Anxiety and Fear

Arguably, it is the issue of lifestyle and one’s “way of life” which matters more than anything else. And in terms of lifestyle or “way of life,” there is what Marx called “enrichment” on one hand, and the “high thinking, plain living, happiness, and service” that W.E.B. DuBois highlighted on the other hand. “Enrichment” means never-ending conquest and subjugation of people, territory, and resources until there is nothing left to conquer and subjugate as Marx argued, which in turn makes all of it a futile enterprise and endeavor given the blowback and pushback that comes with such an endeavor or enterprise. 

Because the entire enterprise and endeavor is pointless and futile, it follows that “mere anxiety…is at the source of everything” to borrow from Albert Camus. Because anxiety and fear is “at the source of everything,” it follows that: 

“The only reality is ‘anxiety’ in the whole chain of beings. To the man lost in the world and its diversions this anxiety is a brief, fleeting fear. But if that fear becomes conscious of itself, it becomes anguish, the perpetual climate of the lucid man ‘in whom existence is concentrated.’” 

It follows that “the world can no longer offer anything to the man filled with anguish.” Heidegger argued that “the finite and limited character of human existence is more primordial than man himself.” Sigmund Freud argued “there is no question that the problem of anxiety is a nodal point at which the most various and important questions converge, a riddle whose solution would be bound to throw a flood of light on our whole mental existence.” 

As a matter of fact, the whole process of birth and being born into this world is enveloped in a state of anxiety and fear, as evinced by the cries of a newborn infant and the pain of the mother and so forth. The anxiety and fear of birth then evolves into the anxiety and fear for self-preservation and survival once a person gets older. There are thus “two modes of origin to anxiety” to borrow from Freud:

“One was involuntary, automatic, and always justified on economic grounds, and arose whenever a danger-situation analogous to birth had established itself. The other was produced by the ego as soon as a situation of this kind merely threatened to occur, in order to call for its avoidance.” 

Freud also attempted to foster a link between anxiety and the libido, in the sense that Freud contended that anxiety is linked to “sexual limitation.” It follows that anxiety is largely the result of the repression of a person’s libidinal energy, and that “the generation of anxiety is linked to the vicissitudes of the libido and the system of the unconscious.” Bringing all the aforementioned together, Freud stated: 

“Anxiety, it seems, in so far as it is an affective state, is the reproduction of an old event which brought a threat of danger; anxiety serves the purposes of self-preservation and is a signal of a new danger; it arises from libido that has in some way become unemployable and it also arises during the process of repression; it is replaced by the formation of a symptom, is, as it were, psychically bound – one has a feeling that something is missing here which would bring all these pieces together into a whole.” 

In sum, the dangers of self-preservation and libidinal repression are at the heart of anxiety and its generation. Arguably, the way or the ways by which one can effectively cope with and then overcome anxiety and fear is more of an art that pertains to the issue of lifestyle and “way of life” than an exact science. 

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