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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Anxiety

One’s capacity to live without fear and expectation of fear has nothing to do with the economy and everything to do with individual psychology. This professor should refresh his knowledge of Freud.

Even a very dramatic improvement of the economy will do nothing to reduce his unhealthy anxiety.

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84 thoughts on “Anxiety

  1. I read your blog often and many times you seem to equate psychology with Freud. I’m sure you’re aware that psychology consists of ideas from not only Freud but also of behaviorists, cognitive,social and neuro psychologists.

    With regard to this post… Actually, I don’t know which part of Freud you’re relating this post to. To put it simply (albeit, too simply), the anxiety experienced by individuals in Freudian psychology is when defence mechanisms are breached and the ego is unable to contain unconscious thoughts/desires (usually related to sex).

    On the whole, though, I do agree that anxiety is mostly cognitive. It does depend on the “spins” people put on what they see. However, we shouldn’t discount the environment (such as the economy, the company one keeps etc) because environment plays a large role in what people are exposed to.

    There is a theory proposed by Martin Seligman called learned helplessness. He got two groups of dogs. One group of dogs was put in a situation where they were shocked but allowed to escape. Another group of dogs was put in a situation where they were shocked and were not allowed to escape. After a while, Seligman changed the second group’s situation. He allowed them to escape. However, the dogs had “learnt helplessness”. Although they were given a chance to escape, they didn’t. They’d effectively learnt that whatever they did, they were unable to change their fates.

    In this case, we can say that the second group of dogs, sure, they were wrong to perceive the situation as hopeless when it isn’t. But their experiences before had blinded them to the potentials in the situation.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that anxiety is both nurture and nature.

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  2. He is just telling it like it is, sadly.

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  3. There is a visually similar picture circulating on the Internet with text which goes like “I am a college student, I do not have any debt… I have 3.8 GPA and get a scholarship. I work 30 hours a week… And I am not 99%”. I’ve seen it only on Facebook, and it is difficult to copy images from there. Apparently this piece by the professor is a reaction to the piece by the student.

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  4. Instead of writing this he could have just made his students read “A Cool Million”.

    I keep agreeing with the message, which is timeless–rich people keep screwing everyone else and something’s got to be done!–but not the way people are delivering it. (See for example John Oliver’s coverage of the Wall Street crowd.) With that sinister looming-out-of-shadows effect he’s contrived there this guy looks like Walter White from Breaking Bad.

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  5. Patrick on said:

    I think you may be taking him a little too seriously when he states, “. . .I couldn’t sleep tonight. In my dreams. . .” I doubt he is having real dreams of this nature. It’s more of a literary device than a confession. The message is the important part – that there are systemic problems which need to be addressed. While I don’t necessarily agree with the “99%” on what the solution should be (I doubt very much they have a solution in mind, other than a vague and arbitrary ‘tax the rich’ motif), I do agree that problems exist.

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  6. Patrick :I feel so inadequate

    Don’t. I’m just a huge nerd. Besides, I’m still getting it wrong. When I wrote Caedmon I was thinking of Piers Plowman after all.

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  7. ?? Cædmon was a mediæval poet known, IIRC, only from Bede’s quote of a brief text called Cædmon’s Hymn. What does he have to do with this?

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    • Patrick remarked that the dream in the above pic was a literary device so I was making some snide bullshit remark about the dream-narrative tradition that began in English with Piers Plowman but my brain told my fingers to write Colin Clout and then I knew that wasn’t right so I thought “pre-Renaissance poets” and Caedmon came to mind for some reason and then I remembered what you just said so it’s all cleared up now thanks for playing!

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  8. Patrick :

    I think you may be taking him a little too seriously when he states, “. . .I couldn’t sleep tonight. In my dreams. . .” I doubt he is having real dreams of this nature. It’s more of a literary device than a confession. The message is the important part – that there are systemic problems which need to be addressed.

