Anxiety. It’s a powerful force that can take hold of us and control every aspect of our lives. Anxiety, which is a form of fear, can be very sneaky. It often surfaces slowly, and before we know it, we feel anxious as we wake up and throughout the day. We often go to sleep feeling anxious and even experience heavy anxiety in our dreams. As the world becomes more unsettled and stressful, general anxiety and anxiety disorders are on the rise. Yet you don’t have to be at the mercy of anxiety any longer. You can free yourself of toxic anxiety by facing the root causes and adjusting your mindset and behaviors. Dr. Carla is joined by anxiety and empowerment expert Dr. Friedemann Schaub for a mind-opening journey into the heart of anxiety. Discover profound tips and tools for facing and healing the roots of your anxiety.
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Plagued by Self-Doubt, Anxiety, or Panic Attacks? Free Yourself from Fear with Expert Dr. Friedemann Schaub
Discover Tips for Using the Messages Hidden within Anxiety to Create Empowerment, Joy, and Freedom!
Anxiety, it’s a powerful force that can take hold of us and control our very lives. Anxiety which is an aspect of fear is very sneaky. It often surfaces slowly. Before we know it, we are anxious as we wake up, as we go through our days, and even anxious in our dreams. You can free yourself of toxic anxiety by facing the root causes and adjusting your mindset and behaviors. In this episode, we will focus on this reader’s real-life question. I used to be fairly easygoing, but I became increasingly anxious at home, work, and even in social settings. I now have to self-soothe mainly with alcohol to wind down and socialize. Is this normal? That question is the focus of this episode.
I’m joined by a very special guest Dr. Friedemann Schaub, who will be sharing his expertise on anxiety and empowerment. Welcome to the show. Dr. Friedemann, I’m so excited to have you. Before we get going, can you tell our readers a little bit about what makes you you?
One thing that I heard from this real-life question is something I didn’t have, which was easygoingness. I would say, “I lost my easygoingness very early in my life.” What made me me for many years was anxiety. I had a lot of anxiety. I saw it in many different ways and expressions, OCD and panic attacks. Control issues, feeling that you can only be loved and accepted if you are perfect, and all of those expressions of anxiety, I had them. I struggled with them.
It took me quite some time to address them in the first place because similar to that question, I also try to soothe myself with not-so-helpful methods. What I found about anxiety is that it does serve a bigger purpose, and so what makes me me is maybe that I love and I may be passionate about showing people that they don’t have to be afraid of their feelings. They don’t have to be afraid of their anxiety and start to befriend their emotions rather than fight them. Finding peace with ourselves because my name, after all, is freedom which means man of peace. It was put into my crypt that helping others and myself to be at peace is my destiny.
It’s such a beautiful introduction, so honest, genuine, and vulnerable. I have two questions for you about that piece. Did you know it was anxiety? When you were suffering from anxiety all of these years, at first, even as a child, were you aware it was anxiety?
It’s interesting because it’s not like anyone diagnosed me. It was more the symptom of, I cannot sleep before a test or I feel World War 3 going to break out if I didn’t straighten all the carpets. I feel my parents going to get a divorce, if I’m not praying 100 times to God. There’s this anxiety, my son, this is more like this is how I cope with that overwhelming feeling of being powerless and out of control. Since it was in the ‘60s and ‘70s, this was the way before children were put on medication or sent to a therapist, especially not in Germany in the Black Forest.
It was more like, “Let’s cope with this. Let’s live with this. You may be a little over-sensitive here,” than having any plan on how to overcome it. I lived with it successfully because I believe it drives me to new heights and new achievements and in some weird way like many people who have anxiety, they believe without the anxiety, I’m losing my drive. It wasn’t something I was fighting at that time. It was more like something I was suffering from and then trying to make myself feel better in all these different ways.
I have an extra question, but before that extra question, let me go to my second question and I hope it’s not too invasive. You said you had coping mechanisms that were self-soothing that weren’t so helpful. What were some of your coping strategies? For example, straightening the carpets, having a little bit of that. What were some of the other coping mechanisms?
