Grating along at a lower level …

Further musings on Fear & Anxiety 

The Canadian professor of psychology, Stanley Rachman, differentiates between anxiety and fear in the following way:

Anxiety and Fear are usually distinguished on the basis that, whereas fear is brief and intense, an emotional reaction to a specific, perceived danger, anxiety is diffuse, objectless, unpleasant and persistent [. . .] grating along at a lower level of intensity.

If the cause of the anxiety is potentially knowable and the focus is identifiable, then by diligent work [. . .] it should be possible to convert puzzling anxiety into clear-cut fear.

Stanley Rachman: Anxiety

Associated with Rachman’s assumption is the idea that fear is more manageable than anxiety.

Beckett seems more skeptical to any healing possibilities; When such an anxiety (Angst) begins to grow, a reason (Grund) must quickly be found, as no one has the ability to live with it in its utter absence of reason (Grundloskeit). In this line of thought, fear is more like an act of avoidance—than a way to healing.

But isn’t it also true that Beckett used anxiety as a creative force?

More and more my own language appears to me like a veil that must be torn apart in order to get at the things (or the Nothingness) behind it. [. . .] To bore one hole after another in [language], until what lurks behind it – be it something or nothing – begins to seep through; I cannot imagine a higher goal for a writer today.

from Beckett’s letter to Axel Kaun, 9 July 1937


The nothingness of anxiety echoes the nothingness in the center of Beckett’s writing. 

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Rio says:

    Well, in Zen it is sometimes suggested that as soon as you start to talk about “it” you have lost it. “Washing dirt with mud” and yet, no doubt, a writer without words would feel anxiety. And we all are so dependant on words. We hardly believe anything happens at all if we don’t talk or blog about it.

  2. Good questions. Some of these I have been mulling over myself. Thank you for putting them into words.

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