I’ve been on a quest to study the ailment that has seemingly incapicated me since an early age. While on the outside a cool and conifdent do-er, productive member of society and artist, on the inside a maze of pins and needles pokes and second guesses each step I take and every move I make. Yes, I feel like a maniac sometimes. And whille that doenst intrisincally make me a crazy person it can and does make me feel like a weakling at times.
In my studies I have come across a book by from Scott Stossel called “My Age Of Anxiety”. In this book Scott, an accomplished writer and father, writes about his quest to “cure” and rid himself of the ails that have almost hospiltized him and pushed him to the edge of nervous breakdown time and time again. For a nervous suffer myself, this story both soothed me (in that there were other sufferers out there), and really made me more nervous (whats more anxiety inducing than reading about anxiety?).
Yes from an early age I had a preoccupation with death, desctruction and being abandoned. And the greatest irony is that my first childhood memory stems from a totally realistic and measurable moment of true chaos. When I was 4 an F1 tornado sweeped its way through Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia. Held in the tight-wrapped arms of my mother I gazed frozen through the window as a giant oak tree crashed down on the neighboring apartment complex. Added stimuli came in the form that my mother had just returned from the hospital the previous evening with a very serious illness. It was something out of a movie, a child born out of chaos. But maybe this cinematic tunnel vision view of a select memory adds to a flair for the dramatic I have developed in my artistic sensibilites. None-the-less, the memory seems to point to subsequent early traumas. Maybe it was my screaming during lightening storms that we were all gonna die, or my early devlopement of aero-phobia or being abandoned at the local arboretum that showed en early affinity for panic. This fact seems to lend to genetic answer and response to this ailment. Stossel explores these themes very diligently, much more so than I ever could. Yes there are many studies and reasons to assume that pre-dispotion towards fear and anxiety comes from your ancestors. And theres a lot of science to back up. Yet modern medicine has completely shifted its view towards the need for CBT (cognitive behaviroal therapy) and medication to correct these dispositions. Where as early 20th century Psychology highlighted the freudian views of early childhood family dynamics as a reason for anxiety, we have seemingly shifted the focus.
Speaking for myself, having an over-protective father always seemed like a good reason to blame my social-phobias, abandonment fears, and fears of risk on. Stossel references his own family through quotes from his therapist.
“You had problems with ‘object constancy,’ ” he continued. “You couldn’t carry an internal image of your parents. Whenever you were away from them, you were in fundamental doubt about whether you were being abandoned. Your parents could never settle down enough to give you the assurance they were on the planet.”
Long story short the book cleverly and clearly examines the two seemingly competing philsopshies in an attempt to reach a conclusion as to what causes anxiety and whether or not we are on a wild goose chase to “cure” anxiety. Which brings us to the scope and focus of this essay. Should we be CURING anixiety at all? Stossel also examines the immense benefifts of such anxiety and its applications to the productive world and society of today. I for one can look at 100’s of benefits that anxiety has brought in my life. Some of the intense obsessivness lends itself to being organized, ambitious, detail-oriented and working with a sense of urgency. Being anxious has allowed me to stay out of dangerous situations that someone with lower blood pressure might not consider. It’s allowed me to modify my behaviors in the professional world. So can anxiety really be all that bad? Yes some of it has been and can be, in a word, debilitating. It’s lended to my annoying fear of flying, withdrawaling from social situations, and the tendency to be too hard on myself.
There is no doubt anxiety can feel objectively bad. But it’s nice to look at the bright side of things we don’t like sometimes. Everyone can do with a little perspective shift now and again.