Tension creeps into our lives in many ways. Almost always in anxiety is the symptom we feel that turns us into tense individuals, often in a very baffling way. In the previous two chapters I have shown how several threads of fear, or modified and altered fear, permeate the substance of anxiety. First of all two subconscious phenomena were examined; one of which acted because of a sense of deprivation; the other which was preoccupied with the apparently inexplicable nature of things. In the last chapter the disruption of peace of mind due to a throttling of creativity was discussed. Now we must examine something which completes the picture of anxiety – a basic fear of reality, perhaps the worst culprit of all.
This may appear to be a paradox, for fear by definition may be expected to be either dissolved by cowardice or routed by courage. But this particular problem is a unique psychological one. It is not generated as the result of events; it is a fear of the mechanics of life itself. Thus it may be considered as a special form of anxiety and tension born of the real world which is patently not a source of worry to everyone.
Are those who experience this fear of reality different perhaps only in some very slight way, or at rather special times – from the majority of people for whom everyday existence is accepted, if not always happily, then at least philosophically? In truth the nature of this difference, this foreboding about life itself, is very complex in some cases and very simple in others.
The simplest factor is due to what psychologists refer to as a straightforward lack of personality maturation.
In the same way as a puppy will stop and bark at a piece of paper blowing across a street, various real-life and utterly banal situations can make the ‘immature’ person disturbed and anxious. The differences between the average non-tense individual and his tension-prone fellows may stem from various conflicts which he has not been able to resolve satisfactorily. Sometimes they have their origins in childhood, or even babyhood (see page 154).
I do not think it is necessary to attempt to explore the inner reaches of the personality too deeply or theoretically in order to repair some of the tension caused by this type of basic fear of reality. However, it is worthwhile to examine in a little detail some of the situations that we see around us, where in their everyday lives the ‘victims’ are trying to escape from this sort of tension.
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