Anxiety: A Uniquely Human Experience
From “The Brain and the Roots of Fear ”:
While anxiety is defined by uncertainty, human anxiety is greatly amplified by our ability to imagine the future, and our place in it, even a future that is physically impossible. With imagination we can ruminate over that yet to be experienced, possibly impossible scenario. We use this creative capacity to great advantage when we envision how to make our lives better, but we can just as easily put it to work in less productive ways — worrying excessively about the outcome of things. Some concern about outcomes is essential to success in meeting life’s challenges and opportunities. But at some point, most of us probably worry more than we need to. This raises the questions: How much fear and worry is too much? How do we know when we have skipped the line from normal fear and anxiety to a disorder?
Fear and anxiety are in the brain because they helped our ancestors and theirs cope with life’s challenges. But when these states interfere with our ability to survive and thrive, one has an anxiety disorder. These include phobias, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress syndrome, generalized anxiety disorder, among other conditions.
Tears can sting like acid rain or they can soothe like a drop of aloe vera gel. Sometimes it’s worth it; to take a chance and hope for a cool and comforting physical manifestation of emotion. Other times, the trauma of being burned can weld shackles to our limbs and we’re left immobile - until blood flow is inhibited and we collapse.
I’ve frolicked through dying daisies with both a smile on my face and a burning in my heart simultaneously because a flower can die so elegantly.
The droop of a dying daisy can appear to be an openly receptive salutation to something bigger - something warm and positive. Shriveling petals are freed from rigidity and can finally move with the wind until they just become unstable. The flower stops dancing and collapses and cold waxy petals succumb to the elements.
And then I move on to the rose bush.
You’ve felt it. It rests between the measures of a musical composition sometimes. It’s an emotion I can only explain without complex terminology or abstract thought.
I don’t know what it is, but a certain something in a song (a note or pitch?) can make time stand still. It can sound like a sunset over the pacific ocean or a golden pink sky. Or contentment. Bliss.
When it isn’t intertwined in the workings of music it’s the undertone of a painting, unable to be grasped by human hands. I want this feeling. I want it to be tangible and I want to bottle it and breathe it in every second of the day.
But for now, I’ll visit it via the creative energy of sight and sound.
I’ve always felt that nothing fuels us as a society quite like happiness. Laughter can, arguably, spark a flame more brilliant and breathtaking than any fossil fuel or heat source in existence. We strive to be happy. And why wouldn’t we? Happiness feels good.
But what if our goals didn’t resolve around achieving joy, but balance? To be happy 100 percent of the time is devalue those human experiences that make us whole; that provide us with goal-oriented tasks, mind states, and motivation.
Our society has corrupted the human experience through ridiculous beliefs about behavior. Or, perhaps, these ideals are to be blamed on biology. But i digress…
There’s nothing wrong with anger, sadness, frustration, fear, or any emotion. Yet, the fearful are cowardly and get called shameful names, and the angry are labeled monsters and sociopaths. I see that as inaccurate.
So, I have set a goal of emotional balance. Personally, I want to experience every emotion. Much like how a connoisseur of wine can distinguish between a fine wine and a cheap-o house version, I want to be able to really know my feelings. I want to feel the burn of sadness and the chill of fear because the next time happiness presents itself to me, I want to be able to say “this here feeling- the warmth, the the energy pulling the corners of my mouth upward into a smile- is indeed happiness.”