Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Prisoner of Stress

Having seen Scott Stossel's book My Age of Anxiety” (Knopf) in a bookstore, I was interested in reading Louis Menand's review. Menand, as usual, goes beyond simply giving his opinion about the book under review. In this case he has written an interesting essay on the many meanings of anxiety. Is it an illness? Is it due to unconscious conflicts? Is it an existential condition? Is it due to stressors? None of the above or all of the above. Is it even 'somthing'? In the course of the review he sketches a brief history of our current ideas about and methods for treating anxiety. While he doesn't mention Andrea Tone's book The Age of Anxiety: A History of America's Turbulent Affair with Tranquilizers, I would suggest it as a good place to get a fuller description of this history.  

In the end Menand seems to take an agnostic position about theories of anxiety. His final word leaves room for both biology and psychology. He writes "As a species, we lucked out: natural selection gave us minds, and that freed us from the prison of biological determinism. We can put our genetic assets to positive account if and as we choose, and sometimes we have to try to do the same thing with our genetic deficits. " Not a bad approach to something we may not be able to avoid.

1 comment:

  1. It takes years of psychotherapy to even realize we HAVE a choice...most unhappy people need to learn how to feel empowered before believing they can make better choices....