Truth About Anxiety About Politics

Here’s the latest from Practicing Mental Illness:

Anxiety depends on distortions of the truth, or outright lies. In my book Resilience: Handling Anxiety in a Time of Crisis I write that anxiety exists at the intersection of uncertainty and belief. It is when disruptive conditions, either within us or in our community, collide with what we thought we were sure of that questions become untenable and anxiety results, taking root deeply in our bodies and minds and causing suffering that can make life inordinately difficult.

Like many writers I focus on the inaccuracies we tell ourselves about ourselves and offer ways to find the truth, and the falsehoods, in our self-talk. Often this is enough to free ourselves of the terrors and panic of our most anxious moments.

This year, however, the collision between uncertainty and belief swirls around us as well as within us. In the midst of a pandemic, when we should be coming together to meet challenges and build communities, deep political divisions drive us into competing camps and set us one against the other. Many of the underlying causes of the deep anxiety that many, if not most of us, feel are in the political climate we face this fall. And as with the inaccuracies we tell ourselves about ourselves, this external needling of our sense of security is fueled by lies.

As Gleb Tsipursky and Tim Ward tell us in their book Pro-Truth: A Practical Plan for Putting Truth Back into Politicswe can no longer be sure of the veracity of the messages that come from the people and institutions we have long relied on as stable, constructive, positive and functional. The leaders we once looked toward to set the national mood have failed us through spinning webs of lies that leave us with contradictory messages about the unique challenges we face this year. The result is a collective anxiety that erodes our dependence on one another and leaves us insecure, as uncertainty swirls about us and results in the deep illness of anxiety.

A corrective to anxiety is to ferret out the truth, both inside and out, and settle into a self-assurance that can heal. Necessary to this is the exposure, revelation and correction of lies. We can do this to our internal narrative through careful contemplation and honest self-reflection. We can do this in society by investigating the things we are told that just don’t seem right, or that contradict the well-researched messages of science and others who investigate and report on the world we face today. But first you have to learn how to encounter, and counter, lies.

Tsipursky and Ward give us an exhaustive account of the types of lies scheming leaders tell us to further their agendas, even if those agendas run counter to truth and community interest. Their chapter on the illusory truth effect alone will be familiar to those of us who have to manage anxiety. We have long told ourselves such outright untruths about ourselves. We have practices of meditation, movement and meaningful work to correct them. Now we face the disturbance of meeting illusory truth in society as truth itself is distorted and people lose trust in each other.

Pro-Truth is not at all a book about anxiety. It’s about politics and societal problems. But it can be instructive as those of us who have struggled with anxiety face unreliability in the very society that supports us as we try to get better.

In healing ourselves we can improve ourselves and our society. We must encounter the lies that drive each of us apart or trap each of us in suffering as we face outright lies about the world in which we should be able to live well.

Tsipursky and Ward’s examination of the post-truth world can help us go a long way toward correcting the collective anxiety we feel. The information contained in Pro Truth: A Practical Plan for Putting Truth Back into Politics can help us address both the steps we must take to live honestly together and the steps we must take to honestly judge our leaders, and ourselves.

Celiac Disease and Bipolar Disorder

Links are being discovered between autoimmune disorders and mood disorders. It’s too soon to tell how one may influence the other, but there are some pretty startling comorbidities. For instance, people with celiac disease are 17 times more likely to have bipolar disorder than the general population. Read about it on the blog.

Meditation

I’ve been posting a lot of Zen stuff lately, but my roots are in the Benedictine tradition of the Catholic Church. While each emphasizes silent practice, both traditions have communal services filled with chanting. Whether it’s the Heart Sutra in Zen or the Psalms in the Benedictine tradition, the chants can be spiritually and viscerally stirring. Here’s a bit of Gregorian chant to practice with: