#261 – Life-Enhancing Anxiety with Dr. Kirk J. Schneider


Veronica talks to Dr. Schneider about the human experience of anxiety. How can we deal with anxiety and understand it as part of our human functioning?

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about this episode

Are you living with anxiety, or is anxiety enhancing your life?

When I was drinking, a big part of my alcohol use was to manage my anxiety and get through the day. Then, once I stopped drinking, my anxiety spiked and became quite acute before eventually getting better and going away. Managing that anxiety was an extremely difficult aspect of stopping drinking for me.

Since then, many clients have shared similar experiences with me of social anxiety being the number one reason that they drink. They want to be social and connected but find it terrifying, which leads them to drink.

Today, I’m joined by Dr. Kirk J. Schneider, an author and psychologist with over four decades of experience, to discuss his book and the concept of “life-enhancing anxiety.” Dr. Schneider believes that by acknowledging our vulnerability and engaging with our anxiety, we can transform it from a source of terror into a catalyst for growth and understanding.

Dr. Schneider is a past editor of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, adjunct faculty at Saybrook University and Teachers College, Columbia University, and president of the Existential-Humanistic Institute (EHI). He is also a Fellow of five divisions of the American Psychological Association (Humanistic, Psychotherapy, Clinical, Theoretical and Philosophical, and Independent Practice) as well as a frequent speaker at conferences and in the media. Dr. Schneider is also the recipient of Honorary Diplomas and Memberships from The Society for Existential Analysis, UK; The East European Association for Existential Therapy; and the Living Institute, Toronto, Canada, whose diploma in “Existential-Integrative” Therapy is based on Dr. Schneider’s original model of this approach. He has authored or coauthored twelve books, including The Paradoxical Self, Horror and the Holy, Existential-Integrative Psychotherapy, Awakening to Awe and the forthcoming Wiley World Handbook of Existential Therapy. Several of these works have been translated into Chinese, German, Russian, Greek, Turkish, Portuguese, Slovakian, and Korean languages.

In today’s conversation, Dr. Schneider and I talk about:

  • Defining life-enhancing anxiety as the capacity to live with the depth and mystery of existence
  • Anxiety’s evolutionary function and its primal nature from early human ancestry
  • How cultural factors and parental encounters shape our response to anxiety
  • Developing inner freedom for a richer, more vital life
  • Strategies for managing anxiety without resorting to alcohol
  • The concept of inner freedom and the significance of feeling comfortable in one’s own skin
  • Getting started with managing anxiety and addiction
  • The importance of doing the deeper work for achieving inner freedom and suggestions for accessing low-cost counseling and alternative healing practices.
  • How spending time in nature and doing physical activity can significantly improve mental health
  • The worsening of anxiety in our culture due to the polarized mind, avoidance of vulnerability, and the need for deeper dialogue and understanding
  • The necessity of facing uncomfortable feelings and ideas
  • Exposure therapy as an essential element of healing

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