What is it that gets you up in the morning? Is it something other than the alarm or the baby? And if there is nothing significant driving the start of your day, how do you feel about that? If you’re like many people who wonder about their significance, you may be feeling anxious. Are you anxious?
Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and wonder if you’re screwing it all up? I do, but not as much as I used to.
Some thinkers have called this feeling ‘existential dread’. There are many definitions to this term, but here what I mean by ‘existential dread’ is the feeling that you’re missing the point of your life. That you don’t even know what the point of your life is. That feeling of not knowing what you should be doing is what I mean by existential dread: drifting, lost, while others around you seem to get it. And you’re missing out.
ANXIOUS – WHAT IT MEANS
The 18th century Danish Philosopher Kierkegaard, who equates this term ‘existential dread’ with “anxiety.” Look here for a good concise article on Kierkegaard’s approach to anxiety.
The word “anxious,” according to the Online Etymology Dictionary means “greatly troubled by uncertainties.”
Anxiety and “anxious” are commonly tossed-about words. I won’t get into the qualifications necessary to diagnose someone with anxiety here (check the DSM 5 for more on that). Let me just say that people view either themselves or others as “anxious” seemingly now more than ever before, diagnosable or not.
It’s kind of like saying “I’m so ADD” when you forget your keys, or “He’s bipolar” if your co-worker is nice one minute, spouting-off frustration the next. It’s a word we like to use. And we are pointing to something significant when we use it.
I’m focusing more here on the feeling of being anxious, which is the opposite of feeling calm, confident or at peace.
WHERE TO START IF YOU’RE FEELING ANXIOUS
Modern opinions vary greatly on this one. Typically, a bad feeling is one that most will want to eliminate. Take a drink, smoke a cigarette, eat, numb out, go have fun, forget it, bury it, get away from it (the other person is the cause, so dump him/her, change jobs, unfriend them on Facebook).
Maybe you do have to put down a boundary and get as far away as possible.
For reasons I’ll unpack in the next entry, I’m siding with the philosophers of angst (Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Sartre – although I don’t agree with the latter on everything). These thinkers take a different approach:
Rather than moving away from or squashing your anxious feelings, stay with them, enter the cave and explore.
What does it look like move toward your anxiousness rather than getting away from your anxiety? To press in rather than pull away? And if I’m not completely insane to suggest it, what is the best way to do this?
More in Part 2…