In part 1, https://thomaslarkin.ie/anxiety-how-it-works-part-one/, we saw how our inability to say no causes us to be overwhelmed. Overwhelmed means we are full. This is physics as well as psychology. When we are full we are in danger of drowning, and thus dying. This is our anxiety regarding the external world.
In part 2, https://thomaslarkin.ie/anxiety-how-it-works-part-two/, we looked at our internal anxiety, how we are already full. When assertiveness is squashed as a child, it becomes what Freud called the Super ego. The squashed assertiveness becomes anger or rage. And, as it’s not safe for it to go outside, it’s turned in at our self. We take out our frustrations in life on our self. This creates further anxiety unrelated to what’s happening externally. For the most part, this process is happening unconsciously.
Welcome to part 3. The deepest dimension of our anxiety is based on the above two and is how they came about: Our relationship with our parents. This process is also going on unconsciously and needs to be worked through in therapy.
When we can’t say no, we learned as a child that ‘I am not worthy of receiving help’, a sense of ‘not good enough’ is devastating in an adult. We also learned that ‘I have to cope alone’. Both of these add hugely to anxiety as we are insecurely attached. This insecure attachment makes us feel unworthy of help from others and unworthy of setting our own limits.
With secure attachment comes an imprint of ‘loveable self and responsive others’ that we take into life. When parents are inconsistent, the imprint is ‘not loveable self and unpredictable other’. When parents are rejecting, the imprint is ‘self not worthy of care and others don’t care’.
We literally don’t have enough substance, from a lack of parental love, to be able to say no. We are ‘the pushover’. Addressing this lack of substance, is the deep work of therapy and tends to be the roots of anxiety.