• Posty McPostface
    2.8k
    Perhaps the worst feeling of all is of inner turmoil and anxiety. It's a gut-wrenching feeling that leaves you alert but unable to address the stressor. It often leads to depression if left unchecked or at the very least a feeling of burnout or apathy after a while. In my battle against a combination of anxiety and depression in my life, I have realized that one cannot address the issue without considering anxiety as the root stressor or cause of suffering, and to be quite honest, I'd rather be depressed than anxious. One can feel as if on trial in some Kafka'esk manner when confronted with persistent anxiety.

    I don't like the feeling, and neither do you, I assume. We have ways to distract ourselves from the stressors of life by indulging in various substances, habits, vices, and other material goods. However, anxiety over material goods is surely something that every philosopher would point out an issue of the uneducated or unenlightened. Due to the fact that that which is of the material world is ever changing and not persistent. So, does this make anxiety irrelevant if we realize that it is a feeling produced by an overly desirous mind or lustrious appetite towards things?

    This sentiment about anxiety as the source arising from the passions and desire has left me to seriously consider Buddhism as a way of life to reduce my anxiety. Thus, is this professed attitude of indifference towards material goods the right way to address and reduce anxiety? We have already adopted many of the techniques Buddhists use to reduce anxiety in their lives. Such as mindfulness meditation, contemplative attitudes towards our feelings and own thoughts, meditation, and a tinge of nihilism.

    I would say that out of all the philosophies, Buddhism seems to be the most effective in terms of reducing perceived anxiety and turning it into a means to inner enlightenment. Would that be something you agree with?
  • Agustino
    11k
    I've been meaning to comment here since morning, but I've been too busy...

    However, anxiety over material goods is surely something that every philosopher would point out an issue of the uneducated or unenlightened.Posty McPostface
    Oh wow, when did @unenlightened say that anxiety over material goods is an issue for him?

    Due to the fact that that which is of the material world is ever changing and not persistent. So, does this make anxiety irrelevant if we realize that it is a feeling produced by an overly desirous mind or lustrious appetite towards things?Posty McPostface
    But surely, the inner aspect is also always changing too.

    Thus, is this professed attitude of indifference towards material goods the right way to address and reduce anxiety?Posty McPostface
    I don't necessarily think so. One way is certainly the nihilistic, defeatist way. You notice that getting or holding onto things in the world is difficult, you experience anxiety, so you renounce the former, to free yourself of anxiety. But what if instead of meeting the uncertainty of the world with anxiety, you met it with confidence in yourself and your own ability to navigate different situations to your advantage? What if, like a cat, you had the ability to always fall right side up?

    Because, you see, anxiety isn't the only way to respond to the problem of lacking control over the external world. Anxiety is only elicited as a response because, somewhere deep down, you believe you may not be able to handle what the world throws (or can throw) at you. If, on the contrary, you could get that self-esteem and inner confidence in your own ability, you would interpret uncertainty as inducing excitement, not anxiety or fear.

    I would say that out of all the philosophies, Buddhism seems to be the most effective in terms of reducing perceived anxiety and turning it into a means to inner enlightenment. Would that be something you agree with?Posty McPostface
    Well, you can find the same things in the Christian tradition. For example, you can read what I'm reading now, Into The Silent Land by Martin Laird. It's a book about what Christians call contemplation, which is almost identical to what Buddhists call mindfulness meditation.
  • unenlightened
    2.2k
    Oh wow, when did unenlightened say that anxiety over material goods is an issue for him?Agustino

    As it goes, I'm pretty comfortable, thanks. But if I was on the streets, without health cover, without a regular income, I'd be bloody anxious. I'd say that anxiety and unhappiness on that material level is - natural, functional, realistic, sensible, virtuous. Get your shit together if you possibly can! And if you can't, I might give you a hand, or someone more comfortable might, or else you're screwed.

    But what's the relation between anxiety, (and let's notice that some people much more materially endowed than me are still anxious, materially,) and depression? Is it even possible to be anxious and depressed at the same time, or are they antagonistic? Do we even agree what we're talking about?

