Monday, May 30, 2005

The Conservation of Anxiety

Donald Davidson argues that there are no strict psychological laws; but I have discovered one. It has the defect of applying only to me. Some people – like one of my colleagues – claim to have an inexhaustible fund of anxiety, applying itself greedily to new objects whenever they arise: tenure, house, relationships, health, money. Others – also colleagues – appear to spend long periods anxiety-free. In my case, the level of anxiety is constant, varying only in its focus. When work is going well, I worry about my health. When I am in shape, I worry about work. And so on. I am always anxious about something, but the total quantity has a limit. This allows for strategic self-management: I can reduce anxiety about one thing by deliberately mis-handling some other part of my life. But it has a darker side. When everything seems to be going well, I experience the irrational fear that I will suddenly die.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mother also seems to worry without end. Once, my father asked her what she was worrying about and she replied: "The fact that I don't seem to have anything to worry about. Everything is fine, so surely I must have overlooked something important."

3:14 AM  
Blogger robbio said...

Irrational fear that you will suddenly die? Maybe you feel you don't deserve the good things in life?

Is this anxiety a form of self sabotage?

Life isn't a balance. Just because one thing is good doesn't mean something else has to be bad.

Sounds like the strategic self-management is a pseudonym of good 'ole self fullfilling prophecy.

Be careful of what factual statements you use (I am always anxious about something). Whereas the past is set in stone, the future is just a poor guess of what is going on in our heads.

2:25 PM  
Anonymous Cori said...

I'm that way too. humph.

2:38 PM  
Anonymous N said...

Is this waxing and waning of anxiety prone behavior what Davidson has in mind when he talks about strict laws pertaining to psychological states?

1:57 PM  

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