    People have tried to deliver the same message about systemic problems in many different ways and many different times. I have tried to deliver this message, too. However, this way of delivering it looks quite exotic.

    I am absolutely convinced that this is a person with issues that have nothing to do with the economy. That’s his personal business, of course. However, my fear is that the Occupy protests will fizzle out without having resolved anything when the critical mass of participants turns to protesting their own neuroses more than anything larger than that.

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  9. Patrick on said:

    As a great Canadian once said (and I ought to know his name, but I can’t pull it from my befuddled old brain) “The medium is the message”. As long as the focus is on the medium, then the message will get lost, in my opinion.

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  10. There was an article in the Toronto Star this morning by a professor, Jack Quarter which was similar to the letter in the photo without the dreams. This morning I’m delivering tent pegs and rope to the occupiers at the encampment. It was quite a windy and rainy night so they requested these items on their website.

    http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1072841–confessions-of-a-2-percenter

    “I am looking at the Occupy Wall Street and copycat demonstrations and feeling some guilt. The target is the top 1 per cent, but any university professor with 25 to 30 years of service is not far off the mark, and if you have nearly 40 years of service, a standard for which I qualify, even though my starting pay was less than $11,000, you have to believe that you may be uncomfortably close to the charmed circle; perhaps not the very rich, but way up there.

    “What is to be done?” to quote the title of an oft-cited pamphlet of a long-departed revolutionary. The answer isn’t easy, though I did recognize the backside of one of my colleagues in a Toronto Star photo of the Occupy Toronto events, and the thought occurred to me that my backside should be there as well.”

    So all you almost 1% er professors should feel guilty.

    P.S. Yesterday I discovered that my mother is a stockholder of Brookfield Investments, the holding company of the firm which tried to get the protestors evicted from the park in NY. Small world!

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    • “I am looking at the Occupy Wall Street and copycat demonstrations and feeling some guilt. The target is the top 1 per cent, but any university professor with 25 to 30 years of service is not far off the mark, and if you have nearly 40 years of service, a standard for which I qualify, even though my starting pay was less than $11,000, you have to believe that you may be uncomfortably close to the charmed circle; perhaps not the very rich, but way up there.”

      -And that’s another example of intense psychological issues. The person feels all of this guilt but doesn’t want to recognize what the guilt is really about. So he displaces it to a more acceptable and better-sounding culprit: now this is guilt for his economic stability.

      It’s the same with anxiety. If you are prone to torturing yourself with imaginings of possible worst-case scenarios that might happen, if you lose sleep over that, if you feel intense anxiety on a regular basis after watching the news, if you find it hard to enjoy life because of the possible bad things that might happen at any time, the only way of getting rid of this anxiety is to look for its real cause. And that cause will never have anything to do with politics and economy.

      I played the anxiety game for years before I figured this out, so believe me, I know what I’m talking about.

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  12. I’ve always thought that kind of anxiety was a luxury of rich masochists. If you are facing real problems you have to be more rational and not weaken yourself in that way.

    Yet, people who don’t want to face real problems often say they are just anxieties.

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  13. A mentor of mine had a pretty appropriate saying for certain individuals.

    “The world is 50% shit, 50% sugar, you choose where you put your focus. But just remember, if you stand in shit long enough it dries around you.”

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  14. Since this dude got his own house and no debt and good health insurance maybe he wants to spread some of that luck around the 99% with some free cash for me if I picket his lawn come on guy Costco don’t take maudlin notes for the new iPad.

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  15. Priyanka :
    Marshall McLuhan is not just a giant in Canadian academic.

    academia. I mean academia.

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  16. Priyanka :

    Marshall McLuhan is not just a giant in Canadian academic. I believe we can also attribute ‘the global village’ to him, although I have a great deal of ideological problems with his construct of it.

    Even after reading through the comment thread, I simply don’t see how fear — as it is expressed here — has nothing to do with the economy. And I must say the link between the anxiety expressed here and this man’s ‘individual psychology’ escapes me entirely.

