Anxiety is a funny thing. Some people are anxious over specific things, while others, like me, have a kind of general background anxiety. It’s only recently have I’ve admitted that to myself.
Some might call this existential or philosophical anxiety and, to a greater or lesser extent, it’s part of the human condition.
Humans are philosophising animals precisely because we are the anxious animal: not a creature of the present, but regretful about the past and fearful of the future. We philosophise to understand our past, to make our future more comprehensible… Philosophy is the path that we hope gets us there. Anxiety is our dogged, unpleasant and indispensable companion.Samir Chopra, Anxiety isn’t a pathology. It drives us to push back the unknown (Psyche)
One of the things my therapist has been pushing me on recently is my tolerance for, and ability to sit with uncertainty. We all want to know something for definite, but it’s rarely possible.
We are anxious; we seek relief by enquiring, by asking questions, while not knowing the answers; greater or lesser anxieties might heave into view as a result. As we realise the dimensions of our ultimate concerns, we find our anxiety is irreducible, for our increasing bounties of knowledge – scientific, technical or conceptual – merely bring us greater burdens of uncertainty.Samir Chopra, Anxiety isn’t a pathology. It drives us to push back the unknown (Psyche)
To be able to tolerate the philosophical anxiety of not knowing, then, is a form of superpower. It may not necessarily make us happy, but it does make us free.
Anxiety then, rather than being a pathology, is an essential human disposition that leads us to enquire into the great, unsolvable mysteries that confront us; to philosophise is to acknowledge a crucial and animating anxiety that drives enquiry onward. The philosophical temperament is a curious and melancholic one, aware of the incompleteness of human knowledge, and the incapacities that constrain our actions and resultant happiness.Samir Chopra, Anxiety isn’t a pathology. It drives us to push back the unknown (Psyche)
Ultimately, it’s OK to be anxious, as it makes us human and takes us beyond mere rationality to a deeper, more powerful understanding of who (and why) we are.
The most fundamental enquiry of all is into our selves; anxiety is the key to this sacred inner chamber, revealing which existential problematic – the ultimate concerns of death, meaning, isolation, freedom – we are most eager to resolve.Samir Chopra, Anxiety isn’t a pathology. It drives us to push back the unknown (Psyche)