• MorningStar
    13
    Epictetus: "Whenever I see a person in distress, I ask myself, what does he want? Because if he didn't covet something outside his control, why would he be stricken by distress?"

    Ryan Holiday: "Why does everything in me contract? Am I the master of the situation, or is anxiety? And the most important question of all: Does my anxiety help me in something?"

    Martin Heidegger: Analogy with a tree and a forest - anxiety is like the entire forest of trees. You don't see individual trees, what they are and how they are. Fear is a specific tree, one or two. But you don't see the whole forest, the connections, interdependence, sensuousness, and what is behind the next tree. Being and time. Do you see those other perspectives?

    I myself feel that I am an anxious person, or I used to be very anxious. But I have worked a lot on myself, and it was pain, struggle, discipline. And constant self-work. Into the present. All my life. Anxiety often came unexpectedly, without cause, acausally. And sometimes intrusive thoughts crept in.

    What helped me the most was reading books on Stoicism, listening to Jordan Peterson, and, above all, master C. G. Jung - a jeho Liber Novus - The Red Book. I have been reading this book since summer 2023 till now. I want mention the paragraph form the red book:

    "I am seized by fear. How can I order my thinking to be quit, so that my thoughts, those unruly hounds, will crawl to my feet? How can I ever hope ... So that I can hear your voice loudly and see your face clearly..."


    I live a lot in images, by which I mean my thinking is in images. Sometimes, I marveled at what my mind had created as an image, then I felt anxiety about it because I wanted to think about something else. And then it reflected in my reality, in accomplishing tasks...

    Do you think people who think more in images than in words are more prone to anxiety, worse attention, but on the other hand, more open to visions and revolutionary ideas? What helps you? For me, it's writing a journal. Tell me what is your voice
  • Ciceronianus
    2.9k


    Stoicism appeals to me because of its simplicity. No visions, no frenzy, no ennui; a simple and sensible acknowledgement of the folly of disturbing yourself with matters over which you have no control, and determination to govern yourself instead of trying to govern others, or events.
  • kudos
    351
    In the sphere of psychoanalysis, it would be characterized as something emerging from the unconscious that cannot be realized. Stuck, as it were, in a 'becoming' phase. You seem right to talk about things beyond one's control, and I believe this is what makes this subject such a problem for people. It is because anxiety as a notion does not fit nicely into any ordinary determination, and like art, it seems to always to be transitory and escaping the understanding. Is there such a thing as a philosophy of the unconscious? That seemed to be Jung's project, though it struggled at times with straining parallels between a human being's subjective and objective mind. The stoics were good in this arena because they knew their limits.
  • MorningStar
    13

    Good morning, sunshines!
    Yes. Stoicism is simple, plain and does not remind me of dry bread and water. And the rules and aphorisms, advices give me strength to do hard things of the days.

    It gets to the point. And people who believe in free will, or want to be active actors of their life and their decisions, are happier. It makes no sense to try to move a mountain, or someone’s mind.

    And the funniest and at the same time saddest thing is: “If you were a puppet and people could control your body, you would not let them, but you lend your mind every day and let yourself be deceived and manipulated by others, you let yourself get angry, you let yourself be taken out of your inner harmony, well-being. Are you balanced at all?”
  • MorningStar
    13


    Jung went deep down to the the unconscious... And he dig and dig. and he met that little guy, that warlock, What guards the tower.

    Slavok Žižek could tell: no inner world exist.

    But I know, the unconscious is real!
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.3k

    It's interesting that you title the thread "the art of thinking". I believe the key to bringing anxiety into the category of beneficial is to provide it with direction. Notice what is stated in your first sentence, your inclination is to ask the person in distress, what do they want. But if the distress is anxiety related this is a useless question, because anxiety only creates distress if the anxiety in undirected. Rather than the fear of the unknown, anxiety is the unknown of fear.

    Anxiety can be said to "create" distress, and the purpose for anxiety in general is to motivate the creative act. But if there is nothing substantial being created, the anxiety is undirected and the result is distress. The key to making your anxiety beneficial (and this means to progress beyond simply coping with anxiety) is to be creative. Anxiety is a reflection of your living disposition toward the future. When you are fearful of the future and the reason for being fearful is unknown, that thought, the reason why you are fearful is replaced by anxiety. When you are actively doing something, being creative, you bring the future into your control, by knowing what you are doing. If a reason for fear arises, it is in relation to what you are doing, and you know the reason for it.

