If you are threatened by a real danger, you can do something about it. You can defend yourself, withdraw from the danger, or adjust in some other way. This positive action relieves the tension fear has caused. This is external fear. The cause is real and outside of you. When you remove the cause, the fear disappears.
Quite differently is the internal fear we classify as anxiety. No external cause for fear is present in the case of anxiety. The fear stems from impressions of past experiences, stored in the unconscious mind. These impressions were unpleasant and, no doubt, caused intense fear when they occurred. The person would like to forget then and, in many cases, it would seem that he has. Still, they remain as vivid impressions in the recesses of the unconscious mind.
Under some circumstances, when a person’s mind is not occupied with something else, these unpleasant impressions stream up to the level of consciousness. The fear and apprehension accompanying them is internal since no real danger threatens. The fear is sustained because the impressions remain. The person is, literally, a victim of a frightening situation from which he cannot escape and against, which he has little active defense.
In many cases, a person feels anxiety without being able to recognize it cause. This is termed free floating anxiety. In other cases, the anxiety is directed toward a specific object or situation that recalls unconsciously an unpleasant, fear producing past experience. This is a phobia. In still other cases, the person recognizes the cause or causes of his anxiety. With conscious effort, he can avoid an anxiety state by thinking of other things. But caught off guard, his unconscious mind releases the impressions he wishes he could forget. Intense fear and, in some cases, guilt feelings seize him and he suffers anxiety.
Problems Of Anxiety
Anxiety states range from mild to extremes conditions. All of us experience anxiety in some degree at some time. When you understand the reason for the condition and, especially, how to overcome it with conscious effort and self-control, the problem becomes less terrifying.
However, some anxiety states become acute. A person suffers constant fear or guilt feeling, depending on the nature of the episode or experience in which the anxiety is rooted. Nearly everything he does relates, in some way, to the anxiety. When anxiety dominates the entire personality, we say that a person is suffering from anxiety neurosis. It may surprise you to learn that some anxieties may even be beneficial. If they do not wreck behavior, they may be powerful motivators. A person’s anxiety may stimulate him to increase his knowledge in the deficient areas.