How do we generate anxiety?

Alexander Pearson
How do we generate anxiety?

I use the word autogenesis when referring to the phenomenon of anxiety, because I understand it, not as a disease in itself, as is usually done, including many mental health professionals, but as a mere symptom, as an organic manifestation or warning that the person who experiences it is dangerously leaving the realm of reality.


  • The genesis of anxiety
    • One last case of signal anxiety ...
  • Normal and pathological anxiety
    • References

The genesis of anxiety

This realm of reality is none other than that of the possible, the feasible. Then, as soon as a human being - through various mental mechanisms, which do not go beyond his thought and fantasy - tries to escape from that possible reality, which is nothing other than his performance, perception and experience of " here "and" now ", you will be losing, whether or not you are aware of it, the contract with reality. You will be beginning to operate, exclusively, with your imagination, with your fantasies, with your thoughts, all of them guided, as a rule, by fear, desire, guilt and, above all these feelings, each more neurotic. , by the need to control reality in an impossible moment.

The person is fleeing, he is dangerously moving away towards imaginary worlds with the desire to manipulate and modify reality at will.

The direction that these fantasies tend to take, presumably managing reality (and I say presumptive because such control is never in fact, but only and exclusively in the field of the illusory), may be, most of the time, one of these four types that I go on to describe below:

The person tries with his mind to go ahead in time and place himself in a date and situation after the time and place in which he lives at that moment.

His intention is generally to avoid a potential danger, to achieve something that he considers a good, etc. The truth is that such a goal is absolutely impossible: you cannot be in Madrid, in your own home, on February 2 at 5:00 p.m. sitting in an armchair and, at the same time, let's say, preventing a young son, who plays around us, from being older, being called up, being sent by the army to another country with a warlike conflict and receiving the shell impact.

A person who in his mind is generating a fantasy similar to that of the example I have just cited, will inevitably experience anxiety; perhaps even feel in your own body, that physical correlate of anxiety that is anguish.

Can we say that the person who experiences such anguish is a sick person? It is obvious that the answer would be unanimous: no. The only thing that has happened is that said person has gotten away with his mind from that only possible reality that is living his present moment and has tried to manipulate, in a sterile way on the other hand, a possible future. Therefore, it does not make sense to speak of anxious pathology or any other psychopathological picture or label, since the anxiety that you have experienced is simply that: an anxiety-signal, which as we said, generates your own organism, so that it is aware of the illusory of your purpose and rectify as soon as possible by reentering the realm of reality.

The person, also with his mind as all tools, leaves his reality, reality ...

and begins, unconsciously, to compare himself with a model of what he thinks he has to be, a model usually generated by his parents, by his educators and by the influence of the environment, and that, in the end, he has come to make his own, (well be a model in the physical, aesthetic, moral, professional, emotional plane, etc.). For a moment, he is also trying another impossible: to be who he is not. You can fantasize for minutes, hours and even days, but all that over-ideal process will not become, neither by its duration nor by its content, in something real. And, again, his nature will generate the anxiety-signal to remind him that he cannot be other, in those moments, than the one who is.

The person, on this occasion, fantasizes about being rewarded with a valuable trophy ...

for his sensational performance in an international figure skating championship. The applause is thunderous. His heartbeat accelerates with the excitement and satisfaction of having achieved his most desired goal. Immediately those sensations turn into a galloping intensification of your heartbeat, enormous difficulty in breathing, and a feeling that you might collapse, or even die, from one moment to the next. The person in our example has lived, for many years, sitting in a wheelchair.

Again we would be facing someone who flees from reality and tries the impossible. It is not that a person, whatever their disability or health status, does not have a legitimate right to have aspirations and goals, of all types and of all sizes. What the anxiety-signal will be reminding you is that, precisely that goal that you were dreaming of, and perhaps something more than dreaming, you were "demanding", was something absolutely impossible. That, for him, as for so many others, is beyond the reach of his reality.

One last case of signal anxiety ...

generated, as in all the other examples, by the individual himself, this time in the opposite sense to that in the first case. The person here is limited to remembering. He remembers with such intensity that he becomes unconscious that he is simply remembering. Suddenly, you feel extraordinary exhaustion and numbness in your muscles, especially from the waist down. It is seen advancing on a very long Mediterranean beach. In an oversight, her five-year-old son, who was playing quietly in the sand, with his bucket and shovel, has changed activity and has decided to go into the sea, - which originally covered only his ankles - to become , in a short space of time, literally covered by water. The child drowns. His father tries the impossible. His heart seems to be leaking out of his mouth. Any noise, the doorbell or the ringing of the telephone, will bring you back to "here" and "now". You have been confusing the present with the past, what happens with what happened. He wanted, with his mind, with his fantasy, to rescue and rescue from death a son who, unfortunately, he lost many years ago on a disastrous vacation.

Again the person has fled, has left the present, with the illusory pretense of modifying an error from his past. All point effort wasted. That anxiety crisis, that anguish, are indicating the absolute impossibility of acting in a time that no longer exists. That and no other is the function of anxiety.

Any effort directed to the achievement of an impossible object can only generate anxiety, as an initial warning, or a tremendous existential frustration and a chronic process of anxiety and anguish, if the individual is not aware of said impossibility, he persists in his unrealistic effort, and it does not focus, in short, on what is feasible.

Normal and pathological anxiety

All the above examples would therefore be of normal anxiety. An anxiety that is also normal - and this has already been sufficiently studied for many years - is one that all human beings need in a moderate dose, and that is essential for us to experience motivation, the essential stimulus for action. Without it, the individual would fall into a state of almost absolute prostration and passivity, which sooner rather than later would inexorably lead to death..

But what about the anxiety that accompanies all neurotic processes, obsessions and phobias, hysterics and anxiety, depression and somatizations, sexual disorders and dysfunctions? That will be the pathological one, right?

Well my opinion is that no. My opinion is that in each and every one of these processes, so well classified and labeled, the underlying theme becomes the same: the "patient", in a thousand and one different ways, is trying not to be himself, He is trying to be as he would like to be, to be as he was told he had to be ... He is trying to be, in short, like anyone but himself. And it is that carelessness in being oneself, that impossibility of assuming oneself as one is, and using all the energies in impossible goals and lost battles..

Introductory video on what anxiety is:


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  • Cano-Vindel, A. (1989). Cognition, emotion and personality: a study focused on anxiety. / Cognition, emotion and personality: a study focused in anxiety. Madrid: Complutense University.
  • Echeburúa, E. (2002). Advances in the psychological treatment of anxiety disorders. Madrid: Pyramid.
  • Eysenck, M.W. (1997). Anxiety and cognition: A unified theory. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.
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