“Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.”
Arthur Somers Roche
_ Fear is the expectation of something specific.
_ Anxiety is uncertain, but situational, “one-time.”
_ Existential anxiety is the expectation of a constant presence in a life of unforeseen events.
Fear and anxiety can be experienced by animals, but existential anxiety is inherent only in man.
A feature of fear in the traditional classical sense is its subject orientation.
We are afraid of something certain, this is the fear of something.
A person experiences unpleasant emotions, experiences something undesirable, wants something to be not. In the animals, this is the only form of fear.
A person, however, has another condition: fear, anxiety, a state of discomfort, not tied to any particular reason. The difference of this state, which is inherent only in humans, is the absence of the objective reference.
It is related to how the world works.
An existential anxiety, which is inherent only to a human and is included in the number of necessary, inevitable conditions of human existence, who subjected him to special consideration and designed it as a special subject of analysis.
The ability to be oneself depends on the ability to meet your anxiety and move forward, despite the anxiety.
Paul Tillich in his classic work “Courage to be” writes that existential anxiety is an existential awareness of its non-being, in other words, the realization of the possibility and the inability of death.
The idea of death is not transmitted through knowledge. Everyone has his own death. There is no general death as a general category.
Each person must himself feel the sense of his personal mortality.
What Tillich means under existential awareness is the individual experience of his own limb, the anxiety inherent in man as a person. Anxiety and awareness are related things. Not to be aware is always easier.
Tillich most clearly from philosophers and psychologists formulates a difference between fear and anxiety. Fear has a concrete object, you can meet this object somehow, analyze it, fight it, endure it, somehow treat it.
It’s easier to live with fear if you know what to fear. It’s much worse when you do not know what to be afraid of.
You can not fight with existential anxiety, because there is no object to be met, except for being as a whole.
If a person is seized with anxiety, he is deprived of support – there is helplessness, disorientation, inadequate reactions.
Therefore, in a state of alarm, people always strive to strictly determine the objects of fear, because with fear you can somehow interact.
Turning anxiety into fear, no matter what helps to get rid of this horror.
Tillich’s view allows us to understand the secret of the popularity of all sorts of thrillers, horror films that we are offered in large quantities, and we consume large quantities. They give rise to concrete fears that replace the place of blurred, existential, unremovable anxiety and becomes easier.
According to Tillich, there are three forms of anxiety:
1. anxiety of fate and death.
2. anxiety of emptiness and loss of meaning.
3. anxiety of guilt and condemnation.
All these are forms of existential anxiety because they are inherent in existence as such. They are unremovable. Thus, life includes fear and horror as elements of the life process.
In detail, these ideas about the relationship of anxiety to normal and pathological anxiety were developed in the works of the pupil Tillich, Rollo May.
May says that there is a normal anxiety, and there is an anxiety pathological.
In general, the alarm itself is normal, one should not be afraid of anxiety, one should not try to get rid of anxiety in the process of psychotherapy.
Normal anxiety arises when a person feels that something is threatening his values, that something significant for him is under threat.
For example, it could be a threat to physical life per se, or a threat to psychological life, for example, deprivation of liberty or the threat of value with which a person is identified, say patriotism, love for a particular person, and so on. This is a normal and in many ways constructive sense.
Normal anxiety is commensurate with the threat and does not need repression or some other form of psychological protection. It can be dealt with, it can be worked on at the level of consciousness or, if the objective situation changes, the alarm itself will go away.
The attempt to dislodge the alarm, to eliminate it, to destroy it leads only to an overgrowth of the anxiety that is normal to anxiety pathological.
Anxiety pathological, or neurotic, is an anxiety disproportionate to the occasion, which is usually a consequence of the inability to accept normal anxiety, it includes repression and other forms of conflict.
Neurotic anxiety is a symptom of the fact that a person failed in due time to properly cope with the previous crisis.
And he can get rid of neurotic anxiety only if he learns to live constructively with normal anxiety because the existential anxiety cannot be eliminated.