    I tend to think that one de-presses a feeling, that might be anxiety, or anger or some other unacceptable mode of being. So depression might be a response to anxiety, when getting off your arse does not seem a viable option. Depression is in this case the active negation of anxiety.

    But to negate, to depress, to deny, is not to ameliorate, any more that the endless accumulation of wealth ameliorates that underlying material anxiety. The Buddhist psychology, as I understand it is that to seek to reduce anxiety is a mistake that perpetuates it. Instead, look at it, own it, absorb it, be it, live with it, and it will evaporate. They call this 'mindfulness'.
  • Agustino
    11k
    But if I was on the streets, without health cover, without a regular income, I'd be bloody anxious.unenlightened
    You, because the change is sudden. I would imagine people who are used to living on the street frequently experience apathy & depression more often than anxiety.

    I'd say that anxiety and unhappiness on that material level is - natural, functional, realistic, sensible, virtuous.unenlightened
    Sure, it's pretty much unavoidable, as I said.

    or else you're screwed.unenlightened
    lol, doesn't sound encouraging.

    But to negate, to depress, to deny, is not to ameliorate, any more that the endless accumulation of wealth ameliorates that underlying material anxiety. The Buddhist psychology, as I understand it is that to seek to reduce anxiety is a mistake that perpetuates it.unenlightened
    But see, this sort of ignores the functional role of anxiety, and how things can be turned around. As I said in my previous post, there is a reason why you experience anxiety, and it often has to do with some deep-seated beliefs about yourself and your capacities. I'm not talking about anxiety when you're actually facing a threat, and looking for a way to avoid it - I'm talking about the meta-level anxiety, that seems to be there, out of proportion. Underlying everything, there does seem to be the belief, on a feeling level, that you won't be able to deal with whatever bad thing you imagine might happen. That's what generates anxiety, and you struggle to secure a way that can certainly deal with it. So it seems to be a lack of self-belief.
  • unenlightened
    2.2k
    Underlying everything, there does seem to be the belief, on a feeling level, that you won't be able to deal with whatever bad thing you imagine might happen. That's what generates anxiety, and you struggle to secure a way that can certainly deal with it. So it seems to be a lack of self-belief.Agustino

    It seems to make sense (not tomato sense, idiot spellcheck) but one can always imagine that with which one cannot cope, however exaggerated one's self belief - you might get motor-neurone disease tomorrow, just as the economy collapses and... I'm pretty fucking competent, dude, but shit can still happen. No, rather I think that the development of self-esteem is another cover-up of anxiety.
  • Agustino
    11k
    It seems to make sense (not tomato sense, idiot spellcheck) but one can always imagine that with which one cannot cope, however exaggerated one's self belief - you might get motor-neurone disease tomorrow, just as the economy collapses and... I'm pretty fucking competent, dude, but shit can still happen.unenlightened
    Well yeah, but very unlikely - so unlikely that there is no point taking these possibilities into account in the absence of evidence. I mean, doing so would be quite irrational - it would be like thinking the sun may not rise tomorrow, and taking that possibility seriously. That's again something you'll have to deal with as it happens if it does.

    No, rather I think that the development of self-esteem is another cover-up of anxiety.unenlightened
    But anxiety isn't primal - it's developed as a way to respond to threats and guard yourself. If you had no anxiety, you'd be unable to respond to threats. But when your anxiety response doesn't function well, you focus on either very improbable threats, or take relatively small threats as if they were much bigger than they really are - the response becomes counter-productive. If on the other hand you had a sense of security in yourself - just the sense itself will be enough, so that the question of such pathological anxiety would never arise - because you'd understand how improbable such threats are, or how relatively insignificant most of the other smaller threats are.
  • Janus
    5k
    Depression is in this case the active negation of anxiety.unenlightened

    It seems it would be more apt to say it is the passive negation, or perhaps better, nihilation, of anxiety.
  • Bitter Crank
    5.6k
    I'd rather be depressed than anxious.Posty McPostface

    They are both very attractive options so it's always a conundrum: Bleak despair or blazing terror?

    Some people seem to experience only depression OR anxiety, but it seems like the two alternate, or combine for many people.

