“Anxiety can just as well express itself in muteness as with a scream,” wrote existential philosopher Søren Kierkegaard in 1844.
While Kierkegaard spent much of his work analyzing the agonizing nature of anxiety, he did not think that it was an emotional state to be avoided. Instead, the philosopher argued that one cannot live an authentic life without grappling with anxiety.
In the centuries since, advances in psychiatry have led to increasingly better methods for treating crippling anxiety. But, in the process, we have culturally abandoned Kierkegaard’s key idea—that, however unpleasant, anxiety can be beneficial.
Simon Wolfe Taylor, whose Columbia Ph.D. thesis and upcoming book, The Conquest of Dread: Anxiety From Kierkegaard to Xanax, charts anxiety’s progress from a malady of the soul to a disease of the mind, believes that embracing the potential positives is a useful way of coping with the emotion.
“It’s a romantic-sounding view and I’m not saying there’s no role for medication,” he says. “But the literature, at least for 150 years and arguably for 1,500 years, always tried to show us the potential upside of anxiety… Kierkegaard says anxiety sucks, it’s really horrible and one of the most agonizing things you can go through, but you cannot be a creative, imaginative human being without anxiety. That’s the cost of entry for being that kind of a person.”
More here – Quartz