Anxiety – ego’s shadow

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

In my practice, I treat many people for anxiety. Probably everyone has experienced anxiety at one time or another. Anxiety is normal in certain situations: when someone close to us experiences sudden, serious illness or if we have momentarily lost sight of our young child or if there is a terrorist threat.

However, many people experience anxiety over the ordinary events of life. I became curious about how we could understand anxiety from the perspective of ego and soul. It seems clear to me that anxiety is an ego reaction and it is based on fear. While in scientific terms, the opposite of an anxious state would be a relaxed state, in ego and soul terms, the opposite of anxiety is trust. I say this because when we experience anxiety, it is generally because we do not feel in control of a situation. We fear things will not turn out the way we hope and that we will experience loss, failure or embarrassment.

Ego, as we well know, has a mind of its own. It experiences the world in terms of good/bad, right/wrong win/lose and other polar opposites. It is as though for ego life is full of coin tosses and ego wants to win the flip every time. Statistically, this is impossible so ego must get to work in a variety of ways to get the outcome it desires. If the outcome is not guaranteed, ego begins to fret.

Not only does it worry about the outcome, but ego also conjures up all manner of consequences that would follow from an undesirable result. Hence, this kind of thinking ensues: “If he doesn’t ask me out, I’ll probably be alone for the rest of my life and I’ll undoubtedly struggle financially and end up a bag-lady,” or “If my child disobeys me when he is five, what will he be like at 15? He’ll probably have a bad attitude and get in with the wrong crowd. Then he’ll get into drugs and end up on the street.” This ego catastrophizing is a perfect formula for generating anxiety.

If we come from the perspective of soul, our world looks and feels different. Soul recognizes that our lives unfold and the circumstances therein form the curriculum of study for this lifetime. Things will not always go according to our plan. That would be too easy. Rather, life will surprise, disappoint, confound, dismay and puzzle us. Just when you think you have it all figured out, it changes.

We learn that we can either play it safe, sticking with the familiar, or we can take risks, try new things and stretch ourselves. The choice is not always ours. Unplanned occurrences can reshape us in ways we never dreamed possible. Sometimes the worst thing that could happen to us turns out to be the best thing that ever happened.

It is easy to see why this is a difficult, challenging and frustrating game for ego to play. There really are no rules one can count on. Ego only frustrates, worries and agitates itself trying to beat the system.

Soul, on the other hand, trusts the big picture. Soul accepts that life will be an interesting adventure and that we will win some and lose some. That does not matter so much as long as we are growing, learning, gaining wisdom and perhaps even enlightenment.

Soul patiently waits to see how long ego will struggle before figuring it out. Soul knows that ego only needs to surrender, in order to cease the struggle. When ego does surrender, life becomes calmer, smoother and more relaxed. Life is still what it was; life was never the problem. The difference is that ego has given up resisting the irresistible.

As for anxiety, the minute we surrender, release our attachments and trust in the flow of life, it disappears, for it was never real; it was only ego’s shadow.

Gwen Randall-Young is a psychotherapist in private practice and author ofGrowing Into Soul: The Next Step in Human Evolution. For more articles, permission to reprint and information about her books and “Deep Powerful Change” personal growth/hypnosis CDs, visit

Leave a comment