The American Heritage College Dictionary provides the following definitions of the word “anxious”:
“uneasy and apprehensive about something uncertain; worried”
“eagerly and earnestly desirous”
It gives the derivation of the word as “from Latin angere – to torment”.
As Mr. Spock would say, “fascinating”. How can the same word mean worried, as in, “he was anxious about his date with Suzan” and eager, as in, “the kids were anxious for Christmas to come.”
Why do we get anxious (worried) about things that we ought to be anxious (excited) about? I don’t think the answer is hard to figure out. What does “excited” sometimes lead to?
You guessed it: DISAPPOINTMENT.
If I just don’t get too excited about that date with Susan, I won’t feel so disappointed if she calls up the day before and cancels because her boss sent her to Cleveland on business.
How do you not get excited about something exciting?
You worry. What if the date doesn’t go well? What if it rains all week during my vacation to Hawaii? What if tomorrow is the last day of the world. What if, what if, what if.
Those two little words, “what if” are the tool of a lot of self torment (i.e anxiety). If I can just torment myself enough, then I don’t have to be disappointed when life hands me a clunker.
Less Than Helpful Advice
What if, instead of saying I’m having an anxiety attack, people said, “I am having a self-tormenting attack” or “I am worrying in order to avoid the risk of disappointment?” What if I stopped being anxious (worried) and started being anxious (excited)?