Once you think about it, it’s entirely understandable one might have an anxiety attack at a party, when talking to a colleague or on a crowded train, there is genuine terror beneath the surface of such things. In her great novel Middlemarch, the 19th century English writer George Eliot, a deeply self-aware but also painfully self-conscious and anxious figure, reflected on what it would be like.
Eliot’s lines offer us a way to reinterpret our anxiety with greater dignity and benevolence. It emerges from a dose of clarity that is (currently) too powerful for us to cope with – but isn’t for that matter wrong.
We should never exacerbate our suffering by trying to push our disquiet aggressively away. Our lack of calm isn’t deplorable or a sign of weakness. It is simply the justifiable expression of our mysterious participation in a disordered, uncertain world.
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