    So my answer to "Does my anxiety help me in something?" is yes, it most certainly does. It helps you to be creative. Without any anxiety you would not do anything. However, it is very important that when you feel anxiety you actually do something. So the anxiety is first, it is fundamental to the living being, and it is from the subconscious, the drive to be active. If you are actively doing something your fears will be revealed to your thoughts, and your anxiety will continue to seek more unknowns (as curiousity), to be revealed through action. If you are inactive, the unknowns will overwhelm you.
  • MorningStar
    13


    Thank you for your thoughtful response. My intention was not to categorize anxiety as beneficial. Certainly, being active and creative can help alleviate anxiety, but in my experience, it can persist even during action. Not only during passivity but also during activity, a person can feel the weight of anxiety. I’m not sure of the exact term for this phenomenon. Perhaps you are referring to intrusive thoughts—those persistent, unwelcome ideas that can cause distress. During an anxious episode, emotions often override rationality, leading to a struggle between reason and intense feelings. It’s like a battle of emotions and logic. Slowing down, conscious breathing, and reminding yourself that you are in control can indeed be helpful strategies. Remember, those intrusive thoughts are not truly you; they are just passing mental events.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.3k
    it can persist even during action. Not only during passivity but also during activity, a person can feel the weight of anxiety. I’m not sure of the exact term for this phenomenon. Perhaps you are referring to intrusive thoughts—those persistent, unwelcome ideas that can cause distress.MorningStar

    I agree that anxiety will persist even during activity. This could be anxiety in relation to the end, or goal, or it could be in relation to something completely different, perhaps a goal not pursued by the current activity. I think those would be instances of intrusive thoughts. I find that the more negative form of anxiety is completely undirected by the conscious mind, so that it appears to have no source, and it is therefore more difficult to quell. We cannot characterize this anxiety as intrusive thoughts because it is prior to, and independent from the intrusive thoughts. The anxiety produces the intrusive thoughts, which are thoughts that cannot be directed toward the current activity.

    During an anxious episode, emotions often override rationality, leading to a struggle between reason and intense feelings. It’s like a battle of emotions and logic. Slowing down, conscious breathing, and reminding yourself that you are in control can indeed be helpful strategies. Remember, those intrusive thoughts are not truly you; they are just passing mental events.MorningStar

    Consider thinking to be a form of activity. It is borderline between the conscious activity of physically moving oneself, and the subconscious inclination toward moving oneself (how I described anxiety). The indecisive person will think rather than move, but the thoughts may still be directed by the conscious mind in a way similar to the way that movement is directed by the mind. However, since anxiety, or the inclination to act, arises from the subconscious, it can cause undirected thoughts, or thoughts which the conscious mind has difficulty directing, because the source of the anxiety is unknown, and different types of anxiety would produce different types of thoughts. This would be what you call "intrusive thoughts".

    So I wouldn't class the intrusive thoughts as "not truly you", I would class them in the opposite way, as "the true you". This is because the conscious mind is just the very top level of "you", and the vast majority of your activity, all your bodily systems for example, are in the subconscious. Therefore anxiety, and the intrusive thoughts which spring from it are actually "the true you", and you need to learn how to deal with them as such. This means that you cannot use your conscious mind to suppress and make your anxiety go away. Attempting to do this would be to pursue an impossible goal, and that would produce more anxiety in relation to that goal.

