My anxiety is an experience of my absence. The less I am able to assert myself in life the more often I will find myself wishing I had. Anxiety is the experience of forthcoming resentment, of feeling trapped, becoming bored. Anxiety comes from the same place as anger, but as its ghost. Kill off, lose touch with or disavow your anger and you will feel anxious … and anger is there when I disagree. So anxiety arises when I can’t find it in myself, or the opportunity in the world, to disagree. Anxiety is a narrowing of me – a whittling down of me; a meanness. A difficulty. It’s Latin root: angustia.
To overcome anxiety I need to be more present in the world. I need to express that most gentle form of anger: assertion. I need to be able somehow to say: ‘I am here and this is what I think, and this is what I feel. This is who I am’ although I would probably sound rather odd if I put it like that.
Harold Bloom wrote The Anxiety of Influence, a book which describes the anxiety poets feel in relation to the poets who came before them, the ones whose presence might overshadow them, who give them a sense of their absence, their potential lack of longevity, their vulnerability in the present moment.
Freud wrote that the objects and situations which arouse fear will depend on our knowledge and feeling of power over the world. He describes anxiety as having no object. Fear, on the other hand, targets something specific and triggers a fight, flight or freeze response. If anxiety is an experience of my absence, a forewarning of the problems my diminished presence might create for me, it needs not to have an object. It has to be a state of being that insists I account for myself. To feel fear and freeze, fight or run in the face of my narrowing, my depletion, my evermore becoming hostage to shoulds and if onlys would be disastrous.
Anxiety demands I remain present and in touch. Anxiety means I must feel rather than know. Anxiety means I must make a stand.