If a person seeks to avoid anxiety altogether, this leads him to avoid life in general.
When faced with anxiety, a person learns inner faith and genuine confidence, that otherwise, this cannot be learned.
Only in this way does the personality attain maturity. By itself, anxiety is good.
May cites experimental data that a higher level of awareness of anxiety accompanies a higher intellectual potential. No creative activity is possible without a break in expectations and reality, so the ability to sense this gap is a condition of both anxiety and creativity.
But with neurotic anxiety, a person resorts to a neurotic distortion of reality, and in a productive version, a person transforms reality in accordance with his expectations and does not experience neurotic anxiety.
The constructive side of anxiety has been further elucidated in the theory of existential choice by Salvatore Maddi.
Maddi points out that the choices we make are choices between two alternatives: the choice of the future or the past.
In the future, there is always uncertainty. You can not predict the future, even if we are planning something.
This is the risk with which any of our actions are involved. And this risk cannot be eliminated, no matter how we try, because we can not foresee the future.
Choosing the future says Maddi, we choose the unknown. And this contains the ineradicable root of human anxiety because by choosing the direction in the future, we thereby assume the alarm.
Anxiety is an emotional accompaniment of the irremovable uncertainty of the future.
The alternative, according to Maddi, is the choice of the past, the choice of immutability, the preservation of the status quo. If we choose the past, there is another emotional accompaniment, a blame for the missed opportunities.
We are faced with a choice: to take the blame or to take the trouble. Both cause a sufficient degree of discomfort, comparable to each other.
“Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.”
However, these two choices are not equivalent in terms of personal development. The choice of the past, the choice of the status quo is a choice of avoiding awareness, the choice of trying to be preserved, which still cannot lead, ultimately, to success.
The choice of the future, the choice of uncertainty and anxiety that accompanies orientation to the future, creates a certain potential, prospects for the development of the individual.
Maddi notes that in life, in addition to real situations of death, we have to face many “small deaths”. Death in a sense is all those cases when something ceases to exist suddenly and undesirable for us when suddenly a significant relationship ceases, when some events, things that are not necessarily related to the death of a person, suddenly stop.
The most typical example is unhappy love, a break in relations.
This experience is in many ways similar to the experience of death.
It is in such “small deaths”, says Maddi, first of all, the person’s attitudes toward life in general, his philosophy of life, are being worked out.
Maddi traces the ways of forming a positive life philosophy as something that allows us to successfully cope with the fear of death and make of it a valuable material for the development of our personality.
And the lack of a life philosophy, on the contrary, leads to protective reactions of care, displacement of these situations.
This is what Maddi calls a negative philosophy of life, something that develops in people who are either unable to sense the meaning of certain life events as a clash with death, or they fall in the face of supposedly insurmountable obstacles and the lack of their own abilities characterizes as cowardice.
The category of courage-cowardice is perhaps the most defining category associated with the attitude to existential anxiety.
The category of existential courage, “courage to be,” was introduced by Paul Tillich, who understands by it, the ability to recognize anxiety, accept it and exist with it, not pushing it out and not letting it become a pathological, destructive anxiety.
At the heart of courage lies a positive philosophy of life, which absorbs, along with the positive aspects of life, also non-being, death. Thus, it allows us to live in conditions of uncertainty.
The question is how to develop the ability to live in an indefinite world without trying to make it definite. We do not have to try to create a model of a stable world. We must learn to live in a world as it is.
A child doesn’t need all this certain amount of knowledge about how the world works, how much they help to build his trajectory in a world of uncertain, unpredictable world. On the one hand, we can influence the world; on the other hand, we can not always influence the world.
The psychotherapist Adam Blatner said that a person in his life undergoes two basic initiations;
_ One of them, corresponding to the teenage crisis, is the realization that something depends on us in the world, that we are able to influence the world.
_ The second initiation, which in time corresponds to what is usually called the middle age crisis, is the realization and integration of the fact that something does not depend on us in this world, and that we cannot do anything in the world.
And both set a rather difficult task for us.
“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.”