    So i think the better strategy is to recognize the limits of your control. To quell the anxiety you must allow the activity which it is inclined to produce, thinking. And you cannot control the thoughts until after they're being produced. What I find has been a good strategy for me is to have various "objects" (which may be various goals or constructive things to think about), each of a different category or type, and depending on the type of thoughts which are inclined to be arising, I can send them into the appropriate category for direction. I think it is important to have the required goals or categories which are suited to the types of thoughts which you get, or else you would get the confusion and anxiety of attempting to direct your thoughts in a way which is unsuited to them.
  • Vaskane
    643
    There's quite a few flavors of anxiety, but imo the common chord between all types is the sensation of powerlessness. Some become obsessive about "control" to the point where any sort of intoxicant that makes them lose control causes a panic attack.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.3k
    Martin Heidegger: Analogy with a tree and a forest - anxiety is like the entire forest of trees. You don't see individual trees, what they are and how they are. Fear is a specific tree, one or two. But you don't see the whole forest, the connections, interdependence, sensuousness, and what is behind the next tree. Being and time. Do you see those other perspectives?MorningStar

    To continue what I pointed out yesterday, that I think you have things backward, I'll address the problem with this passage in the op. What you "see", meaning sense through the perceptive power of sight, is individual trees. The "forest" is a conception of thought, an abstraction which is not "seen" except in the more metaphoric sense in which the mind sees things.

    The object of fear is the unknown, in a sense there is no object, and that produces the fear. So we cannot say that "fear is a specific tree", because that would imply that the fear is a thing seen and known as "a tree". Even if you see a particular object and there is fear relative to that object (a menacing animal or person for example), it is the unknown, what that object might do, which produces the fear.

    The conception, "the forest", is always to some degree incomplete, it does not directly include every single tree. Therefore within the conception there are elements of the unknown, and this is the seed for fear and anxiety. So within your conversion of the sense image, (a whole lot of individual trees), to an object of thought, (the abstraction "forest"), there is a whole lot of the unseen, consequently unknown, which is allowed to inhere within the conception, and this propagates anxiety. You apprehend "a forest", but within this forest there is a whole lot of unseen trees.

    The act, by which the abstraction is produced, is commonly and often habitual. You look ahead of you and see "a forest". You do not consciously think, 'I'm seeing some trees and I'm concluding there's a forest', so the unknown, and therefore the seed for fear and anxiety, is allowed right into your thought without you even knowing it. Once that seed for anxiety is there, you cannot recognize it because it is an unknown which has already been incorporated into the known. Your thoughts are the known, yet the unknown inheres within. That is why it is important to keep track of your thoughts as they arise, and assess them methodically. There are various ways of doing this, such as the skeptical method, to prevent the fear and anxiety from growing within.
  • Arne
    688
    The object of fear is the unknown, in a sense there is no object, and that produces the fear.Metaphysician Undercover

    .

    Not quite. Whether the object of fear is known is irrelevant to Heidegger's distinction between fear and anxiety. Instead, the source of the phenomenon (within the world or not within the world) determines whether the phenomenon is fear or anxiety.

    That in the face of which one has fear is always an entity within the world while that in face of which one has anxiety is not an entity within the world. See Being and Time at 230-231, (Macquarrie & Robinson).

    Simply put, "the forest and the trees" is not a good analogy for understanding Heidegger's distinction between fear and anxiety.
  • MorningStar
    13


    I don't want to make any mystification, but this comparison with the forest, said one philosopher lecturer, and maybe it doesn't come from Heidegger, or I'm not interpreting it correctly. But Heidegger was quite concerned with metaphysics and was a phenomenologist.

    I agree with your statement, fear - a graspable entity. The anxiety of the unfathomable.
  • MorningStar
    13


    Yes!

    Something is not according to the plan, their idea, and one is anxious about it.
    It's just that the lust to have it all under control is so loud that we are faced with great anxiety.
    However, a person asks himself to what extent can he influence external and internal things? Is it in my power? What we don't have control over, we should be calm about it and we shouldn't be upset by it.



    If we go to psychology, there are really many diagnoses:

    Generalized anxiety disorder

    Mixed anxiety-depressive disorder
    Social phobia
    Agoraphobia
    Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
    Panic disorder
    Specific phobias
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.3k
    Not quite. Whether the object of fear is known is irrelevant to Heidegger's distinction between fear and anxiety. Instead, the source of the phenomenon (within the world or not within the world) determines whether the phenomenon is fear or anxiety.

    That in the face of which one has fear is always an entity within the world while that in face of which one has anxiety is not an entity within the world. See Being and Time at 230-231, (Macquarrie & Robinson).

