On glancing through these common symptoms of anxiety a very justifiable reaction is to think, ‘OK, I can see how in Nature stress, anxiety and tension helped in this primitive “fight and flight” response. But how does it apply to me? Nobody is after me with a hatchet or a spear. I am not about to pick a fight with anyone either – at least not physically.’ A moment’s reflection, however, must demonstrate that looking at the primordial feeling which is anxiety in such a simplistic way is unrealistic. All such basic gut reactions have two sides to them: they can be constructive (good stress), but they can also be destructive (bad stress).
Many people who are particularly prone to anxiety and tension profess to be fatalistic and subscribe to a ‘What will be – will be’ philosophy. This is fine as far as it goes. But if we consider that fate has something unpleasant in store for us we tend to be dominated by fear. This makes us feel instinctively ‘bad’ and insecure, and so we expend quite a lot of nervous energy trying to push such feelings into the background of our conscious mind, and our instinctive fear reaction is experienced by our body as painful and unpleasant anxiety – and of course we experience the tension that goes with it.
A decade or so ago, when the Biafran struggle was being reported in the newspapers, lorries and tanks were shown decorated with the motto ‘No condition is permanent’. No doubt the Biafrans took comfort from
this simple slogan, but it also reminded many people of the fact that life from its very inception is menaced by imponderables, and from the moment that we take in our first breath until we breathe our last we are to some extent in the hands of the chaos of Nature. It is a thought hardly likely to calm the anxious breast, but a certain peace of mind can follow a simple acceptance of this very obvious fact.