Innocently, certainly one was taking cats in my bed that always felt good for tests because they plotted and started purring and snoring, so that can’t be down. It was more like this when you don’t feel you are loved or you are not good enough, then you try to prove to yourself that you are loveable and good enough because you have straight As or you are constantly taking care of all the people around you. These are patterns that help us to cope with anxiety and help me to cope because it makes me feel better for a moment. It’s like, “I have a little control over the situation. I have a little high because I have an achievement.”When you don't feel loved or that you're not good enough, you tend to try to prove to yourself that you are loveable and good enough. Click To Tweet
It doesn’t last very long, but that is a form of coping. Later on, when I was in the throngs of my residency and it was very stressful, with lots of work lots of pressure. A bottle of wine and good dairy and fatty foods got me into a half coma. That always helped. I had a girlfriend at that time who was a philosophy student. I had this ability, sometimes, to go into her world. Thinking about any philosophers. She was also an Art History student. She was the opposite of me and it helped to think about the things that were not anything that had to do with my stressful black-and-white reality.
These are the ways I coped until I couldn’t. There was a moment when I realized coping was not an option anymore because I felt so lost, empty, and not myself. I didn’t even know who I was, and I always told people that was a moment when I went into a church hoping that God would somehow show me the way. It didn’t happen right away for sure because I went, left, and fell the same, but later on, things unraveled, and life showed up in strange ways. That’s why we are talking now.
Thank you for sharing the piece about the bottle of wine and the comfort foods because those are all such common. The question that we started with is the reader’s question. I hear that type of question variants of that from clients all the time and people all the time. I zone out with this. I zone out with that. I self-soothe with that. Before I go to a party, I have to have a glass of wine and three more glasses of wine during the party to be okay and to be able to not have my anxiety leave me running out the door.
It’s so important for readers to be able to learn from you, a doctor says, “These things affected me. They weren’t healthy for me, and I found a way out of it.” One more question about what you were saying. When you were growing up, were your parents, even though it was a different time, supportive of what you were going through, or were they critical? Did you feel seen even though you weren’t sent to therapy and there weren’t those tools available? How did you feel as far as how your parents were dealing with your anxiety?
They were not because they were anxious themselves and they had their problems that they were focused on, especially themselves, each other, and their work. They were both doctors as well. The hope was that I would become a doctor too. When I had bad grades, they did everything they could to scare me enough to sit down and get good grades. No, it wasn’t very helpful.
Not at all. It sounds like it would exacerbate the anxiety.
I’m not blaming them because I’m very grateful. I did get so many insights about how it feels, what it can do to you, and what you shouldn’t do. I do not have any blame or regret. The one thing is and that’s what I often tell people when they have this anxiety from their childhood, sometimes they think. That’s what I thought too. “I’m just an anxious child. This is who I was.” There was a version of me that was not anxious. There was a version of me before it became serious, which was as I entered high school where it was super easygoing like that question and a happy-go-lucky.
I saw the world in all its magical expressions. I didn’t think about a Math test. I didn’t think about having to study because the world was so fun. I was truly fulfilled in that way. That is a piece of me that got lost. When I overcame this anxiety by addressing what was underneath, I also found that peace again. That’s the beauty about working on your anxiety it’s not about, “Let’s turn the heat down. Let’s stop feeling so bad.” It’s like you are going to remember things and ask about yourself that you may have forgotten and that come rushing back in and I’m so grateful for that.The beauty of working on your anxiety is that it's not just about turning the heat down or stopping feeling so bad. It's about addressing what’s underneath and remembering things that you may have forgotten about yourself. Click To Tweet
I’m a believer too that blaming or shaming one’s parents or upbringing, there’s never an upside to that. There’s an upside to understanding it and looking at the roots. Being able to say, and as you said, the other part of that is that you were able to find that innocent pure child in yourself. You knew that there was a part of you. You didn’t come into the world this anxious, uptight being. You found that peaceful side of yourself and went back to it and breathed into it. Now we have you as you are now becoming more and more peaceful and helping other people.
That leads me to another piece where you did touch on it when you were talking, and this does tie back to a question that many people have. When you talked about there is a level of anxiety that helps me produce what we tend to call optimal anxiety. Often, we think we need the anxiety or a lot of it, the adrenaline surge, that fight or flight response to produce and do more and be more. Yet, it often works against us. Can you talk a little bit more about how you learn to find that sweet spot of anxiety where there is that optimal anxiety, that nudge that allows us to get up, get out of bed, and do the things we need to do?
I don’t even know that there is optimal anxiety for me because I do feel that anxiety has been replaced more by joy and excitement. It’s a similar feeling, but it doesn’t feel like something bad is going to happen if I am not performing, producing, or any of those things. It feels more like a desire or a purpose. I find that is optimal for me at least to not need that stress in order for me to feel like, “I am someone of a productive contributing member of society.” I don’t think that’s very healthy.
