How do we generate anxiety?

How do we generate anxiety?

I use the word autogenesis when referring to the phenomenon of anxiety, because I understand this, not as a disease in itself, as is usually done, including many mental health professionals, but as a mere symptom, as an organic manifestation or warning that the person experiencing it It is dangerously out of the realm.

The genesis of anxiety

That area of ​​the real is none other than that of the possible, the feasible. Then, as soon as a human being - through various mental mechanisms, which do not go beyond his thinking and fantasy - tries to escape from that possible reality, which is nothing other than his performance, perception and experience of " here "and the" now ", will be losing, whether or not aware of it, the contract with reality. It will be beginning to operate, exclusively, with your imagination, with your fantasies, with your thoughts, guided all of them, as a rule, by fear, desire, guilt and, above all these feelings to which more neurotic, for the need to control reality in an impossible moment.

The person is fleeing, is dangerously moving towards imaginary worlds with the desire to manipulate and modify reality at will

The direction that these fantasies usually take, presumably managing reality (and I say presumptuous because such control is never given in fact, but only and exclusively in the realm of the illusory), can be, more often than not, some of These four types that I describe below:

The person tries with his mind to move forward in time and place himself in a date and situation after the time and place where he lives at that moment

Its intention is generally to avoid a potential danger, to achieve something that considers a good, etc. The truth is that such a goal is absolutely impossible: you cannot be in Madrid, in your own home, on February 2 at 5:00 p.m. sitting in an armchair and, at the same time, let's take the case, to be preventing a young son, who plays around us, from being older, being called in a row, sent by the army to another country with a warlike conflict and receiving the impact of a howitzer.

A person who in his mind is generating a fantasy similar to the example just cited, will inevitably experience anxiety; perhaps you will even feel in your own body, that physical correlate of anxiety that is anguish.

Can we say that the person experiencing such anguish is a sick person? It is obvious that the answer would be unanimous: no. The only thing that has happened is that this person has left with his mind of that only possible reality that is to live his present moment and has tried to manipulate, in a sterile way on the other hand, a possible future. Therefore, it makes no sense to talk about anxious pathology or any other psychopathological condition or label, since the anxiety What he has experienced is simply that: an anxiety-signal, which, as we said, generates its own organism, so that it is aware of the illusory purpose and rectifies as soon as possible re-entering the realm again.

The person, also with his mind like all tools, gets out of his reality, of reality ...

and he begins, unconsciously, to compare himself with a model of what he thinks it has to be, a model usually generated by his parents, by his educators and by the influence of the environment, and which, in the end, has come to make his own, (well be a model in the physical, aesthetic, moral, professional, emotional, etc.). For a moment, he is also trying another impossible: to be who he is not. You can fantasize for minutes, hours and even days, but all this overideacional process will not become, for its duration or its content, something real. And, again, its nature will generate the anxiety-signal to remind you that it cannot be any other, in those moments, than what it is.

The person, on this occasion, fantasizes about being rewarded with a valuable trophy ...

for his sensational performance in an international figure skating championship. The applause is thunderous. The beating of his heart accelerates from the emotion and satisfaction of having achieved his most desired goal. Immediately, these sensations become a galloping intensification of your heartbeat, an enormous difficulty in breathing and a sensation of being able to collapse, or even die, from one moment to another. The person of our example lives, for many years, sitting in a wheelchair.

Again we would be before someone fleeing from reality and trying the impossible. It is not that a person, regardless of his or her disability or health status, does not have a legitimate right to have aspirations and goals, of all types and of all sizes. What will be reminding him of the anxiety-signal will be that, just that goal he was dreaming of, and perhaps something more than dreaming, he was "demanding," was something absolutely impossible. That, for him, as for so many others, it is beyond the reach of his reality.

A final case of signal anxiety ...

generated, as in all other examples, by the individual himself, this time in the opposite direction to which we were exposing in the first case. The person here just remembers. Remember with such intensity that you lose consciousness that you are simply remembering. Suddenly, he feels an extraordinary exhaustion and a numbness of his muscles, especially from the waist down. It is seen advancing on a very long Mediterranean beach. In an oversight, his five-year-old son, who played quietly in the sand, with his bucket and shovel, has changed activity and has decided to get into the sea, - which initially covered only his ankles - to become , in a short space of time, literally covered by water. The child drowns. His father tries the impossible. The heart seems to pop out of his mouth. Any noise, the doorbell or the sound of the telephone will return you back to the "here" and "now". He has been confusing the present with the past, what happens with what happened. He has wanted, with his mind, with his fantasy, to rescue and free from death a son who, unfortunately, lost many years ago in a dire holiday.

Again the person has fled, has left the present, with the illusory pretense of modifying an error of his past. Effort of every point useless. That anxiety crisis, that anguish, are indicating the absolute impossibility of acting in a time that no longer exists. That and no other is the function of anxiety.

Every effort directed to the attainment of an impossible object can only generate anxiety, as an initial warning, or a tremendous existential frustration and a chronic process of anxiety and anguish, if the individual does not realize this impossibility, he persists in his unreal endeavor, and It does not focus, in short, on what is feasible.

Normal and pathological anxiety

All the examples set forth above would therefore be of normal anxiety. An anxiety that is also normal - and this has been studied enough for many years - is one that everyone humans need in a moderate dose, and that is essential for us to experience motivation, the essential stimulus for action. Without it, the individual would fall into a state of prostration and quasi-absolute passivity, which rather sooner than later would lead him inexorably to death.

But And the anxiety that accompanies all neurotic processes, obsessions and phobias, hysteria and anguish, depression and somatization, sexual disorders and dysfunctions? That will be the pathological, right?

Well, my opinion is no. My opinion is that in each and every one of those processes, so well classified and labeled, the underlying theme is the same: the "sick", in a thousand and one different ways, is trying not to be himself, He is striving to be as he would like to be, to be as he was told he had to be ... He is striving to be, in short, as anyone but himself. And it is that carelessness in being oneself, that impossibility of assuming as one is, and employing all energies in impossible goals and lost battles.

Introductory video about what anxiety is:


Andrews, G. (2003).The treatment of anxiety disorders: clinician guides and patient manuals (2nd ed.). Cambridge, UK; New York, NY: Cambridge University PressCano-Vindel, A. (2002).The anxiety. Keys to beat her. Malaga: Arguval

Cano-Vindel, A. (1989).Cognition, emotion and personality: a study focused on anxiety. / Cognition, emotion and personality: a study focused in anxiety. Madrid: Complutense University.

Echeburúa, E. (2002).Advances in the psychological treatment of anxiety disorders. Madrid: Pyramid.

Eysenck, M.W. (1997).Anxiety and cognition: A unified theory. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.

Eysenck, M.W. and Derakshan, N. (1997). A cognitive theoretical framework for anxiety disorders.Anxiety and Stress, 3, 121-134 (Monograph'Anxiety reduction techniques')

Gutiérrez Calvo, M. and Cano Vindel, A. (1997). The nature of trait anxiety: Cognitive and biological vulnerability.European Psychologist, 2, 301-312

Warren, R., & Zgourides, G. D. (1991).Anxiety disorders. New York: Pergamon

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