    Some people are anxious about their material things, but I think it's just as likely that one will be anxious about immaterial things like love, status, friendship, being isolated, and such. Our immaterial possessions are harder to guard than our tangible goods. A fire alarm, sprinkler system, termite poisons, and the like can protect the dry goods, but how do you protect love, status, belonging, friendship, peace, self-regard, esteem, and so on?
  • Hanover
    3.4k
    There is a distiction between generalized anxiety (and depression) and situational anxiety. If I lose my job, my insurance, become sick, get evicted, etc., I will be anxious, but that would be normal. If I weren't, that might be a bigger problem. The problem lies with those whose anxiety arises from no particular event and cannot be controlled and it interferes with their well being. It's for that reason that advising someone who is anxious to simply eliminate those anxiety rendering events from his life isn't terribly helpful. Some simply don't have identifiable events. I'd expect there are methods to reduce the anxiety, but elimination would be doubtful for the truly afflicted.
  • Hanover
    3.4k
    how do you protect love, status, belonging, friendship, peace, self-regard, esteem, and so on?Bitter Crank

    With a big warm hug. Now come over here you big lug.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.7k
    Minor to moderate anxiety seems to be the natural state. If you're completely relaxed, there's probably something wrong that you're not aware of, and being aware of this possibility will end your state of relaxation.

    Quite literally we have to "take our minds off things" to relax. Our awareness has to be limited. We "shut down" a bit.
  • Bitter Crank
    5.6k
    I'd expect there are methods to reduce the anxietyHanover

    One of the problems of anxiety is that there are drugs which offer speedy, effective relief: benzodiazepines (Xanax, Ativan, and others; some people still rely on barbiturates. Then there's alcohol and various recreational drugs). They do a good job of suppressing anxiety, but people become acclimated to the drugs; gradually increased doses are needed and eventually they just don't work anymore. In the long run one has to find other solutions. In the long run we're all dead, as John Maynard Keynes observed.

    Benzos also work for one's difficult-to-control anger and rage.
  • Posty McPostface
    2.8k
    I would like to say that depression and anxiety are not antagonistic rather they complement each other. One can be depressed about being anxious all the time or the other way around, being anxious over being depressed (my predominant state of mind).

    The anxious utter cognitive distortion thought tells me: *If only I weren't depressed, I'd be able to do the task at hand.*

    The depressed cognitive distortion goes: *If only I weren't so anxious I'd be able to get out of the house more.*

    Two sides of the same coin?
  • Agustino
    11k
    *If only I weren't depressed, I'd be able to do the task at hand.*Posty McPostface
    That depends, there are some tasks I struggle with. I used to go to the gym almost everyday, and I had kept that ritual for quite a few years. And now, during and after the Christmas holidays, I went only once so far - I experience it as a lack of motivation, I just don't feel motivated. I wouldn't say I'm depressed, it's just lacking in motivation. It is compounded by the fact that it's so cold outside.

    *If only I weren't so anxious I'd be able to get out of the house more.*Posty McPostface
    I think you need to have goals though, and goals will dictate what you have to do or not do. From my observation some people seem to think "I need to get out of the house more", just for the sake of it, or because others are telling them so. But that doesn't work very well - you need to have your own goals, that you want to achieve for their own sake. For example, one goal could be to achieve physical fitness - that goal would give you reasons to get out of the house. Another goal would be not to rely on your parents for groceries, income, etc. - that could get you out of the house too, but for example, if you work from home like I do, it won't :P .
  • unenlightened
    2.2k
    But anxiety isn't primal - it's developed as a way to respond to threats and guard yourself. If you had no anxiety, you'd be unable to respond to threats.Agustino

    I'm not sure what you mean by primal? The way I carve it, primal emotion is the immediate response to the environment. So I'm walking, and come across a snake, and there is a response. I freeze, I'm focused on the threat, and deciding what to do. I'll call that fear. Next time I'm walking in the same place, I'm probably anxious, looking out for snakes. And that is secondary, because it is a response to something internal; not a snake, but a memory of snake.

    And then I am aware of being anxious, and think how it is uncomfortable, it's spoiling the joy of my walk. And that is a tertiary emotion.

