Believe me anxiety, I know things are fucked up!
I don’t need you flaring up and giving me nights punctuated by restless hours, shakes and thrashing. You will anyway, its your function to always be on, but sometimes it is hammering home a point already made.
Anxiety will drive me forward and forward. Have you ever thought what it would mean to turn off anxiety? For me it would be to die.
My anxiety is triggered by every act of disrespect I feel. To turn it off is to stop desiring respect for myself. My anxiety is aware, at background level, that I do not own a safe place of my own; that there isn’t really one out there in the capitalist world. To turn that anxiety off would be to also turn off the values that desire safety and dignity.
Anxiety can make you appear a wreck – colour drained from the face, black-rimed weary eyes signalling nights of turmoil. But without anxiety, herald of deep dignity, we are dead anyway. I do not speak of the wrong kind of anxiety – neurotic desire for perfection, misunderstanding of human nature, denial of entropy in our bodies. I speak here of anxiety the dark guide, the eternal mentor that pushes us into better places and cracks the whip when we ‘underachieve’; the thing that makes us struggle endlessly even if it hurts us so, the thing that detects the foe in the powers that wish to drain us, the thing that never lets complacency rear its pink snout without a fight! Complacency is death!
I have spent two years doing – by most people’s standards – very little indeed. I can easily forgive myself these necessary weaknesses, feel no guilt for being inactive in the leviathan-machine. A lot of that was necessary healing time, overcoming panic disorders, a lot of working-shit-out time, a lot of incredibly fruitful endeavour. Now it is like lying in bed after the worst of the illness has passed. If I stayed here good things will still sometimes happen, life would have rays of authenticity and excitement, but less often than I would desire. This isn’t purpose, these attachments aren’t anything but insecure. Caution is wise, over caution is not.
I know that I am bending over backwards to accommodate a partially-inauthentic life. Meditation, anxiolytic oils and valerian tincture for sleep – this is like suppressing the real drive to evolve to the next stage. The things we use to cope in the wrong circumstances can keep us in the wrong circumstances if we do not see them for what they are. In the long-term, we are better off falling and trusting the world to catch us. Then we can see what we are truly made of.
For how much energy we have to cope in the world depends on what we wish to achieve. If you hide in a box room with your gran, your energy will be lessened by your situation. If you stay in the placid lake forever, your body will never need to fill you with energy, your heroism and courage will never grow. Malicious forces will grow everywhere else and eventually come for you. Safety is not the safe option – it is a slow death.
This is why therapy also had to cease. It was like an addiction, a place to be psychically cuddled by a benevolent god. It made me much more powerful, digging up vulnerabilities and learning who I was at the deepest level. But therapy was keeping me here, tied to a plane of existence I know can no longer sustain itself or me. Now I am without it I am tested, and it is always there to return to if the need calls it.
The time is coming when I must stop trying to avoid anxiety and let it do its thing. To get me into the next phase. It succeeded last time, in a jagged and messy way, a terrifying way for someone who did not know themselves. This time I predict a much smoother and mutual process. It won’t be taking me to some magic, safe-place.
I do not want to retreat the peaceful hills or some far-flung shire and live out days in tranquillity. It is not only a denial of instincts – the cut and thrust of life, competition and challenge, striving and defiance. There is simply no real safety there, even if it was an option. Such a life of retreat is a negation of our responsibility to the world and other tribes of humanity. It is like retreating to the centre of an ever-shrinking island; when it comes to your time to be swallowed by the waves there will be no one left to save you but individualistic, New Age hermits whose spiritual bypassing let the merchants of disaster destroy civilization. They will keep retreating until there is nothing left to retreat into, a final act of pay-what-you-can yoga on the final mountain of submerged earth before oblivion finds them!
No – I know security comes by stepping into the heart of power, the eye of the storm, drawing the spiritual sword on the front lines. When you know you are strong enough and ready, taking action. Going forward, daring to step into the shadow of a giant and challenging him, this is how you befriend your anxiety and ensure the safety of yourself and your tribe. This means a life of near-constant struggle, conflict, tension, wounding. This means that peace is a chapter which will always be followed by some kind of conflict. Let it be – I know that I could not have it any other way and would rather die than be domesticated and watch the world and its tribes I admire be slowly poisoned to death, scorched or drowned.
We think and feel so our energy is tried, and we can feel weak. But it is precisely because we think and feel that we have something to fight for, and our morale cannot be broken for long. We are more powerful than we think, even with this anxiety, or rather, precisely because of it. It is the herald of our dignity and everything we want to see in the world.
When we eventually win the fight to evolve from our disastrous capitalist path, anxiety will have done much to save us. But it will not turn off; we will find no permanent rest. New challenges we cannot see from our current perspective will emerge, and anxiety again shall be at our side to protect us.