Anxiety: fear of the future
Anxiety is the fear of the future. Anxiety is the fear of not knowing what is going to happen next. While we all suffer from a certain level of it, the symptoms increase and become more visible toward the fourth or fifth decade of a man’s life (midlife crisis) . It hits deeply when us men notice that we need glasses, our stomachs ache (might be an ulcer), and the reality of a certain death starts to be faced. Among all these examples, comes the fact that life continues with the same intensity and responsibilities as before. It does not get any easier. Anxiety is knocking at our door to say 'hi'.
Anxiety’s common triggers
According to BeyondBlue the common triggers to anxiety are: work stress or job change; family and relationship problems; emotional shock; traumatic event; emotional abuse; and death or loss of a loved one (BeyondBlue). While this all true, one of the most common triggers in men nowadays is the fact that women are empowering themselves, leaving us men in an unknown space, an anxious space. We are having to become the new superman that is “supposed to be oh-so-sensitive and self-actualising, not too concerned with money and career, but still ready to fight to protect home and country, and competitive enough to provide a good living for his family” (Keen, 1991, p.267). It is too much to take, especially among men in middle age or above. Clearly the symptoms of anxiety surface.
New way of understanding oneself
In this process, a wise question may arise: what is the invitation of Anxiety? Some authorities claim it to be “ A way to tell us and others that a significant change or challenge is occurring. It may be a new way of understanding oneself - telling one how and why we are fighting ourselves. Paradoxically, nonbeing leads to a fuller appreciation of Being” (Kraft, 2000, p. 48-49).
Schnarch (1997), explains that unhealthy anxiety is the result of our fear of abandonment. We fear being alone and not belonging anywhere . However, when one accepts the invitation to face Anxiety for what it is, one may “simply see it rightfully as part of a larger whole”( p.403). One may then feel motivated enough “to learn to care for their own loneliness and suffering, and, the loneliness and suffering of others , for within pain, isolation and loneliness one can find courage and hope and what is brave and lovely and true in life” (Moustakas cited in Schnarch, 1997, p. 403).
Anxiety invites one to a journey towards one’s unknown territory of the soul, the unknown landscape of his own heart. It leads one toward the Sacred Self-knowledge of who one really Is.
This journey, however, it is not advised to be done alone. It is advised to be done among Companions who knows the existence of this Path. Companions who are caring and nurturing like the author of the Chinese classic, the Tao te ching, that explains in his mystic poem: “The ancient masters/… were careful as someone crossing an iced-over stream/ Alert as a warrior in enemy territory./ Courteous as a guest./ Fluid as melting ice./ Shapable as a block of wood./ Receptive as a valley./ Clear as a glass of water” (as cited in Keen, 1991, p.266).
Keen, S. (1991). Fire in the belly: On being a man. Bantam Publisher. USA
Kraft, W.F. (2000). Ways of the Desert: Becoming holy through difficult times. New York: Haworth.
Schnarch, D. (1997). Passionate marriage: Love, sex and intimacy in emotionally committed relationships. Carlton North, VIC: Scribe.
Felipe Oliveira provides counselling for men to use anxiety as path toward self-development. Click here to know more about his work . Or, please, continue reading about anxiety.
Felipe Oliveira is a registered counsellor for men to Live an Authentic Life™.
Book a Session