as a personal weakness or flaw.
This is ridiculous, we might tell ourselves, there is clearly nothing wrong!
…and yet our body screams at us a very different set of experiences and understandings that ultimately have the upper hand.
Anxiety- or any emotion- that appears out of place, random or decontextualised is typically the product of traumatic stress. It doesn’t make sense to us logically because its origins lie outside of our conscious awareness. The story of how the anxiety came to be is not stored in our logical mind, but in our somatic and interoceptive nervous systems, and as a consequence, the entire experience feels disconnected. It follows then that the triggers that would cause the anxiety to surface lay outside our conscious awareness also.
I use the word “integration” a lot in my work and this is a beautiful example of why it’s so important. When we have a seemingly disconnected part- in this instance the “free-floating anxiety”- we can only metabolise the energy that’s present when it is integrated. And in order to integrate the energy, we need skills that will allow us to ground and centre in the midst of it so that the intensity of the experience doesn’t become bigger than our body and pull us into survival mode as a result.
So in essence, anxiety that apparently doesn’t make sense is only confusing to your conscious mind. To every other part of you, its appearance is a valid and necessary part of completing whatever unfinished energetic business caused it to arise in the first place.
I have a couple of podcasts on this topic if you want to dive more into the “behind the scenes understandings”- you can check them out here:
Have you ever had any experiences similar to the above? I’d love to hear about them!