by Dr. Ken Larsen
Dr. Wm. Glasser taught us about “total behavior”. His insight that our actions, our thinking, our emotions and our physiology are all interconnected helps us understand ourselves and one another. Each of the components of this total behavior have an impact on the other parts. My actions affect my emotions and my physiology, my thinking affects my actions and emotions. This helps us see that we are one integrated whole and not a separated collection of parts and pieces. They all work together as we move more closely to deeper mental health and happiness.
Emotions often get our attention, especially when they cause some discomfort. Depression and anxiety are epidemic in our culture and have victimized far too many of us for far too long. Our mental health is overshadowed by these emotional states. Our tendency is to look outside ourselves for the cause of our depression or anxiety. Sometimes we may need to look inside ourselves for the cause. Let me tell you what happened to me that brought this message home.
A couple years back I started to experience a very uncomfortable level of anxiety. It was what is described as “free floating anxiety” without any apparent cause. I was not facing divorce or foreclosure, my dog hadn’t died—any of these would foster some real anxiety. What I was feeling didn’t seem to have a focus, but it was very real. I was tempted to have one of my physician friends Rx some Xanax, but I decided to look elsewhere before asking for the Rx.
I had heard about “HeartMath” and was reading one of the books published by that organization. I turned to the section on “Anxiety” and I read that sometimes a physiological condition could cause anxiety. They specifically mentioned cardiac arrhythmia as a possible cause.
I made an app’t with my primary care physician and described the situation, especially the part about an arrhythmia. He scooted me into the room where they do EKGs and sure enough, the EKG readout clearly pointed to atrial fibrillation. This is a condition where the upper chambers of the heart are not working as they should.
Once this diagnosis was made, I was given the appropriate treatment and the anxiety slipped away.
I’m not saying I am totally free of anxiety. If I got a letter from the IRS, I suspect I would get a little uptight.
In our quest to enjoy more mental health and happiness, it is good to be aware that we are whole beings “fearfully and wonderfully made” with an amazing complexity to the way our parts and systems work together. It’s good to have this in mind if mental health and happiness become a bit elusive.