What I have noticed is that it drains the energy. It is something like climbing a mountain, and then the next day, the same. The mountain is in front of you and you have to climb it again. It never feels like you arrive. I rather see this as a creation or journey of life and so I love hiking. Going on every day as there is another experience, there is another creation, and there is another contribution, it feels much more organic and it feels much more empowering.
The need. This little inner slave driver says, “Remember, if you are not doing this or if you are failing here, or if you are not showing up there, then that means you are not worthy or you are not good enough. You are not advanced.” Some people may not feel that joy and purpose, and they feel more driven by this what if and this stress. I’m trying to live more with this idea that life is to be enjoyed and not life is to be suffered.
Touching back to the term that we often use in the world of psychology, optimal anxiety and harnessing that optimal anxiety just that nudge. I adore how you reframe it. “We don’t need to have this optimal anxiety. Not just out of bed or not just to the next project.” We can reframe that to be, which is what motivates me as well, which is why I write about my first book, Joy from Fear. Why joy? That’s where you and I are very deeply aligned with the idea of even no matter what term we use, but I do prefer your term, excitement.
What about if we have an optimal level of excitement that gets us out of bed, that gets us to that next task, that gets us to that hike or playing with our pets or being with our partner or our kids? What about if we reframe it and say, “Let’s let go of anxiety altogether.” Unless it’s telling us that there’s an intruder at the door or a dog that’s about to bite us. We want fear and we want some anxiety. In other situations, you are saying, “Let’s slow it down,” and look at finding joy and excitement and let those be our motivators. Did I get you right?
Yeah. This reframes it also in regards to what you expect because there is anticipation when you are driven by anxiety that what you hope for is to get it done so that you don’t have to feel anxious anymore. There is not the, “I’m looking forward to it because what I’m getting is a reward back. A reward of an experience. A reward of maybe some smile from the people you work with or maybe the animals are wagging their tails when you feed them.” There’s a whole different mindset around what you do every day because you are looking forward to that experience. You don’t have to have to be specific. It’s going to be open. It’s something nice going to happen.
I had a client once and she told me the secret to her aging gracefully and joyfully is she every day says to herself, “I wonder what will pleasantly surprise me today.” With that mindset of, “I’m going to have a pleasant surprise. I know it.” When you have that mindset, you interpret anything as such, and what a wonderful way to give yourself. That’s the same with, “I’m excited about this day. I wonder what’s going to be good about it.” It’s different than saying, “I have to because the optimal anxiety is pushing me.” It feels very different.
You are the author of two books, The Empowerment Solution and The Fear and Anxiety Solution and so you are the perfect expert for this topic. Let’s go back to the question that came up. This person is feeling very anxious and increasingly self-soothing. We are advising, “Reframe things. Try to find some joy in the day. Try to reframe things and adjust your mindset, so that you are looking for the excitement, the pleasure, and the joy in the day, instead of being on the lookout for dangers for what might come to harm you or go wrong.” That might sound like a very simple fix but it goes very deep, isn’t it? A) It’s harder than it sounds and B) Once you get used to it, it’s not as superficial as it sounds. It starts changing how you see the world, respond to the world, and interact with the world. Could you explain how that works?
I don’t know the age of this person and I don’t know anything. What I could say from experience with other people with similar experiences from being all easygoing or too anxious in their 40s or 50s. The interesting phenomenon is that anxiety is coming up at a time when everything seems to be okay. There are no problems. Their health is okay. The relationship is okay. Work is okay. Everything seems to be on the row, and then all said, the anxiety comes up and I work a lot with the subconscious.
For me, the interpretation is that this is the perfect time. When there is quietness and there is no distraction to bring up unresolved issues. To bring up these old beliefs that are still not addressed. The old traumas or emotional veins that haven’t been resolved. When everything is quiet and there is no need to stress about anything, that subconscious says, “Now, let’s look inside.”
You have done everything outside. Okay. Everything, the ducks is in the road, the garden is watered, and the house is built. Let’s Look inside because you are not yet completely whole. That’s an opportunity to say, “What am I thinking? What is the anxiety circling? What’s a theme? Where may this theme come from?” In this case, maybe the theme is I don’t feel safe.
