Is this the "age of anxiety" ? Daniel Smith asks this question in his NY Times piece. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/14/its-still-the-age-of-anxiety-or-is-it/?emc=eta1 His is a personal question since he reveals much about his inner psychological demons. He admits to struggling with chronic anxiety for years, writes about the proliferation of xanax prescriptions and gives some historical perspective on our age.
What strikes me as most meaningful about his piece are his observations that anxiety has become culturally accepted as a "condition". He points out that the openness of our awareness may actually feed the phenomenon. He also points to the "recursiveness" of anxiety. By that he means that a single worry can build, gain strength through our focus and obsessive preoccupation with it. Anxiety can be the monster that builds itself like a golem and therefore become something self-sustaining. In other words, if you expect to be overwhelmed by it–it will happen.
He speaks of disempowering anxiety–to let it go. Anxiety, worry, fear are always subjective. That does not diminish or deny the real life events which may precipitate it. But when it takes a on a life of its own and becomes debilitating, then out of pure survival instincts, we need to toss it away.
I like the analogy of fishing. Catch and release. Our fears/anxieties/worries will arise in our consciousness. That is a certainty. We should hold them, even examine them. We acknowledge that they are there for a reason. They may be there to teach us about some real dangers. Then recognizing that it is unhealthy to keep them, toss them back.
Is this easy? Of course it isn't. But it may be reasonable to meditate on this analogy of catch and release before we need it.
Then, just perhaps, when we feel the bite of anxiety on the line, we can call it forward and use it.