    Now all of this is perfectly functional, and maybe the tertiary feeling leads me to educate myself about which snakes are dangerous, to wear snake-proof boots, to carry a cleft stick, and so on, and these precautions reduce my anxiety, and also my fear, the next time I meet a snake - I am prepared. But maybe I have another response, that is not effective in reducing anxiety and fear. I might just try and stay away from snake country. Then I have deprived myself of that walk, but I have also made anxiety the dictator, and given it control of my life. It may seem that I have avoided the anxiety, but actually I have increased it.

    How depressing! That is to say, my response to my failure to deal with my anxiety, is to then pretend that I don't really want to go for a walk at all, and that is I suppose, a quaternary feeling.
  • Agustino
    11k
    But maybe I have another response, that is not effective in reducing anxiety and fear. I might just try and stay away from snake country. Then I have deprived myself of that walk, but I have also made anxiety the dictator, and given it control of my life. It may seem that I have avoided the anxiety, but actually I have increased it.unenlightened
    Well, wouldn't such a response be appropriate in certain cases? I mean, some activities really are very dangerous, and danger is frequent, and not rare in them. If it's at all possible, without compromising your goals, wouldn't it be wise for you to stay away from them?

    The only activity where I have partially adopted this attitude is driving. Quite honestly, because of the traffic here, violence on the road, serious accidents or legal issues some of my friends had to face due to driving, and just the general stress of it, I avoid it if I can. Some situations, it's not possible to - like, for example, one time I had to take my dog from the vet, and there's no way to do that except by car - so then I did drive. But normal going to and fro in the city, I use public transport or sometimes taxi. Would you say that I'm being irrational in such a situation and governed by anxiety? To my mind, it just doesn't seem to be worth the psychological effort, given the relatively small benefits.

    And all this goes back to my initial point that whether the "anxiety" response is appropriate or not is circumstantial - if you are capable to adequately judge the risks and benefits, then I would say that your anxiety response isn't off.

    In the example you gave about the walk, you have to consider the probabilities. Maybe you went on your walk using the same route for more than 100 times, and it was only once that you met the snake. So then you might consider the probability of encountering a snake to be quite low. And the event of encountering a snake, failing to see it, AND getting bitten by it is even more rare. So you take some precautionary measures with boots, and you're careful on your walk, not absent-minded, that should be more than enough.

    So in that case, avoiding the walk seems too extreme of a response. There are certain benefits from going on your walk - exercise, fresh air, helps you have a clear mind, etc. And it's not worth forgoing these benefits because of a relatively rare threat, which you can take some measures to protect yourself against.

    BUT - now suppose that your country was at war, and there was active conflict going on around where you usually walked. I think it would be insane to argue that if your anxiety makes you no longer enjoy walking, that would be a pathological response. In that case, I think it would be an absolutely normal response to cease your walking, since the dangers you'd expose yourself to in the activity now outweigh the benefits.
  • unenlightened
    2.2k
    Well, wouldn't such a response be appropriate in certain cases?Agustino

    Sure. But isn't interested so much in those situations, but finds himself in the situation where his anxiety feels constricting, unreasonable, and unnecessary. Feelings are functional in all sorts of ways, but one can take a wrong turn, and then they can be dysfunctional. I'm using a simple example to illustrate where one can go wrong. In the case of the primary response, the shock, the fear, is unavoidable and probably appropriate - the snake might be harmless, but better safe than dead. So the anxiety from the memory of that is inevitable too, that's learning. The problem comes when one reacts to anxiety as if it were fear.

    Snake -> fear -> avoid.
    But:
    Thought of snake -> anxiety -> approach.

    Approaching the thought of snake, one learns about snakes, and perhaps one concludes that snake pits are not worth walking in, or perhaps one concludes that snakes are wonderful creatures that one can happily interact with, given a few precautions. So my conclusion is very simple: Do not avoid anxiety, approach, investigate, find the source.
  • Agustino
    11k
    Sure. But ↪Posty McPostface isn't interested so much in those situations, but finds himself in the situation where his anxiety feels constricting, unreasonable, and unnecessary.unenlightened
    Well, Posty hasn't outlined what exactly he's trying to achieve that the anxiety is stopping him from achieving. So it's difficult to understand what it means that the "anxiety feels constricting, unreasonable, and unnecessary" - that seems to be our assumption, and certainly what he's telling us, but we can't decide that without understanding the context in greater depth.

