On the nature of anxiety

post by mr_fahrenheit · 2021-02-22T23:56:07.030Z · LW · GW · None comments


To understand anxiety, we'd first need to clear up our definition of stress. Why i choose not to rely on existing explanations, is because while modern medicine acknowledges the existence of stress and its influence on the body, the discussion about its nature is largely avoided. There is no such thing as reliable measurement of stress, and because of such it cannot serve as a basis in any diagnosis. Often because of patient's circumstances, stress cannot be avoided, therefore it's easier to minimize its effects by supplying medication. The upper limit of mental stress that can be handled by human beings is also elusive, as it appears that whatever circumstances people are thrown into, they are able to sustain themselves, overcome, and even thrive (look up post-war baby boom).

The definition i choose to build will be based on an image of (human) body that is a gathering of systems (organs, tissues, cells) that are in symbiosis, working towards sustaining the body, and in constant communication with each other.

If you think of stress, you can probably clearly imagine its effects, the easiest example would be observing face of a person that is placed in some unfortunate social situation. When a body part "stresses", its movements become awkward, the smoothness of motion is being interrupted by sudden jolts, as the orchestra playing would constantly be missing notes. The subject is caught in the act of self-observation, which is supposed to control the outcome, but the result is always far from what one would achieve while "acting natural". It is as all of the information we try to supply to the body, in order to get it under control, acts as an interference to a natural "flow". The only thing that appears to provide relief, is letting go of control attempts entirely. Such a mechanism actually can be seen in many other aspects of nature, if you look close enough. 
Anxiety could be summed up as existing in a constant state of stress, which the source of cannot be easily traced. Or, can be, but one can do nothing about it, and escaping the situation may seem impossible. 
An example: A toxic work environment, where worker is bound by inefficient, harmful procedures, and while seeing the problem and possible resolution, they are being denied the chance to fix anything.

But, today i wanted to think about the sources of anxiety that cannot be easily tracked. Some people could be diagnosed with "general anxiety disorder", with that being the final word, as if it's something set in stone for the rest of their life. I believe the reasons for its existence are quite similar, albeit not recognised, because most of the time they would appear dissipated through memory, separated by a great measure of time in the mind of the subject. Or, one could amass, through a chaotic way of living, many reasons to resent their past actions, which are either easily forgivable and insignificant, but gathered together and coupled with other unhealthy habits (e.g. lack of discipline and direction), create a persistent and significant effect. The reasons for that might as well come from outside. It is no secret that through growing a lack of trust in how we handle our environment and each other, there is no will to work towards a better future. The lack of direction surely will stem from this in many of us, and a way to create internal stress in our bodies is laid open.

There's also a less obvious path that anxiety can be instilled in a person. With the mind being the most important driving force in the process, we have to consider even the ideas it holds. It is sometimes the case, that a long forgotten bunch of thoughts would keep reappearing only to be dismissed because the circumstances are not right. I believe anybody can relate to the feeling when a new perspective is introduced, and when one revels simply in thought of introducing those new ideas into one's life, discussing them and learning more. Or, the message could be spread across different sources and ways of propagation, most likely it will be like that; with time, it becomes palpable and always stays in the background thoughts of the subject, yet it might rarely be acted on, or discussed, simply because of its unordered nature. Lack of discussion might also stem from ignorance and unwillingness to touch certain topics in the general environment of the subject, which sustains the problem of the idea remaining chaotic in ones mind.

With lasting pressure from subconscious to explore what's unknown, the ego can't help but to feel threatened. It does its job well, by shifting our attention towards distractions, which we happily reach for, providing our brains with jolts of dopamine. As you might have figured out, the ease those can be accessed doesn't do us any favours when it comes to dealing with anxiety. Instead of idea exploration, we have constant distraction. If one does decide to explore, they are bound to hit the wall of information chaos, provided by the same media that keep us entertained. Couple that with growing lack of trust towards science, and its easy to guess why society would rather trust their facebook friends on supplying them vital information. We are collectively forgetting the art of research, because why would you do so, when obtaining information is as easy as submitting a query to your device? With this process gone, the reward of finding things out by oneself is also gone. The foundation of personal wisdom is not being built upon, and we are very often omitting a most important process, that would help us to set up our own beliefs, remain unshaken in confusing world, and get that serotonin boost that we very much need. It comes with no surprise that sages and spiritual people in general are portrayed with little possessions, as it means also minimal distraction.

Even though i'm not against providing medication to the needing, it's concerning how the modern medicine chooses to deal with those kind of problems. Suppression of warning signals is what we get, which doesn't at all deal with the source of the problem on its own. The result is merely sustaining the set of circumstances that resulted in the appearance of anxiety in the first place. Information that would otherwise lead to a person rearranging their own priorities, revising ideas and adjusting to an ever-changing world, is being held back. The evolutionary mechanism that makes us put our own priorities away for the benefit of a larger thing we belong to, is unfortunately what thwarts our moving forward as an individual.

Today's radicalization of views and suppressing voices that we consider troubling is only bound to create more unrest in the minds of people. The spike in mental issues is still being pondered, while we see censorship being introduced into our media as the new normal. A society that closes itself to certain voices, especially the "difficult" ones, will never be a healthy one. The major problems of society will never be solved by closing our eyes and making silly noises. Doing what we can to allow all voices to be heard is a service to ourselves. The way this is achieved however, should always be discovered by looking within, and allowing our own inner voice to challenge the status quo, even if, and especially when it means shaking up our own beliefs. That image might be scary, but sooner or later, the world will change around us, and the worst that can happen, is when it challenges us, surprising us naked and with no defence in hand, because the ability to adapt has been long lost. All this seems like a bunch of bad news, but the truth is, the intrinsic mechanism of finding things out on our own cannot be rooted out. Is is there, waiting to be used, assisted by a powerful tool that intuition is and ready to provide tremendous rewards. Forget about fear of getting things right, for your truth will always be different from anybody else's. Calm your fears, as the only things that you could lose while doing it, are what limit you in the first place. Avoid ways of living that promise easy rewards, and keep in mind: to have the things you never had, you must do things you've never done.

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