    Simply put, "the forest and the trees" is not a good analogy for understanding Heidegger's distinction between fear and anxiety.
    Arne

    I do not think I would agree with this Heideggerian distinction between fear and anxiety. It is not the "entity within the world" which is the source of fear, but what is known about the entity. When the entity is known to be a threat, or even a risk, there may be fear.

    So I agree that I placed "fear" in the wrong category, saying that it concerned the unknown, when really there must be a large degree of "known" involved, to provoke fear. "Anxiety", on the other hand requires "unknown", and it is associated with risk. So I think anxiety is best represented as the other side of the same relation to the same object. You can see "fear" (cowardice), and "confidence" (courage), as the two opposing aspects of the known part of the relation, while "anxiety" and "complacence" are the two opposing aspects of the unknown part of the relation. "Relation" here would indicate the person's attitude toward the specific "entity within the world".

    I would not agree with Heidegger as you describe him, because I do not think we can make a clean break between fear and anxiety, as proposed, such that one would require an object, and the other not. Sometimes fear is directed at an object (rational fear) and sometimes it is not (irrational fear), and likewise with anxiety. The undirected fear, as irrational fear, directed at an imaginary object, is still fear rather than anxiety, but it is directed at an imaginary object. So fear and anxiety are the two sides of the same emotion, the known side, and the unknown side. The irrational aspect is due to faulty knowledge where the imaginary takes precedence, but it must still be classified as the "known" because the subject thinks oneself to know. If there is an object involved, then fear and anxiety are the two relations to that same object, and it makes no sense to say the fear has an object but the anxiety does not.

    Notice also, the other possibilities. If, one has fear, and also complacence, there is no anxiety. And, if instead of fear, one has confidence, there could still be anxiety, or complacence along with the confidence. If we were to make the separation proposed by Heidegger it would leave anxiety as completely unintelligible, and that would render it as completely bad.
  • Arne
    688
    I do not think I would agree with this Heideggerian distinction between fear and anxiety.Metaphysician Undercover

    .

    My only intent is to clarify the basis for Heidegger's distinction, i.e.,whether the source of the phenomenon is within the world.

    And you are welcome.
  • Arne
    688
    But Heidegger was quite concerned with metaphysics and was a phenomenologist.MorningStar

    I am not saying Heidegger is correct. I am only clarifying how Heidegger distinguishes between fear and anxiety. Whether he is correct is a different question.

    Heidegger's primary concern is ontology rather than metaphysics. And phenomenological description was his preferred ontological approach. For Heidegger, either the nature of being as phenomenologically described strikes one as accurate or it does not. If it strikes one as accurate, then just keep moving. If it strikes one as inaccurate, then it is time to get hermeneutical. :-)
  • Thales
    8
    In reading this discussion, I’m wondering: Is “anxiety” a condition that strikes only when things are beyond our control? Or is it possible for us to be anxious about something over which we do, in fact, have control?

    For example, flying in an airplane can make a passenger anxious because it is the pilot, the airplane’s mechanical integrity, weather, etc. that affect the airplane’s safety – not the passenger. So clearly this is a case where anxiety is the result of (the passenger) being out of control.

    But what about being anxious about cooking a meal for someone? Said cook can certainly be anxious that the meal he or she is preparing is worthy of his or her guest. The cook is not worried about the stove exploding, or someone interrupting him or her, or any other outside negative influence. He or she is just anxious about the meal itself – the meal he or she has chosen and planned – all of which he or she controls. This includes what constitutes the meal, which spices to add, how long to cook the food, the presentation and plating, etc.

    So although it’s possible to be anxious about things that are beyond one’s control, it seems to be equally possible to be anxious about things that are within one’s control. Lucky for us, anxiety knows no bounds! <smile>

    This discussion makes me wonder about something else as well:

    Anxiety is often diagnosed and treated as a psychiatric disorder – not a state of ignorance. What I mean is, the reading of stoic philosophers – though enriching and enlightening – may not affect some forms of (psychiatrically diagnosed) anxiety, which are thought to be caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters. Patients suffering from such forms of anxiety are instead often successfully treated by selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). So perhaps where philosophy and psychiatry meet is the place where we can see the forest and the trees!
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