Anxiety is the threat of non-being.

On an immediate level, it may feel like the threat of losing what gives you security – whether it is an object or a person. At a deeper level, it is an indication that death is possible, and likely.

At the core of our being lies this death anxiety. The baby knows it best, when he screams for the mother’s care and nourishment, because he would quite literally die without it. As an adult, he knows he does not need his mother, but the anxiety is not forgotten.

What is the response to anxiety? It may be action or paralysis, or a combination of the two.

To act is to assert yourself, your existence. It is to assert the particular psychological potentials that uniquely make you a human being. It is the inspiration for art, for science, for much else. We may call this the inherent creative drive.

To be paralysed is to act by suppressing the anxiety, often unconsciously. For such a person, to act in any other way would be increase the anxiety, bringing to threat of non-being too close to be tolerated. Unfortunately, doing so leaves the inherent creative drive unmanifested, which creates even more anxiety in the future.

Each of us will use a combination of both action and paralysis to deal with our anxiety. Why do some use more action and others more paralysis?

The inherent creative drive in each of us decides. The less creative drive, the more passivity prevails.

From a philosophical perspective, anxiety may be dealt by asserting being against non-being. Preferably, such action keeps the long-term perspective, so that it creates structures that the individual can engage with all his life. For example, eating can get rid of some anxiety, but cultivating the art of writing fiction, and even making a career out of it, creates a structure in one’s life that can be pursued all one’s life, developed, and steered in different directions. It offers a sophistication of possibilities that eating does not.

By asserting being against non-being, by cultivating who we are, we create existence in the face of non-existence. Non-existence is a sinking into absolute reality, or God. If this happens before our inherent creative drive is manifested, there will be anxiety. The anxiety will lead to the drive being felt. But to find spaces where the drive may be manifested is our vocation in life.

Our particular inherent creative drive is our calling from God. It is the work set out for us by God. Once we have done it, we can sink into non-existence in peace.

From a psychological perspective, anxiety can be dealt with in therapy by exploring it, feeling it, and realising that one can stand it without being destroyed. The relationship with the therapist becomes a safe zone where anxiety can be experienced without the expected threat of psychological dissolution. The higher one’s tolerance for anxiety, the more the inherent creative drive is unleashed.

Hence, anxiety may not be a negative condition. It inspires creativity, reminds us of the shortness of our lives, and the value of the ‘gifts’ we have, discovered or undiscovered.

~ by tdcatss on March 8, 2012.

4 Responses to “Anxiety”

  1. Anxiety is rather difficult to deal with. I liked how you clearly expressed different thoughts and aspects of Anxiety. I think there is a negative stigma associated with Anxiety and Mental Health in general which makes people afraid, ashamed and embarrassed to talk about it and seek help if they need it-I hope that the negative stigma will get better-the only way to do that-is to begin to address and talk about Anxiety and Mental Health as you have done in this post. Thank You.

    • Thanks. Yes, it is shameful to talk about one’s own anxiety. I suppose that that serves a social function by keeping the general social atmosphere calm. But perhaps it is more important that people have the opportunity to talk about their problems and be accepted, and stimulated to reflect on the causes of them and on what they can do about them.

  2. Kaif, I really appreciated how you showed anxiety could be as a catalyst for us being more creative. :) Thank you for getting me to think about this, and not just see it as something bad!

  3. Thank you Debbie. Yes, anxiety can be a catalyst for creativity, either by producing something new and if one cannot do that, by engaging in a process of reflection through spiritual guidance or therapy that will help one catalyse the anxiety.

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