    A person who says, “everything is great in my life but I;m afraid this good fortune can end at any time is exhibiting extreme degrees of neurosis.

    Since this man’s poster has not an ounce of literary value, I feel free topsychoanalyze him to my heart’s content. 🙂

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    • “Since this man’s poster has not an ounce of literary value”

      But what about his use of anaphora?? And his subtle allusions to Fortune’s Wheel????

      I think here you’ve hit the nail on why I’m being kind of a snarky bitch about this guy. While a lot of the stuff he says is true about people struggling and the economy being in the shitter (a modern commonplace! there’s your literary value!), by the time he gets to the line about “bated breath” the melodramatic rhetoric has become so off-putting it’s difficult to take seriously anymore.

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      • I really hate it when people try on other folks’ suffering for size and wallow in delicious misery that has no real consequences for them. All this “Of course, my life is fantastic but let me tickle myself with imagining how all of it could go wrong” is annoying.

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  17. I’m not a great fan of Freud although I do find quite a lot of use for object relations psychoanalysis. I think the guy is using a kind of political rhetoric which he mistakes for objective psychological necessity. We tend to universalise our psychological states in the West (something that writing my thesis cured me of). So, the guy is certainly using rhetoric, which he mistakes for psychology.

    A point of comparison can and should be made between the current state of affairs in the US and the collapse of the Zimbabwean economy in 2008 due to hyperinflation. My taxi driver, Reuben, made it clear to me that everybody in Zimbabwe was still suffering some kind of trauma from what happened that year. I had the sense that Reuben was also still traumatised, just by the way he spoke. He told me that driving around in his taxi (this was in June 2010) was a way to prevent a feeling of an encroaching insanity.

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    • I’m still unclear on the extent of this economic crisis in the US precisely because people exaggerate beyond all reason. Every super expensive new gadget or new line of designer clothing gets sold out within hours and desperate consumers storm the stores for yet another iPad 2. Yet, when I look at my newsfeed, it sounds like we are all on the brink of starvation.

      There are huge structural problems in the US but exaggerating them and creating this “everybody is about to starve” melodrama is not helping. It only obscures the extent of the real problems the country faces.

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  18. bloggerclarissa :
    I really hate it when people try on other folks’ suffering for size and wallow in delicious misery that has no real consequences for them. All this “Of course, my life is fantastic but let me tickle myself with imagining how all of it could go wrong” is annoying.

    Well if you really want to psychoanalyse him, why is he living “in” ‘bated breath, as opposed to living “with” it?

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  19. bloggerclarissa :
    The name of his father is Strunk and White!!
    No, I’ll nevel reach the heights in wit that my readers do.

    So, repressed feelings of hostility in relation to daddy?

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  20. Even when the economy is strong, people who tend to worryt find something to complain about. I was injured on the job in December 2005 and haven’t been able to find a decent job since. I am over 50 with a college degree and can’t get hired by Home Deopt.. So nobody has to remind me about the economy. By all human standards, I should be worried sick. But I’m not. And I attribute it to my worldview: you see, I believe there is a powerful, loving God who rules the universe. And that He loves me. So, I do not need to worry. I think WORRY=FEAR=ANXIETY…it’s all the same.Jesus Christ pointed out that none of us can change our circumstances at all by worrying. So, I don’t do it…

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    • Exactly. Religion is one of the most powerful methods of preserving one’s psychological health.

      However, people who aren’t religious can find a huge number of methods that will help them deal with anxieties productively.

      You might not be able to find a job at this moment, ptiderman, but you can inspire people with your belief.

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      • Many in Zimbabwe, too, have turned to religion. I would say 98 percent of them have. (There are a number of reasons for this, not just the economy.) The unfortunate aspect of turning to religion is that it also reinforces a patriarchal ideological agenda, which mitigates against the independence of women. Indeed, it mitigates against treating them as more than children, but in a paternalistic way.

