Breaking away from anxiety

A Christian Science perspective: The popularity of "The Hunger Games" and younger audiences' attraction to darker themes in entertainment may be a reflection of the anxiety some are facing about life and the future. Here are some insights on dealing with anxiety through prayer.

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The recently released film “The Hunger Games” is part of a growing body of dystopian entertainment for young people. This generation is reportedly attracted to stories that are in line with a grimmer, grittier sense of life. One analyst suggested that this taste is engendered by a lack of trust, and doubt in there being any stability or consistent principle to life (see CSMonitor.com, “Fantasy goes dark” Jan. 12).

All this reminded me of the struggles some teenagers have with anxiety and depression. They feel as if they’re living in a perpetual panic reaction to an ever-present possibility of disaster.

But fear isn’t unavoidable. In fact, it isn’t even our natural state of being. Though you can’t talk yourself into feeling secure, you can uncover your God-given spiritual sense of life, which removes crippling anxiety. It begins with an acknowledgment of God’s presence and power.

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Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote: “Spiritual sense, contradicting the material senses, involves intuition, hope, faith, understanding, fruition, reality” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 298).

More than a list of upbeat mental states, or “if only” possibilities, that sentence provides a working description of how to get out of the prison of fear, anger, and sorrow, which argues its own reason for being.

You might start with the thought “I’m trapped by circumstances,” but you have the right to consider whether that negative intuition is all there is to say. An honest answer to the question “Is that the whole truth?” is needed, not just a mental recycling of a secondhand set of doom-and-gloom images. This honest seeking reveals that our normal response is to look for something better. Humbly acknowledging that fact moves us from intuition to hope.

The impulse to seek solutions is a good one. But then the question becomes: In what are you placing your hope? It’s easy to be all over the Internet, picking up information about how others have experienced and dealt with anxiety disorders. The online consensus is that this isn’t something that just goes away. Strategies for managing the condition are varied, and none promise assured relief. The more you read, the worse it seems.

But there is a way out. Accepting chronic fear and despair as inevitable does not need to be the end of the story. The real need may be to take a break from staring at the symptoms and secondhand analyses of what’s going on and honestly think through a spiritual sense of things. Is there a reason to have hope?

I’m acquainted with a case of this kind, in which a young girl experienced times of trauma over a period of a few years. Her parents had been praying for her. One night her mother woke to find her rocking in a fetal position next to her bed. The answer came in an unexpected way. In the silence of the mother’s complete lack of any human answer to her daughter’s pain, she turned her thought to prayer and recognized that they were not alone, but that love was there with them. Not just the human love of parent and child, but divine Love – embracing them both and everything.

The mother knew in that moment that she could not be so taken in by powerful emotion to leave God out of her reckoning. However overwhelming the fear response seemed to be, divine Love was infinitely bigger. The spiritual sense of her daughter as held safe in Love brought a deep feeling of peace. In that same moment, the rocking stopped, and her daughter sat up and hugged her. That was the beginning of the end of those particular grim, dark attacks.And there has been no recurrence in three years.

We do have cause for hope. Spiritual sense, so natural and normal to us, has a way of breaking through and pulling back the veil of darkness to reveal a very present and palpable light. That light, so full of the power of Truth and Love, is God, and we are never outside His presence.

When you see that – whether through personal revelation or through rationally taking stock of all the good you actually do know of in your life and those of others – you make the jump from hope to faith.

What comes next is remembering that this is actually your standpoint – your reality check. The rest of Mrs. Eddy’s description of spiritual sense and the qualities it involves does indeed unfold in the real time of our experience, almost of its own accord. Understanding involves more glimpses of God’s qualities in the here and now. Fruition is the additional proofs of the presence of divine good. Reality is the kingdom of God, seen no longer as an unobtainable distant wish, but here and now.

Even if we feel far from the love of God, we can come back to the fact that spiritual sense does contradict the material senses and show us something better. We can embrace the process of recovering our God-given spiritual sense and trust it to bring us to a clear perception of divine Love’s presence and power.

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