Was happy to read this article on Soren Kierkegaard’s work with anxiety in the New York Times.
The Danish Doctor of Dread
The way we negotiate anxiety plays no small part in shaping our lives and character. And yet, historically speaking, the lovers of wisdom, the philosophers, have all but repressed thinking about that amorphous feeling that haunts many of us hour by hour, and day by day. The 19th-century philosopher-theologian Soren Kierkegaard stands as a striking exception to this rule. It was because of this virtuoso of the inner life that other members of the Socrates guild, such as Heidegger and Sartre, could begin to philosophize about angst.
Though he was a genius of the intellectual high wire, Kierkegaard was a philosopher who wrote from experience. And that experience included considerable acquaintance with the chronic, disquieting feeling that something not so good was about to happen. In one journal entry, he wrote, “All existence makes me anxious, from the smallest fly to the mysteries of the Incarnation; the whole thing is inexplicable, I most of all; to me all existence is infected, I most of all. My distress is enormous, boundless; no one knows it except God in heaven, and he will not console me….”
Is there any doubt that were he alive today he would be supplied with a refillable prescription for Xanax?
and the article concludes:
In his “Works of Love,” Kierkegaard remarks that all talk about the spirit has to be metaphorical. Sometimes anxiety is cast as a teacher, and at others, a form of surgery. The prescription in “The Concept of Anxiety” and other texts is that if we can, as the Buddhists say, “stay with the feeling” of anxiety, it will spirit away our finite concerns and educate us as to who we really are, “Then the assaults of anxiety, even though they be terrifying, will not be such that he flees from them.” According to Kierkegaard’s analysis, anxiety like nothing else brings home the lesson that I cannot look to others, to the crowd, when I want to measure my progress in becoming a full human being.
But this, of course, is not the counsel you are likely to hear these days at the mental health clinic.
And that is our loss, of course, that we are not generally taught to stay with the uncomfortable feelings.
More exploration of fear and anxiety on Beyond Meds: Fear and anxiety: coping, reframing, transforming…
hat tip: Holistic Recovery from Schizophrenia
Another article dealing with anxiety in a similar mode (recognizing it’s value) on Beyond Meds is: The uses of anxiety and panic —By Al Galves.
In general this blog supports embracing all our emotions. That is how we come to know who we are. The whole spectrum of our emotional lives are of value. It’s a shame that we learn to call many of our emotions negative and in keeping with that we try to numb them out in various ways, including with the use of both legal and illegal drugs. It is in resisting our shadow sides that those emotions we fear grow bigger! That is the sad paradox.
Other resources that help teach to embrace and learn from our feelings of anxiety: