Below is an email I received from Chandler Stevens. I’ve been following his work for quite a few years now and am on his email list. Chandler describes his work as Ecosomatics and through the body and movement he delves into all aspects of our humanity…our humanness…our being…our energetic blueprints. Today’s email really resonated with me and I thought I’d share it. It’s got some interesting thoughts about anxiety that are not commonly discussed.
"Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom."
- Soren Kierkegaard, 1844
Did you know that the first mention of anxiety wasn’t in a psychology book or physiology study but in a philosophical tome?
Soren Kierkegaard first wrote about the phenomenon in the middle of the 19th century.
For context that’s around the tail end of the first Industrial Revolution.
For the first time in our history as a species, we were able to outsource a significant portion of the work needed for our survival, creating a huge amount of surplus wealth, time, and choice-opportunity.
Hence the birth of anxiety.
It comes hand-in-hand with freedom, as Kierkegaard so eloquently wrote. It’s the dizzying quality of choice, knowing full well that you might make the wrong one. In many ways it’s a feature of our development as a species - not a flaw .
But that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.
I mentioned this to a client yesterday after she told me that she felt frozen with her newfound responsibility. She had gotten out from under the thumb of an abusive relationship, and she found herself swimming in options, not knowing which one to choose.
As she described the situation to me, her neck began to tense up, and her shoulders started creeping up towards her ears. She was withdrawing more and more into her protective shell, shrinking herself and her world in a protective maneuver.
When I mentioned this quote to her about the dizziness of freedom, she said,
“That’s so weird. One of my very first symptoms when I got sick was on-and-off dizzy spells.”
But perhaps not.
I tend to think that anxiety makes us reluctant philosophers. It’s the sort of thing that forces us to think about ourselves and the world around us far more than other people do, even – especially! – when we don’t want to.
While there are many new ideas about anxiety, most people seem to forget that at the very outset it was a philosophical problem. They’re quick to try any number of tricks to pump up confidence or think through decisions or jot down their gratitude in the short term, but they neglect the deep roots of the problem.
When we get down to it, we have to think of anxiety as a question of a three-part relationship to the world:
- Physically it’s wrapped up in our ability to maintain free and easy movement of the head and neck, which depends on the skeletal support beneath.
- Psychologically it has everything to do with our ability to tolerate the unknown and find comfort with uncertainty.
- And philosophically it comes down to how we relate to the possibility of no longer being. Yup, in case you hadn’t heard - you and I are gonna die someday.
Weaving these perspectives together is what helps people create both rapid – and lasting – changes in their experience of anxiety.
They become better able to “short circuit” the anxious loop by bringing their bodies out of fight/flight mode. They develop the sense of internal security that they can carry along with them into any challenging situation. And they make peace with the fact that one day they’re going to die.
When they learn how to relate to anxiety this way, they’re often surprised to find that it’s an incredible source of creative insight.
Most of my clients are entrepreneurs or artists whose livelihood depends on creative problem solving, mental flexibility, or seeing things in new ways. As a result they’re usually thrilled to find that the feelings that once trapped them can be channeled into creative output - like compressing coal into diamond.