curiosity across disciplines

Anxiety and metal

I've been thinking about anxiety lately.

Mostly, I've mused on how to reframe normal, everyday anxiety in a way that makes it less abstract, and therefore easier to manage in-the-moment.

Naturally, the answer that I've settled on showed up in a less-than-expected place: metal.

"They say a man who fears will suffer twice.”

Tremonti, on the track "Arm Yourself" echoes the still-metal if less-lyrically-inclined original sentiment from Montaigne[1]:

"He who fears he shall suffer, already suffers what he fears.”

Linguistically, "suffer" is quite versatile. It implies the obvious "stuff we want to avoid,” but is also a simple analog for "fate."

When we look at it through both meanings simultaneously, it's clear that the banal, fated anxiety is inescapable. To be finite is to suffer and to lament perceived suffering.

And what is anxiety if not perceived suffering?

However, in thinking about anxiety through the lens of suffering, it's more obvious that the optional bit is in fact optional. We manufacture more suffering than we must; proverbial Rube Goldberg anxiety machines.

Basically, suffering is a dual-edged sword.

To be eminently cheesy, to arm yourself is to "die by the sword." Getting out unscathed isn't an option, but worrying about when the wounds will come only adds to the carnage[2].

Circling back to the top, before the suffering: is this explanation useful? Rather conveniently, I'd say so.

Anxiety is abstract and slippery.

This reframe makes it less so. It's more concrete, and therefore more apparent that the optional suffering we manufacture isn’t confined purely to our minds.

Without putting too fine a point on it, we ought to remember that anxiety injures our bodies as surely as a gash from any blade.

Greetings! It's your captain speaking with a dreaded ‘call to action.’ If you share this here blog about sword-fighting and suffering and such, you could consider that a... <drumroll please> ...riPOSTe! Aaand isn't that simply a win for everyone? Thanks for reading and for being awesome.

  1. Michel de Montaigne, The Essays of Montaigne, Complete, 1877. Translation by Charles Cotton. ↩︎

  2. To add another layer to this see Robert Sapolsky's excellent book Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers. ↩︎