Maybe the shoe is going to drop, maybe everything is going to fall apart, maybe some things can be taken away from me, and then going back and realizing that stems probably from the time when my beloved grandmother all of a sudden died or when we had to move. I had to leave all my best friends. There may be traumas that when everything is going well or questioning, can it last? Do I deserve it? Is the world running like that? That is something to explore and to work with, and that can be a wonderful opportunity.
We all experience either minor traumas, mild traumas, or major traumas as we move through life. When they are not processed, and when they are not accepted, explored, or moved through, they do tend to rule us on a very unconscious level. For the individual who wrote in who represents many people, which is why it’s such a terrific question, they are reading this show and say, “I can’t figure it out. I haven’t had a major trauma. No one tried to murder me or attack me. My life is okay.”We all experience either minor or major traumas as we move through life. When they're not processed, accepted, explored, and moved through, they tend to rule us on a very unconscious level. Click To Tweet
They might start looking toward the back and their history and say, “Mom and Dad fought a lot when I was growing up. I was bullied a little bit in childhood or a lot in childhood.” I felt like I had to retract. There’s more percolating around here, but I can’t find a specific trauma. What would you say to the person who’s starting to have the courage to look inside themselves and at their history? They don’t have a specific trauma, but they are feeling this unsettling sense that childhood was not a great or safe place all the time. What would you say?
I don’t believe necessarily that one trauma is always the culprit. I do believe it’s more like the succession of events that rattle us. Moments that were a little startling, moments that everything was nice and peaceful, and all of a sudden lightning was striking. For those events, I invite people to write them down. Go through ten-year increments. The first 10 years, what was significant in those 10 years? What happened? What would you say something that somehow made you either a little bit shaken up or affected you? You are thinking about feelings still and emotions, maybe you had a dog, and that dog can run over or maybe you lost a good friend who did move away. You felt that pain of the loss.
I have gone through the emotional experience until now. All these ten-year increments and what you going to see or what you can see is often a theme. It’s almost like what you remember is the red thread through life that tells you it’s a lot about loss or feeling blindsided. It’s a lot about feeling it’s up to me to make things happen and I cannot trust anyone. Whatever those themes are, those themes are probably still alive and may be the cause of this anxiety.
I love how you frame this with the red thread that once you start there may be more than one theme. I agree with you for a lot of people. It ends up being a theme of abandonment, rejection, or worthlessness. Being criticized so much throughout life that you feel like you are never enough. Being driven to succeed to perform, to get straight As over and over again.
All of these can leash together to create what you are calling that red line. For the question and readers, you and I both believe in the power of journaling and creating these timelines. It’s not to blame anyone. It doesn’t do any good. Not to blame but to start objectively seeing all the breadcrumbs that were left along the way that led up to it.
That’s why I talk about anxiety being sneaky and pernicious. It sneaks in through all of these little cracks and before we wake up one day and go, “I’m anxious. I’m having panic attacks.” I have people write to me and say, “I’m a strong man and I had a panic attack. There’s no reason for it. Explain this.” “I’m a great woman and I’m starting to have panic attacks. This doesn’t seem fair. I’m very embarrassed and very sad.” What would you say to the people who have had panic attacks? What would you say when this big manifestation of anxiety becomes very big and knocks at the door of the psyche? What would you say to help those who are suffering from panic attacks?
I would say congratulations because the panic attack is your wake-up call. It’s your moment to realize that there is something that needs attention inside of you. Don’t be afraid. The panic attack is simply a sign that you probably had anxiety before, but you are not listening. You were maybe ignoring it. Pushing it down, pushing it away, and trying to cope. At some point, your mind said, “No, I don’t have that. I need you to pay attention now.” Like me and so many people now even many years ago are only defined by their external environment. They only focus on what’s around them. There is no focus inside.
There is not even that boredom of, “The TV doesn’t run anymore after 10:00. Everything is quiet. I guess I’m here with my thoughts.” That doesn’t exist anymore. There is only distraction and attention on the outside. That’s the reason why so many of us have been dealing with more anxiety because there is anxiety when we are not at home with ourselves, when we are disconnected from ourselves, and when we are living 6 feet outside of ourselves.
I would say this is your chance and your invitation to get to know yourself better. To find your way home in yourself and to let go of all the things that you thought defined you and identify you and realize that there’s so much more to you than you ever thought was possible. You are probably going to find a lot of treasures that looking back, you are going to thank your anxiety that you found him because without the anxiety, you wouldn’t even look for them.