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  21. …and it’s actually frustrating to combat this “woman as children” trope. Silence, for instance, is taken as a sign of sulking. So, you’ll suddenly get the patronising question: “You haven’t spoken for a while. Is everything okay?” This is the subtext for a lot of interactions with those who take religion as their main means for understanding the world.

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    • “…and it’s actually frustrating to combat this “woman as children” trope. Silence, for instance, is taken as a sign of sulking. So, you’ll suddenly get the patronising question: “You haven’t spoken for a while. Is everything okay?””

      -Women get that question?? From what I’m hearing, in the US this is something that is addressed to men. Men are supposed to be almost non-verbal and women should decipher their silences.

      This has nothing to do with reality, of course. It’s just stuff of Tv shows.

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  22. bloggerclarissa :
    “…and it’s actually frustrating to combat this “woman as children” trope. Silence, for instance, is taken as a sign of sulking. So, you’ll suddenly get the patronising question: “You haven’t spoken for a while. Is everything okay?””
    -Women get that question?? From what I’m hearing, in the US this is something that is addressed to men. Men are supposed to be almost non-verbal and women should decipher their silences.
    This has nothing to do with reality, of course. It’s just stuff of Tv shows.

    Oh, I got it a few times from my Shona friend, when I was in Zim. The guy concerned is actually a fantastic guy, in all other ways, but he sometimes overstepped the mark by taking “authority” over me at times, in a way that suggested a mistaken sense of ownership. The Zimbabwean version of Christianity, like most others, holds that women should submit to the authority of men.

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    • @scratchy888: The Christian (and probably Jewish, as well) idea that men are in authority over women goes back to the garden of Eden. Because Eve allowed herself to be deceived by the serpent (Satan), she would experience pain in childbirth, her desire would be toward her husband, and he would rule over her…Later, the New Testament teaches that the husband is responsible for his wife’s spirituality. Therefore, wives should submit to their husband’s authority. It makes it clear, however, that she should submit to his authority EVEN AS HE SUBMITS TO CHRIST’S AUTHORITY. The difference between men and women is one of POSITION…and not VALUE. In another place in the NT, scripture teaches that, “in Christ, there is neither male, nor female…free, nor bond…etc.” It has been my experience that, when a husband is, “loving his wife as Christ loves the church,” the wife is happy to submit to his spiritual authority. But if a man tries to impose his ungodly authority upon his wife, she will resist…and rightly so…

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      • Paul Tiderman: this is a very offensive and disgusting comment. Please don’t make it again. You discredit the entire Christian religion with it and insult crowds of people.

        Women submitting to men’s spiritual authority only do that in return for money while laughing at those men behind their backs. Alternatively, such women might be brainless, stupid, beaten down idiots who don’t even manage to get their keep out of men for submitting to them.

        No self-respecting woman with an ounce of brain matter will “submit” to any husband’s authority. Husbands are easy to come by while there is a dearth of wives in this country nowadays.

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        • Why are you so offended by this statement? It couldn’t be the first time you heard of it. I am not saying that I subscribe to this idea of male domination. I merely stated where the idea, and the subsequent religious doctrine, originated in the Christian and Jewish tradition.

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      • llama on said:

        @Paul, your religion is leading you to draw ridiculous conclusions.

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      • Patrick on said:

        My wife often says that as a good Christian woman, she’ll defer to my authourity. . .as long as I’m right. Otherwise, she’ll do whatever the hell she wants.

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  23. llama on said:

    scratchy888 :
    Many in Zimbabwe, too, have turned to religion. I would say 98 percent of them have. (There are a number of reasons for this, not just the economy.) The unfortunate aspect of turning to religion is that it also reinforces a patriarchal ideological agenda, which mitigates against the independence of women. Indeed, it mitigates against treating them as more than children, but in a paternalistic way.

