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  • Anxiety attacks are sometimes interpreted, by society at large but also by their confused,

  • guilty or shamed sufferers, as an illness close to madness: the result of a mysterious

  • chemically-based flaw in the brain that severs us from reality and normalcy. The suggested

  • treatment is therefore medical, involving forceful attempts to dampen and anaesthetise

  • parts of the misfiring mind.

  • Yet such an interpretation - however kind in its intentions - depends on the assumption:

  • that the normal response to the conditions of existence should be calm.

  • But why should it be, given the obvious insanity of the world?

  • The root cause of an anxiety attack is unusual sensitivity to a madness in the world most

  • people dampen out.

  • Of course, once you think about it, it’s entirely understandable one might have an

  • anxiety attack at a party, when talking to a colleague or on a crowded train. There is

  • genuine terror beneath the surface of such things.

  • In her great novel Middlemarch, the 19th century English writer George Eliot, a deeply self-aware

  • but also painfully self-conscious and anxious figure, reflected on what it would be like

  • if we were truly sensitive, open to the world and felt the implications of everything

  • If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like

  • hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar

  • which lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well

  • wadded with stupidity.”

  • It is, as Eliot recognises, both a privilege and a profound nightmare to hear that grass

  • growing and that squirrel’s heart beating - and, also, by extension to feel everything

  • deeply. We might well, as she sometimes did, long for a little morewell-wadded stupidity

  • to block it all out.

  • Nevertheless, Eliot’s lines offer us a way to reinterpret our anxiety with greater dignity

  • and benevolence. It emerges from a dose of clarity that is (currently) too powerful for

  • us to cope with - but isn’t for that matter wrong. We panic because we rightly feel how

  • thin the veneer of civilisation is, how mysterious other people are, how improbable it is that

  • we exist at all, how everything that seems to matter now will eventually be annihilated,

  • how random many of the turnings of our lives are, how prey we are to accident.

  • Anxiety is simply insight that we haven’t yet found a productive use for, that hasn’t

  • yet made its way into art or philosophy. It’s a mad world that insists that the anxious

  • are the crazy ones.

  • We are in such a hurry to see anxiety as a sickness, we fail to notice its health and

  • wisdom. It is a legitimate, constant response to the oddity of going to parties, riding

  • public transport or more widely, of being alive.

  • We should never exacerbate our suffering by trying to push our disquiet aggressively away.

  • Our lack of calm isn’t deplorable or a sign of weakness. It is simply the justifiable

  • expression of our mysterious participation in a disordered, uncertain world.

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Anxiety attacks are sometimes interpreted, by society at large but also by their confused,

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Anxiety Attacks

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/03/25
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