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A Brief History of Anxiety...Yours and Mine Paperback
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On page 12 she is already wrestling with Kierkegaard's paradox of both wanting freedom from anxiety and at the same time being strangely attracted to the self-creating energy of the anxiety itself. Her blunt suggestion is that anxiety comes from the illusion that we can control what happens to us, and once we let go of that illusion we can start to see that it is flexibility rooted in principles that we need, or in simpler words, we just need to grow up.
She discusses childhood trauma and "anxiety sensitivity" -- that state of fearing the panic attack itself, as much as the original source of fear.
She discusses various therapists and theorists who over time have prescribed what seem to me to be forms of cognitive therapy. Some of this seem pretty insightful.I liked Kurt Goldstein's idea that anxiety is cued off by a threat to some value we hold and think is central to our existence. I liked the idea of Rollo May and Paul Tillich discussing the dread of non-being -- or more specifically the "unease about possessing neither purpose nor impact." "Holy crap I'm a nobody!" That certainly stresses me out the first time I realized it. I was so impressed by this idea that I went out and bought May's book on anxiety.
She discusses the different attitudes toward anxiety in Mexico and China and rightly points out that anxiety tends to be a north western phenomena. Anxiety, it seems, is a luxury of the upper class urban dweller. She at first pins this on the loss of community but concedes that maybe it is the loss of belief in God, or the concept of time, or the simple fact that the more you have to lose the more anxious you get.
There is a discussion of mindset and the suggestion that we might benefit from adopting the attitude of Kenyans who look on their great luck when narrowly avoiding disaster, rather than the disaster itself.
The most repetitive theme in the book, if there is one, is the painful truth that people who believe that events occur randomly -- outside of any larger story or grand design -- are in the worst shape. We need a narrative, some meaning-making explanation, it seems, to stabilize the freaked out Western mind. All that time spent fighting fate makes us more anxious.
By page 134 she rounds on the old chestnut that artists and other creative people are generally flirting most of the time with some form of mental illness. The complex cluster of traits that allows us to think outside the box also allows us to open ourselves to possibilities that others happily bury in their subconscious. The anxious are more fully awake than others.
Finally by page 164 we get a jewel worth the price of the book. Sure we quivering mass of uber-aware "gazers at the dark void beyond illusion" are in desperate need of something to close down our run-away minds, and sure maybe we need a little religion or at the very least ritual, to stabilize our expanding self, but the good news is that we don't have to compromise our creativity or principles to get that. We can circle back and pick up the good things of religion and myth while at the same time making a place at the table for uncertainty and existential questions.
She concludes with Goldstein again, "Courage, in its final analysis, is nothing but an affirmative answer to the shocks of existence, which must be borne for the actualization of one's own nature." The way past or anxiety is through our anxiety. live with it, feel it, keep growing, keep believing in a higher meaning and purpose.
Oh, and forget the drugs.
The book took a bit of a twist towards the end, when we basically learn that anti-anxiety meds are evil and difficult to get off of. This part is especially weak as no research or stats are presented (unless you consider googling a medication research). I am fine with her having her own opinion about meds, however, it was a one-sided diatribe and didn't offer much perspective.
Not a bad book, but go into it realizing that this isn't really a book about the history of anxiety. It's one person's story.
Top reviews from other countries
anxiety..... as with any book, if there are several good ideas in any book it worth THE READ ! This particular book is more than worth the purchase....A KEEPER !