A great deal of confusion surrounds the emotion we call anxiety. The feeling is unpleasant and makes us want to avoid whatever has aroused it, but we all know there are times (like going to the dentist) when we have to press on regardless. Few of us would ever think to describe anxiety as an asset. Yet life coach and holistic psychotherapist Robert Gerzon, author of Finding Serenity in the Age of Anxiety, actually believes anxiety can be extremely useful. In fact, he claims that “follow your anxiety” is as good a dictum as Joseph Campbell’s “follow your bliss”! He sincerely holds the view that anxiety will take us to the same destination as our bliss, a position predicated upon the idea that the pursuit of bliss will inevitably lead us into anxiety-inducing situations that we must face and overcome in order to achieve the bliss we seek.
Contrary to what you might expect, anxiety can be a very useful feeling. (Photo: Public Domain Photos)
One of my favourite psychology books is Karen Horney’s, Our Inner Conflicts. No one explains psychological conflicts better than this German-American psychiatrist does. Horney makes the brilliant point that both sides of an inner conflict are not wanted – a real conflict that is, not just a bad case of indecision over two equally desirable alternatives. She believes a victim of conflict gets hung up on the two opposed “trends” and is thus unable to pursue the outcome they really desire.
Karen Horney explained how both sides of an inner conflict are things we do not want! (Image: public domain.)
Here is how this mechanism gets started.
The about-to-be conflicted individual represses what they truly want (for any number of reasons) and then goes looking for alternatives, all of which are, of course, less desirable than what has been pushed out of sight. The human mind being what it is, the moment we conceive one alternative its opposite immediately springs to mind. Several pairs of opposites may be generated in this way, but eventually one possibility, along with its inevitable opposite, will seem like the most probable choices.