Kierkegaard and Anxiety

“But attempts to evade anxiety are not only doomed to failure.  In running from anxiety you lose your most precious opportunities for the emergence of yourself, and for your education as a human being.  ‘If a man were a beast or an angel, he would not be able to be in anxiety.  Since he is a synthesis he can be in anxiety, and the greater the anxiety the greater the man.  This, however is not affirmed in the sense in which men commonly understand anxiety, as related to something outside a man, but in the sense that man himself produces anxiety.’

Kierkegaard writes in his most engaging vein about anxiety as a ‘school.’  Anxiety is an even better teacher than reality, for one can temporarily evade reality by avoiding the distasteful situation; but anxiety is a source of education always present because one carries it within.”

The Meaning of Anxiety by Rollo May

Posted via web from rhettsmith’s posterous

5 Comments

  1. by John on August 10, 2009  9:42 am Reply

    Kierkegaard had no time for sentimentality or romanticism of the Spiritual life. He reminds us that faith and doubt are really two sides of the same coin, and that only by active engagement (with paradox, subjectivity, moral ambiguity, etc.) is freedom understood. If we really took this stuff seriously, we would recognize ourselves in a great battle for the heart. Good post.

  2. by kristie vosper on August 10, 2009  11:28 am Reply

    I completely agree. It takes an immense amount of courage to sit in the anxiety and ask it the questions that it's begging we wrestle with.

  3. by Jonathan Louie on August 10, 2009  12:32 pm Reply

    I look at it differently. I find passages telling me not to worry or to cast my cares upon God. Therefore, I personally can't accept anxiety though I have personally experienced much over the last year. Even now I think my soul sits in anxiety.

    It may be just choice of word or maybe the definition we carry, but I look at it a little differently. Instead of anxiety I'd call it a gnawing disatisfaction.

    I think in following God we should have faith in things getting better (according to God's wisdom), while I see anxiety as worrying that things will not get better or even becoming worse.

  4. by Rhett Smith on August 14, 2009  3:47 pm Reply

    Kristie:

    Agree...it does take a lot of courage.

    John:

    Super well said. I can't add to that. I agree that faith and doubt are two sides of the same coin, unfortunately we tend to not allow for the role of doubt in our Christian journey, especially in a very competitive evangelical culture.

    Jonathan:

    I hear what you are saying. I think as Christians we can still have anxiety, even though we have given it over to God. And I think what Kierkegaard is distinguishing between is a neurotic anxiety that is not healthy, and a healthy anxiety that pushes us to new avenues and path for growth. For example, think in terms of public speaking or trying a new hobby. That anxiety will keep many people from ever doing it, but if they could push through that anxiety it could lead to huge opportunities of growth for them.

    Thanks for commenting everyone....

    Rhett

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