States and Phases

Posted by on Jul 30, 2014 in Blog Posts | Comments Off on States and Phases

Phases or States

The physicist Andrea Sella points out that in physics and chemistry there is a tendency to use the word phase rather than state, which is to distinguish the possibility that there are structurally different arrangements of matter, such as in a solid, there will be orderly arranged atoms, in liquids there is more mobility and in gas the particles are further apart.  The different phases take place as a result of the varying conditions of energy and it’s interactions with the matter itself, such as with water, the conditions dictate the temperature of the water, through a whole range of states, from ice, to liquid, to steam, not ignoring all the subtle differences in between.  This theory of matter always being in a different phase dependent on the environment seems really relevant to me with regard to the function of anxiety.

I realised as I was listening to the physicist talk, that describing anxiety as a ‘state’, although preferable to an illness or disorder, seems too solid a description. What I have observed is the fluidity of the experience of anxiety, as it ebbs and flows, quickens and slows, softens and intensifies, based on what we are encountering or thinking.  The word state might imply something more ‘fixed’ rather than a responsive and active process going through many different phases on a moment to moment, reactive basis.

When I work with people they sit in front of me and before my eyes they experience shifts and changes, which are not fixed and solid.  Depending on how they, think, perceive and react to their experience, the set of physiological and emotional sensations that make up the phenomena that we call ‘anxiety’ is in constant flux.  This helps us to realise that the anxious experience itself is not something we need to be stuck in, it’s an experience to which we can bring about shifts and changes, as we learn to interact in ways that allow the solidity of the sensations to soften and dissipate, just as ice melts into water and then dissipates into steam as we alter the conditions that we impose upon it.   What conditions are you imposing upon the anxious experience right now?  Try bringing warmth, allowance, acceptance, just for a moment, and observe without judgement any shifts that may be beginning to take place now.  J