    Approaching the thought of snake, one learns about snakes, and perhaps one concludes that snake pits are not worth walking in, or perhaps one concludes that snakes are wonderful creatures that one can happily interact with, given a few precautions.unenlightened
    How does one learn about snakes by approaching the thought of snakes?

    So my conclusion is very simple: Do not avoid anxiety, approach, investigate, find the source.unenlightened
    Well, in the example you gave, wouldn't the source be the encounter with the snake? That's where the anxiety originated from - but I have a feeling that this is not what you mean. So what is this "source" that you're referring to?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    3.8k
    Anxiety is only elicited as a response because, somewhere deep down, you believe you may not be able to handle what the world throws (or can throw) at you.

    ...

    As I said in my previous post, there is a reason why you experience anxiety, and it often has to do with some deep-seated beliefs about yourself and your capacities.
    Agustino

    I would not agree with this. I would think that anxiety is deeper seated than beliefs. Having an anxious condition, or disposition, leads one to feel anxiety toward certain beliefs, not vise versa. Anxiety is probably developed directly from the condition of one's metabolic system, and manifests, or in some cases festers as anxiety concerning specific beliefs.

    There is a distiction between generalized anxiety (and depression) and situational anxiety.Hanover

    That is what I think, but I also think that anxiety itself, properly exposed and described, is of the generalized variety. Situational anxiety is just the particular manifestation of general anxiety. And if this is the case, then anxiety in general can in principle, be dealt with through channeling it toward appropriate situations. Maintaining numerous objects of anxiety may help to maintain a high level of activity, and avoid obsession. Inactivity and depression may feed off each other.

    One of the problems of anxiety is that there are drugs which offer speedy, effective relief: benzodiazepines (Xanax, Ativan, and others; some people still rely on barbiturates. Then there's alcohol and various recreational drugs). They do a good job of suppressing anxiety, but people become acclimated to the drugs; gradually increased doses are needed and eventually they just don't work anymore. In the long run one has to find other solutions. In the long run we're all dead, as John Maynard Keynes observed.Bitter Crank

    One ought not consider anxiety to always be an evil to be suppressed with drugs. That, as you imply, is a problem. Anxiety is very closely related to things like anticipation, and ambition, which may be beneficial. In other words, there are probably more productive ways of dealing with most instances of anxiety, than the attempt to suppress it. Suppressing anxiety may lead to depression. The issue being one of maintaining balance. As the metabolism of each individual human being varies, so does our need for activity.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    I would say that out of all the philosophies, Buddhism seems to be the most effective in terms of reducing perceived anxiety and turning it into a means to inner enlightenment. Would that be something you agree with?Posty McPostface

    Buddhism is a fundamental philosophy of how excessive desires creates unhealthy spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical lives. It is simple and straightforward. Desiring a "solution" via Yoga, Buddhism, Tai Chi, or otherwise is counterproductive. What is productive is the advice of the Eight Noble Advice Wich is to seek the Middle Way, moderation.

    I've observed long-time Buddhist practitioners who are every bit as stressed out as anyone else. Too much desire. Too much obedience. Not enough variety in Life.

    What I have done in my life is study many forms of health practices including Tai Chi, Qigong, Mediation, Yoga, various sports and arts, etc. At times I've been stressed out. That is part if learning in Life. However, I've learned that it will pass and if I am in good health I will be fine. So far, so good. I'm 66, in terrific health, and very active. I practice moderation in everything.
  • Agustino
    11k
    Anxiety is probably developed directly from the condition of one's metabolic systemMetaphysician Undercover
    So in your opinion, anxiety is biological, and the anxious person cannot do anything involving the alteration of beliefs, to reduce anxiety?

    If so, why is it that cognitive behavioural therapy, which effectively focuses on addressing and questioning the patient's beliefs, is so successful as a first-measure treatment of anxiety?

    anxiety is deeper seated than beliefs.Metaphysician Undercover
    I disagree with you - a belief is what translates in a way of acting. If I act a certain way, then that is what I really believe. Beliefs go deeper than what one is conscious of - we can have beliefs we're not even aware of.
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