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When Anxiety Becomes Healthy

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Living is hard.

No doubt. It is full of things that will break you or make you.

Life is either a curse or a blessing.

The outcome of how it turns out depends on how you have used every anxiety that has stricken your being. Yup, that’s right.

Anxiety is essential to fully experience the life in us. It is something that is connected with our very own existence. You embrace it, then, it solidifies your being. Avoid it, then, it chases you right into the pit of nothingness.

There is no point in living if life is all too good.

Anxiety has its primitive essence back when cavemen have to fight off beasts that prey on them, find ways on how to obtain food, find shelter, and how to avert other people posing as a threat to them. Basically, all was done in the name of survival. Thanks to anxiety that gave all the essence to know how it’s like to feel triumphant to keep living.

Rollo May is one of the prominent personalities in Existential Psychology that re-molded the definition of anxiety of what it has used to indicate. He eyed upon anxiety as a threat to our core values in which a man identifies himself and at the same time, something that could propel our existence into meaningfulness. Anxiety is the distortion of our individuality. On the other hand, values are the rails that keeps our life on track when it seems our being gets derailed on where we are heading. May addressed 2 types of anxiety namely: Normal anxiety and Neurotic anxiety.

Normal anxiety is not more than what the term itself indicates. It is proportionate to the threat that stimulates us to feel anxious. It is not being repressed and it could be recognized on a conscious level. It is the type of anxiety that is essential in our being. We feel a sense of accomplishment as we embrace normal anxiety. It is also something that strengthens our coping skills to face different levels of afflictions that are pierced together with our existence. For example, we face normal anxiety as we deal with our day-to-day life dilemma such as working on a project in the office or at school, finding a decent job to sustain our financial needs, making major life decisions such as raising a child, recovering from painful life events, etc. These are all essential experiences that comes with “actual” living. These are things that doesn’t need to be blocked from our consciousness therefore, recognizing the need for it to be straightened out. Devising a way to solve these hurdles in life make anxiety beneficial because it activates our potentials to use our skills imprinted in our being. It is what catapults our life experiences to a higher level of understanding on how to live.

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But, what if a person denies the need to recognize the anxieties that one has to carry along with living?

Then, this goes to the second type of anxiety that Rollo May addressed – Neurotic Anxiety. It is the total opposite of normal anxiety whereas, it is disproportionate to the threat and it involves repression. It wards the potential of the person to explore one’s being therefore his/her essence of existence stagnates. For example, if a person who has experienced bad relationships in the past (normal anxiety), becomes hostile to others even to the point of evading intimate relationships, branched out distrust to an even larger circle of social connections because of the relevant past, then anxiety in this circumstance, was not dealt accordingly. It has even created impairment in the person. An indication that, instead of progress and creativity that are supposedly being actualized in a person, psychopathology develops due to defenses that this person has unconsciously put up.

There’s seemingly a thin line that separates normal anxiety to transform it to neurotic anxiety. The key in handling anxieties is to recognize it at first hand on how it is operating in our lives and how it has affected us. May said that we are capable of surmounting anxiety as long as the values that we hold are stronger than these threats causing anxieties.

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The point here is, anxiety at its most normal form is healthy. We must be constructive on how to face the piercing anxiety that comes along our existence. Its transformation from normal to neurotic anxiety depends on how we have handled it when it came upon us. It stays beneficial when recognized and taken appropriate actions to turn it into a different form that ends in productivity. But once ignored, it nourishes neuroticism, which eventually results in psychopathology. Absolute freedom from anxiety is impossible. We just learn how to live with it.

Acceptance should be the face we show towards anxiety. It may not be the answer but it can be the solution.

After all, the most beautiful stories are of the people who has dealt with anxiety in a way that it has turned the table of misfortune as an advantage for them.

So, are you feeling that your anxiety-causing situation has beaten you up?
Well, it’s now the time to turn tables.

Rainier Ladic
A guy from the Philippines whose origin of interest and passion in Psychology and pursuing a career out of it came from resolving existential basic issues. Currently on my last year under the Master's program specializing in Clinical Psychology, working as a Behavioral Therapist in a center specifically doing Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy to children with Neurodevelopmental Disorder. Free time is spent mostly with myself as I introspect about many things, talking with friends, exercising at the gym, writing blogs to release what's on my mind, listening to inspiring and empowering songs, and watching documentaries of various sort.

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