    I agree turning to religion reinforces a patriarchal ideological agenda. I just want to add it is not just women that are hurt by this agenda everybody is. The whole idea is based on most people being treated like children with only a few on the inner circle who “really” know what is going on.

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  24. Paul Tiderman :
    It has been my experience that, when a husband is, “loving his wife as Christ loves the church,” the wife is happy to submit to his spiritual authority.

    It has been my experience that when a man is loving me as Christ loves the church I’m always hearing about how my buttresses are sagging and my choir’s not what it used to be and I should get a nave job. Then he dumped me for some slender neat little chapel with a little rose marble on her facade. Bastard. She dresses like a whore, Josh! Fuck him. I’m only 840. I’m still in my prime. And I’ve had enough of men. I wonder if Westminster is busy tonight….

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  25. Paul Tiderman :
    Why are you so offended by this statement? It couldn’t be the first time you heard of it. I am not saying that I subscribe to this idea of male domination. I merely stated where the idea, and the subsequent religious doctrine, originated in the Christian and Jewish tradition.

    Gosh I hate so much of the Christian and Jewish traditions, with their soul destroying ideologies of “original sin”(which even sink into a lot of psychoanalytic theory I have discovered, above all through Lacan — otherwise, why are we supposed to purge ourselves of our childlike natures and describe them as ‘psychotic’?). I’m very Nietzschean on this matter. 🙂

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    • I don’t think the words “original sin” even appear in the Bible. In any case, for Christians their sins have already been expiated by Christ’s death.

      Let’s not confuse the original text with later explanations that leaders of the church chose to assign to a text they forbade the regular people even to read.

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      • You’re correct, bloggerclarissa: The term “original sin” is not found in scripture. But the concept is. The NT teaches that sin entered the world through the first Adam. And that the Second Adam (Jesus Christ) redeemed all those who believe from the penalty of sin. Of course, this may be an oversimplification. Every religious doctrine is controversial, it seems.

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      • No, those exact words do not appear. Furthermore, there seems to be a difference between the old Testament and the new. I speak as a non-theologian. In the old testament, the Adam and Eve story seems mythopoeic — a straight up attempt to explain how things already are, specifically why life is hard. The new testament is much more psychologically refined — whilst it promises salvation, it entrenches humanity into moral preoccupation much more deeply.

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  26. Paul Tiderman :
    @scratchy888: The Christian (and probably Jewish, as well) idea that men are in authority over women goes back to the garden of Eden. Because Eve allowed herself to be deceived by the serpent (Satan), she would experience pain in childbirth, her desire would be toward her husband, and he would rule over her…

    I have already made intensive analyses of what this psychodynamic means, my lady. (If my addressing you in this way offends you — ask yourself why. After all, apparently “ladies” are exactly equal to males, under Christ.) The Judeo-Christian ideology simply justifies that men get to project the nasty parts of their psyches onto women, who are deemed to be worthy only of suffering. It also explains why Judeo-Christian men act nothing but surprised when they are rejected for abusive projective identification. (They almost never see that inevitable rejection slip coming!)

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  27. (They almost never see that inevitable rejection slip coming!)

    And why don’t they? Because they think they’ve worked out a “deal” with the Lord Almighty, whereby they get to treat women according to what patriarchy deems to be “their nature” and women are obliged to love them all the same.

    A logical contradiction in terms, my dear lady!

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  28. Shakti on said:

    Every reference to Freud on your blog :-p Not many, my friend.

    He’s trying to be literary, but failing. It’s supposed to be personal so really he should say, “If I lose this job I have I’m never going to work in my field and I’m fucked” if in fact that’s true. Everything else he’s referring to is just too abstract.

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  29. Pingback: Thomas Frank’s Pity the Billionaire: A Review, Part I « Clarissa's Blog

  30. Pingback: Why I Like the Russian Protests More Than the #OWS « Clarissa's Blog

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