Still(a)Life #19: Effort to Contain Anxiety

This is what the fear of Corona has done to our morning coffee; cluttered it with vitamin C and other potentially placebo prophylactics. The difference between fear and anxiety is that fear is for something that tangibly exists in the world. Fear is designed to help us avoid the object of our fear. Fear is rooted in something real and is designed for our own survival through encouraging us to do something about it, even if this “something” is simple avoidance. Anxiety, on the other hand, is for something less tangible. Anxiety is fear dislodged from any specific object, “free floating” (as psychology puts it) in the background of our minds. It is not so easy to do “something” about anxiety. We are born into the world with an inkling of it. As it increasingly frees itself from its original moorings, it slips away from our efforts to contain it.

It is a good time to try and recognise the difference between fear and anxiety. It’s a good idea to fear #covid19 and behave accordingly. The anxiety that it feeds, however, is not going to be all that helpful. Anxiety will leave us in denial, restlessness, panic or disorganisation. The most we can do with anxiety is to just let it be. Treat it with somewhat indifference. Or bring it back to its original object – fear of death, loss and loneliness. Or, the very incomprehensibility of the fact that we exist at all and why.

This is especially important for us at this stage of our efforts here in South Africa. We are only at the onset of our battle with the corona virus. For those of us who are privileged enough to have a fridge full of food and a roof over our heads; lockdown is a temporary breather before the real change comes and our real efforts begin. So, I have been encouraging my clients to pace themselves. To save their energy for what is to come. Anxiety is wasteful of our resources. “Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.”
― Corrie Ten Boomanxiety

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