I have been filled with anxiety my entire life. Who knows where it comes from. Perhaps it is the anxiety of not being good enough, of failing in my endeavours, of not being loved, or even of dying. In my experience, it is important to acknowledge both the personal and the universal elements of our problems. In the case of anxiety, it is necessary to understand what it is about ourselves specifically that makes us anxious, as well as having a grasp on what anxiety means in a broader context, if we are to overcome it.
To me, anxiety implies a profound resistance to the movement of life.
I only feel anxiety when I am living in my head. When my attention is focused on the present moment, then my anxiety seems to be lessened, if not completely dissolved. In my opinion, anxiety is less of a physiological reality, and more of a mental projection that is likely linked to early childhood trauma.
The other day, I was thinking hard about what anxiety really is at its core. Anxiety seems to be a hyper-awareness of all of the negative possibilities of any given situation—a fixation on what could potentially go wrong.
On some level, anxiety is a recognition of all of the potential negative outcomes of a particular circumstance, so much to the extent that it renders us completely incapable of dealing with those potential outcomes.
A strange question began to formulate in my mind in light of this realisation: what is the opposite of anxiety, and what would that even look like?
Well, if anxiety is a hyper-awareness of all of the possible negative outcomes, then the opposite would be a hyper-awareness of all of the possible positive outcomes of any given situation.
As to what this would look like, and how it would manifest, maybe it would look something like Elon Musk—someone who, rather than seeing only the potential downfalls of one’s choices in life, sees only the endless flow of opportunities.
I’ve been trying to imagine what my life would look like if I only saw my potential opportunities, and the vision that comes to mind is one of personal development, self-expression, and psychological rejuvenation. If my fears and apprehensions could be replaced with a deep, yearning desire to meet the latent potentialities of life, then the sky would truly be the limit.
Try to visualise what our lives would look like if we took this shift—if, rather than always perceiving what could go badly with every new experience, we only perceive the novelty of infinite potential.
Now, of course, the glass is always both half empty and half full, and it is important to be aware of both the potential positive and the potential negative outcomes if we are to move most effectively through life. However, for me, it has been useful to envision what it would mean to embody the opposite of anxiety so as to broaden my scope and garner a larger sense of the possibilities offered up by life.
Ultimately, what we want is balance. We want to be aware both of what could go wrong and what could go right, and it seems to be only in walking this fine line between the two that we come to live most wholly in the present moment and feel the fullness of life.
As far as anxiety goes—having been someone who has suffered from it extensively for most of my life—my advice would be not to resist the natural flow of life. In saying “yes” to the present moment, we put ourselves in the best place to overcome our fears and manifest our deepest potential.