By Brianna Wiest

When we can’t let go of something that we claim to despise, it is usually because we are in love with it in some way. That is to say, we believe it does something for us. It is useful, or protective, or interesting. Never is this more true than with the most American malady, anxiety.

Human emotion is not categorical. It is not as though you experience something and it is “good” or “bad.” The good can come with a cost, the bad can be a learning experience, and so on. Emotion exists on a spectrum (some people’s are wider than others’.) Anxiety is just another healthy expression on that spectrum, one that serves to warn us that something is wrong, or that action needs to be taken.

Subconsciously, we know this. We understand that anxiety is what drives us to act. This is how we start to wield it for our ego’s benefit.

Like fearful parents trying to scare their children into behaving well, we tell ourselves made up narratives – no matter how elaborate or false – that will incite us to act. These narratives represent things we inherently fear. Yet, we end up paralyzed when the action we are trying to take is in fact unnecessary or unhealthy.

We give ourselves chronic anxiety worrying about “getting fired,” which is just how we push ourselves to perform better at work, which is, by most accounts, how we measure a life well lived. We worry about never finding love and ending up alone so as to apply pressure to ourselves to go out and seek it, and quickly. We worry about overeating so that we don’t give into our natural impulses to eat as much as we want, and therefore we defy the process of aging, or expanding, and we ever so slightly transcend the idea that we are mortal, and that this is the most beautiful we will ever be.

Our anxiety is how we self-generate motivation to do the things we don’t actually want to do. Things that are against our nature, against our instincts. Things that are superimposed onto our psyches by the collective consciousness.

It is not the anxiety that we have to get rid of, but the way in which we abuse our inherent motivation system with idea that the only way to create, protect or become is through fear. We can still self-monitor and work toward goals and try our best to perform better, or eat better, and so on, but so long as it is done by our last ditch effort to scare our instincts into obedience – fear – we are losing either way.

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