Thank you for highlighting that anxiety, when we start looking at it and when we start seeing it as a messenger. It’s the whole premise of my first book Joy from Fear. It becomes a messenger. We see it as a messenger, and we listen to the knock at the door, whether it’s low-grade panic, medium-grade chronic, or chronic anxiety, we start listening. In my office is a Carl Jung version of one of his quotes which is, “He who looks outside dreams, he who looks inside awakens.”
That’s what you are promoting is this idea of using this anxiety or panic, however, it’s manifesting as an opportunity to slow down and let go of the distractions. The TV shows, movies, and noise in your ears. Not that music is great but sometimes we use it as a distraction. Socialization and over-socializing, whatever it is, and turn inward. Listen to what the anxiety is trying to tell us. Did I get that right?
We are kindred spirits. That’s so nice to know because I do think there are still so often anxieties seen as a culprit, as the enemy, or maybe even a weakness. It’s such an opportunity. My anxiety changed my life. If I had not listened to my panic attacks when I was in Cardiology, I probably would have still stayed in Cardiology and probably would have still drank a bottle of wine, eaten a lot of Bavarian food, and had my heart attacks. I don’t think that the anxiety wanted to hurt me. He wanted to help me and maybe even save me from myself. I am grateful and most people who are willing to go on this journey of finding themselves and listening to the messenger are grateful, and it’s a change.
Anxiety is not a little tiny forest like an itch. It’s something big because something big can also happen. Big things make us aware of big opportunities. Big emotions are there for a reason. I always compare it to pain. Physical pain is all so often condemned as, “Why me? I’m so useless,” but then it does tell you something about you being out of balance, you have an inflammation, or you have a disease. It needs to be addressed. Emotions are, in some ways, like the pain of the mind, the pain of our deeper self that needs to be seen as a symptom and not as a problem.
I agree with you completely and fully. It is not lost on me that I was thinking as you were saying that you did not become a cardiologist, where you would have helped one physical heart at a time. One surgery after, usually a lifetime of buildup of issues. Here you are a cardiologist for the psyche who is going to prevent heart attacks from ever occurring because you are helping people see when we attend to the psychological heart of the self. When we place a premium on knowing the self, caring for the self, and listening to the self, and then the body, mind, and spirit all work in concert to create overall well-being.When we place a premium on knowing the self, caring for the self, and listening to the self, then the body, mind, and spirit will all work in concert to create overall well-being. Click To Tweet
You are an exemplary cardiologist of the psyche. I love it. You are helping people to move through fear, move through anxiety, and create empowerment. I could talk to you for another huge space of time. We will have you back again. We have already talked about it because you have so much to offer readers. I’m so excited. Dr. Friedemann, I am so grateful for you sharing your time, your expertise, your wisdom, your vulnerability, and your courage with me and our readers. Where can our readers find you?
Thank you for having me. I’m so excited to be one of the first, so this is great. I feel very honored. Finding is easy. My website is DrFriedemann.com. You can also find me on YouTube, Dr. Friedemann Schaub. You can find me on Instagram. I do work with clients in one-on-one breakthrough program sessions. I also offer a video course, which helps people to go through their anxiety’s root causes to empowerment.
I have The Fear and Anxiety book and the new Empowerment Solution book. That book will be soon out as an audiobook on Audible with me as the narrator, which I’m excited about because, in my early life, I wanted to become an actor. That was cool for me to finally have the opportunity to do a little bit of acting. That’s going to be fun. Go to the website and find a lot of tools that can help you already to address some of those anxiety symptoms and go deeper to find what the message is all about.
Thank you so much. Readers, you know where to find Dr. Friedemann. As a wrap-up quote that I have from our wonderful guest. “We have infinite potential to heal, grow, and thrive.” With that, thank you again so much for being with us, Dr. Friedemann. It has been truly a joy, privilege, and delight.
- Dr. Friedemann Schaub
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About Dr. Friedemann Schaub
Dr. Friedemann, a physician with a Ph.D. in molecular biology, left his career in allopathic medicine to pursue his passion and purpose of helping people overcome fear and anxiety without medication. For more than twenty years, he has helped thousands of his clients worldwide to break through their mental and emotional blocks and become the empowered leaders of their lives. Dr. Friedemann is the author of the award-winning book, The Fear and Anxiety Solution. His newest best-selling book, The Empowerment Solution, focuses on activating the healing power of the subconscious mind to switch out of stress- and anxiety-driven survival mode and make authenticity and confidence the everyday way of being.