Are We Afraid or Anxious? A Little Light Philosophy

An excerpt from my new book Odd One Out: Radical Revelations on Relationships, Self-Help, and Personal Growth published by Teitelbaum Publishing and available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon and others

If I take death into my life, acknowledge it,

And face it squarely, I will free myself from the anxiety of death and the pettiness of life – and

Only then will I be free to become myself.”

Martin Heidegger

I have been talking for some time now about the differences between depression and despair. For me to really work with my own despair or really listen to anyone’s I have to be connected to the anxiety that I have numbed with alcohol, work addiction, love addiction, and thus avoided, suppressed and discounted, and most of all, confused with fear all the while being diagnosed for depression. Freud tells us that anxiety “is a riddle whose solution would be bound to throw a floodlight on our whole mental existence.”

Kierkegaard says, “Whereas fear sharpens the senses, unrecognized anxiety dulls the spirit” as well as the soul and creativity, not to mention any connection to something divine, if that is what one is searching for.

Once fear is identified I can fly, fight, or freeze. Anxiety is a disorder of desire for something that we can’t put a name to and can’t see, taste, hear or smell but everyone knows it is there if we just get quiet enough. The dictionary says, “Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or a threat.” The dictionary goes on the say anxiety, “is a feeling of worry, nervousness, a dis-ease about an uncertain outcome.”

The philosopher Karl Jaspers speaks of anxiety this way, “a feeling of restlessness… a feeling that one… has not finished something… or that one has to look for something.” The Catholic monk and mystic Thomas Merton wants us to know, “anxiety is the mark of spiritual insecurity.

The Christian theologian Paul Tillich’s advice says one of the cures for my despair and anxiety is to “believe you are accepted.”

The post-modern novelist Walk Percy says, “Anxiety summons us to an authentic experience.”

Are you afraid or anxious? Even though these words are used interchangeably by very intelligent people I hope after reading this it may help you sort it out as I continue to do so.

“Anxiety is altogether different from fear and Similar concepts…” Soren Kierkegaard