The Paula Gordon Show

"People react differently to anxiety depending on personalities and biology. But we all react. Anxiety is wired into the nervous system," asserts Robert Gerzon in this conversation with Paula Gordon and Bill Russell. And today's world -- justifiably -- is a very anxious place. New technologies and new economic realities combine with new requirements to create our own realities without the guidance and constraints social customs once provided. Mass media and advertising heighten anxiety worldwide -- "News commentators are society's Anxious Chatterboxes and all advertisements are designed to arouse your anxieties, then provide you with a product that will relieve that anxiety."

So it's no wonder 45,000,000 Americans suffer from chronic, clinical anxiety.  The surprise is only 1 in 5 get help.  So what's the good news?

Robert Gerzon has found when we work with anxiety, embrace it, and are conscious of it, anxiety can be a powerful source of energy and enlightenment -- energy that comes from our awareness of being alive, of being conscious.  "Anxiety is the shadow cast by consciousness," Gerzon believes.

We can channel the biological responses we have to anxiety. First, learn to distinguish "natural" and "sacred" anxieties from "toxic" anxiety. When anxiety is negative -- "toxic" -- and we are not conscious of what is happening, it becomes destructive.  Gerzon believes toxic anxiety is the root of dysfunctional behavior, addictions, abuse, and self-sabotage.

"Our evolutionary task is to become conscious of what biological mechanisms anxiety triggers and mediate them. Become conscious of what has been unconscious up until now."

The key is awareness.

"Identify your own Voice of the Anxious Chatterbox, the voice at the back of your head when you're awake, in your dreams during sleep. Then practice "THE Way to Think." T=Truth.  Tell yourself the truth -- the highest truth, not just a replay of old tapes. H=Happy. Take care of yourself emotionally. Once you tell yourself the truth, why not put yourself in the best light? E=Effective. Inner-talk should help you get the job done, not waste your time in speculation, criticism and negativity.

"Face life's big questions -- Who Am I?' and What's the purpose of my life?' Feeling anxious may indicate we need to change something. The best antidote to anxiety is to learn to love life unconditionally."

Robert Gerzon

ROBERT GERZON is a practicing psychotherapist, lecturer and author of Finding Serenity in the Age of Anxiety, published by MacMillan-USA (URL: He is a licensed mental health counselor and a member of the American Mental Health Counselors Association with a background in psychology, holistic medicine, philosophy and spiritual studies. Gerzon holds an undergraduate degree from the University of California - Berkeley and a master’s degree from Antioch University. His “Mastering Anxiety” program is offered to medical and educational centers nationwide. He lives with his wife and children in Concord, Massachusetts.


Conversation 1

Robert Gerzon describes the biological, social and cultural roots of today's "Age of Anxiety" in conversation with Paula Gordon and Bill Russell.  "Todays' many ambiguities leave us ripe for anxiety. We're witnessing evolution in action." Our culture no longer provides answers to fundamental questions. For the first time, we are creators of our own lives and reality. We must learn to accept the challenge of today's ambiguities. Fundamentalism results when people cling to overly simple answers from the past.

Conversation 2

We are obliged to ask "Who am I?" and "What's the purpose of my life?" throughout life, questions which (appropriately) raise "sacred anxiety" which enhances our humanity. Technology originally helped people reduce the "natural anxiety" about surviving. Now technology increases anxieties.

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is a story of humankind's leap to consciousness.  It also describes consciousness' "shadow" -- anxiety. No longer a survival mechanism, anxiety responses -- surging adrenaline, elevated heart rates and blood pressure, rapid breathing -- are now triggered by day-to-day challenges. Today's evolutionary task is to become conscious of what biological mechanisms are being triggered, then mediate them.  We must become conscious of what has been unconscious.

Conversation 3

The problem of anxiety began with consciousness and can be solved by consciousness. Consciousness allows us to create a model of reality in our minds. Gerzon believes "Original Sin" was misusing the gift of consciousness and is described in the story of Cain, who killed his brother Abel rather than confronting his own "sacred anxiety" over God's displeasure.

The world is, in truth, anxiety producing. 45,000,000 Americans suffer from chronic, clinical anxiety.  Only 1 person in 5 gets help.  Gerzon sees anxiety at the root of most dysfunctional, addictive, abusive and self-sabotaging behaviors. "We react differently to anxiety, depending on personalities and biologies.  But we all react. Anxiety is wired into the nervous system.   When we are conscious of anxiety and work it, we can channel it and use it as an energy source. Consciousness both makes us anxious AND allows us to be enlightened."  Practitioners in meditative traditions use "sacred anxiety" to be more alive in the moment.

Conversation 4

The conversation turns to anxiety in the world of work and business. Gerzon sees rapidly changing technology and increasing commercialization responsible for much of today's workplace anxiety. Money is more and more important to many people who tie their sense of security to money. Whatever the context, Gerzon suggests we sort out the different kinds of anxiety, then confront our anxiety appropriately, not toxically. Identify the voice of your own "toxic anxiety" -- the "Voice of the Anxious Chatterbox." It's what we hear in the back of our heads when awake, in dreams when asleep. Learn ways to deal with the Voice, whatever your early conditioning.  Protect yourself from other people's negative chatter -- gossip and rumor.  Don't repeat it to yourself or others! Respond positively to negativity.  And always tell yourself the truth.  

Gerzon proposes "THE Way To Think."  T = Truth. Tell the truth. H = Happy.  Take care of yourself, emotionally. Once you're telling the truth, put yourself in the best light. E = Effective.  Use your inner-talk to help get the job done.  

After banishing "toxic anxiety." liberate "natural anxiety's" energy to cope with real problems. "Sacred anxiety" will help you do what you can do and let go of the rest, recognize your limits, resist trying to control the uncontrollable.

Bill Russell returns to the importance of reducing toxic anxiety fed by rumors in the workplace.   He reminds listeners that memory plays tricks. Simply repeating what's untrue gives rumors and gossip the appearance of reality.  One can exercise modest control by stopping rumors and gossip. Gerzon sees rumors as one way people deal with anxiety, creating scapegoats.  He notes the central importance of honest communication. "Feeling anxious may indicate we need to change something."

Conversation 5

The enormous anxiety found worldwide is justifiable. New technologies and new economic factors are disrupting traditional lives everywhere. Ethnic conflicts and conflicts between rich and poor are legitimately major causes of anxiety.

Gerzon offers techniques to deal with "Fight, Flight, and Freeze." Losing contact with what's natural around us leads us to be out of touch with what's natural inside us. "We pride ourselves on being efficient with our machines, but how many of us make time to sit around talking with friends?"

On the personal level, we can begin to reduce anxiety in our own lifestyle. Reduce caffeine intake. Be aware of your own "inner talk." Be aware that mass media and advertising play a major role in generating anxiety. "News commentators are society's Anxious Chatterboxes. All advertisements are designed to arouse your anxieties, then provide you with something that will relieve the anxiety."

Conversation 6

Using anxiety appropriately is an important survival skill for 21st century. "Better to be anxious about finding life's purpose than to be anxious about finding a parking place."   Awareness is the key. Learn to listen to your anxiety, don't screen it off. Listen to what you are most afraid of. It can lead to a deeper serenity, a deeper understanding of yourself and what you want to do with your life."

All spiritual traditions focus on the need to overcome fear. Overcoming fear is what leads to growth. We can't experience fear and love at the same time and anxiety limits our ability to love. Gerzon suggests the best antidote to anxiety is to learn to love life unconditionally.

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