High Anxiety

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Mel Brooks in his 1977 film High Anxiety

This week, my level of anxiety has continued to escalate, and not only due to my situation at work.

I will not breach confidentiality even in an anonymously written blog post, but a family member’s recent struggles have heightened my own anxiety to even higher levels than before.

I hope to look back on this situation in the future and reflect upon how things worked out well, but you and I do not know what the future holds. If I did, I would not waste my time writing this, and if you did, you would not be reading this.

Anxiety at Work

In our workplaces, we try to construct it so anxiety is reduced to a minor issue or distraction.  The rigid Weberian bureaucracy where I am employed exercises an immense amount of caution, rules, regulations, controls and multiple approvals before anything gets done.  Of course, I would expect no less working for a local unit of government.

Having recently been reassigned from the wise and highly experienced boss who hired me in the spring of 2005, to a Millennial boss who is still trying to figure out the difference between his ass and a hole in the ground has led to a high level of anxiety with me.

I received an email directive yesterday to start moving my stuff to my new office today, which only led to a higher level of anxiety for me as I tried to still do my job while spending half the day moving stuff from Point A to Point B.

I will be doing the same thing over the next two days (or more) while also having meetings and working on a map-based inventory of available industrial spaces in my community, a project with the arbitrary deadline of next Friday, July 21st.

Trying to please a new and inexperienced boss at the same time as trying to keep up with my demanding job, while worrying about my family member the entire time just caused more anxiety today, which I am trying to deal with the best that I can.

I share this because I know that many of our workplaces raise anxious emotions in us.  I am not the only one who worries what my boss thinks of me or is involved with work-related disputes and power struggles.

I attend endless meetings, most of which revolve around defining roles, changing our procedures in the name of change and negotiating territory. And that does not even include my several meetings per week with existing or prospective businesses.

My workplace is in a never-ending quest to fix what are in reality non-existent problems, and that is something that it will continue to do into eternity after you and I are both gone from God’s Green Earth.

Anxiety About My Anxiety

Throughout most of my life, I viewed anxiety as a weakness.  I thought that those who read and embraced self-help were weak-minded individuals in need of some touchy-feely crap to make them feel better about themselves.

At the age of forty-six, I have become one of those people.

I realize that I am currently suffering from anxiety.  I only slept three and a half hours last night, and not straight.  Once from 1:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. and again from some time after 4:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.  I know that is not healthy, but again, I could not stop thinking about the situation with my family no matter how I tried.  I tried fantasizing about women, about making more money, about finding a new job, about being able to play basketball again.  Nothing worked and the hours kept ticking on by.

I am anxious about being anxious, but am still working toward overcoming it.

Embrace Your Anxiety

In Freedom and Accountability at Work: Applying Philosophical Insight to the Real World by Peter Koestenbaum and Peter Block, they write that we need to change our mind about anxiety and learn to embrace it.  We reclaim our freedom when we come to terms with the anxiety that is associated with it.

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In Chapter 5, “The Faces of Anxiety,” Koestenbaum differentiates between existential and neurotic anxiety, with neurotic anxiety a dysfunctional derivative of the basic anxiety, which is existential.

In case that sounds like gobbledygook to you, existential anxiety is defined as the unique aspect of human experience that reveals what it means to be human.  Existential anxiety is normal, like what I have been experiencing for the past several months before this work situation was foisted upon me, and then ramped up even more with this family crisis.

Existential anxiety is healthy and normal, something that can make us rise to the challenges and obstacles that are placed before us and can ultimately lead to strength, peace and creativity.

Koestenbaum writes that the denial of existential anxiety is called neurotic, inauthentic or pathological anxiety.  It also includes the fear of anxiety.

Mechanisms by which people deny existential anxiety are endless and include such diagnoses as repression, projection, displacement, rationalization, dissociation, compulsion, obsession, sublimation and other forms of mental illness.  This denial is experienced as an unhappy life or worse.

As stressful as things are for me and as anxious as I feel lately, I am trying to apply this thought process and remember that these things that I am experiencing is part of the human experience, and I can only do the best that I can.

I am not there yet in terms of embracing my anxiety, but I hope to get there sooner rather than later.

An Authentic Guy

Authenticity is a function of how much and how well we integrate the negative aspects of life into our existence.

For the most part, I have striven to be authentic in terms of my relationships with my family, with my few friends, with the businesses and developers and many others associated with the economic development field in which I work, and with my readers.

Authentic individuals are not free from anxiety, but have enormous capacity for being comfortable with it.  According to Koestenbaum, toleration for anxiety – and thus a self-actualizing lifestyle and an authentic existence – is a condition that can be brought about fully through our own efforts.

The Value of Anxiety

Koestenbaum writes that only neurotic anxiety is really negative. Existential anxiety, even though mistakenly feared, is a positive experience.

He summarizes this in five points titled “To Feel Alive.”

  1. Anxiety is the concrete experience of living.  To be anxious is to feel alive. To be and to be anxious are therefore synonyms.  Anxiety is an openness to being, a receptivity to reality and a continuum of what we can call excitement.
  2. Anxiety is the motivation to meaning.  A life without it is static, like a rock.  Anxiety introduces disequilibrium and creates an imbalance that can develop a goal of resoluteness.
  3. Anxiety arouses to us the significance of love and compassion; it alerts us to the need for care and concern and proves to us the value of tenderness. The emptiness of anxiety with its sense of isolation, separation and abandonment points to the need for closeness and intimacy.
  4. Anxiety is the experience of time, which leads to futurity and hope.  In disclosing to us our future, anxiety can lead to the experience of hope, which is something that I am embracing right now in terms of hoping that my new work assignment eventually works out well and that my family member fully recovers.
  5. Anxiety is the experience of creativity.  All creative acts have some root in anxiety and are made possible through it.  All great creative people, from jazz musicians to composers to great novelists to great actors have translated their experiences of anxiety into product of creation.

These are but a few thoughts on the topic of anxiety for tonight, with more surely to come.  I do not expect that the process of overcoming my anxiety will happen overnight or while I think about what I have written, or some day next week or next month.

I am a big believer in new years and, with that, New Year’s Resolutions and goals.

I can write an entire list of goals and Resolutions for 2018, but all of them can be summarized as striving to overcome my anxiety and to help any readers that are also struggling with it to do so along with me.




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