From a New York Times piece:
In a way, the desire to be rid of anxiety is neither unique nor
difficult to understand. Like any other affliction, psychiatric or
strictly physical, anxiety hurts. It is uncomfortable. If you suffer
from emphysema, you will wish to be able to breathe unimpeded.
If you suffer from eczema, you will wish for clear skin. And if you
suffer from anxiety, you will wish for a mind that does not spin every
slightest situation into catastrophe — a mind that approaches everyday
life with poise, reason and equanimity. Why wouldn’t you want such a
thing? Why shouldn’t a person’s ideal be the very absence or opposite of
that which torments him? It’s only natural.
With anxiety, however, there are two glitches to this desire. The
first is that anxiety is not the kind of affliction that can be
eradicated. This is because anxiety is not merely or essentially
psychiatric. Even when it swells to the level of a disorder, it remains
first and foremost an emotion, universally felt and necessary for
survival, not to mention for a full experience of human life. Toss aside
the bath water of anxiety and you will also be tossing aside
excitement, motivation, vigilance, ambition, exuberance and inspiration,
to name just several of the inevitable sacrifices. Get rid of anxiety?
Even if you could — and you can’t — why would you want to?
The second glitch is more complex and has to do with the nature of
anxiety itself, which for all its attendant discomforts and daily
horrors has at its heart a vital truth, even a transcendent wisdom. This
truth — which, confusingly enough, doubles as the source of anxiety’s
pain — is of the essential uncertainty and perilousness of human life.
Its fragility and evanescence. Anxiety emphasizes these aspects of
existence with an almost evangelical fervor. It hisses them, hour by
hour, minute by minute, into the sufferer’s ear. “Anything can happen at
any time,” anxiety says. “There is no sure thing. Everything you hold
dear is at risk, everything is vulnerable. It can all slip through your
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