“Almost all the ideas we have about being a man or being a woman are so burdened with pain, anxiety, fear and self-doubt. For many of us, the confusion around this question is excruciating.”–Andrew Cohen
Every age and every generation encounters a chronic sense of dissatisfaction. This overall feeling permeates one’s personal life and especially the general culture. It is this generic backdrop to life that causes so much suffering.
At times, we might notice a twinge of depression or a stab of anxiety. Neither emotion is very pleasant. We want to snuff out the discomfort. These are very strong emotions that we often deny and try to cover over with inward and outward behavior. Both poles of emotion make people feel empty inside. With depression there is a feeling of hopeless lack. Its opposite, anxiety shows up with a desperate lack.
This lack makes us vulnerable to feelings of need and desire. Some of us fill up the space with consumerism. Over-indulgence in religion or self-absorbtion are frequently used to mask the feelings of lack. An existential crisis may also be the result. That is, a person comes to question whether his or her life has any meaning or purpose.
At times, it seems that much of the world is in constant existential crisis mode.
Some sort of life change, either unpleasant or pleasurable might be the trigger for the self-absorbed feelings. The present economic downturn has given millions of people this sensation. More of us have a sense of being alone and isolated. We can see this in the popularity of social media on the web.
This feeling of isolation also leads to or is caused by a belief that our life has no purpose or external meaning. It goes both ways, here. This is closely linked to becoming aware of a person’s ultimate freedom. We might think about what will happen if we go ahead and accept that freedom. Maybe we will reject freedom, what then?
All of these questions we all must face at one time or another lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. These feelings go to our core.
It is through the act of manipulating our fears and hopes that institutions and powerful people can influence our thinking and behavior. Anxiety is a very effective tool in this regard.
We are exposed to various opinions regarding current events. For instance, climate change, economic woes, endless wars, earthquakes and other disasters might be interpreted in emotionally loaded concepts. Some people might be tempted to think in terms of political revolution. Others might have end of the world fantasies. The subtle and not so subtle use of fear and hope can thus trigger us to believe some of these scenarios.
Another popular way that the culture of anxiety is used regards our ideas of consumerism. What will we do when the neighbors acquire a new SUV? How do we feel when an associate brags about his new home theatre system? Most of us feel a bit anxious and envious. We are tempted to acquire a bigger, better SUV or electronics system for ourselves.
There are other ways in which fear and anxiety are used to try to influence and change our behavior. The point of this article is to point this out. Maybe you’ve just experienced an anxiety or panic attack? Maybe you feel dull and burned out? You might wish to examine how much or how little our culture of anxiety has swayed you into the feelings you are experiencing.
How much of this culture do you wish to personally own?
The Blue Jay of Happiness has noticed that a bit of anxiety seems to come along part and parcel with pleasure.