Uncategorized

How to use Anxiety as a Weapon


“For believe me: the secret for harvesting from existence the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment is — to live dangerously!” — Nietzsche

The feeling of anxiety is a curious one. Unlike fear, that can be felt and identified as easy as it is to identify fake laughter, anxiety can be there lurking around inside yourself without you even noticing that it’s there. It’s just a minor, generalized discomfort that can go unnoticed if unchecked. One that doesn’t let you have a normal conversation or even make a new friend because you’re too busy wondering if they like you instead of worrying if you like them. 

That is, of course, if you let it. 

But no. Do not think of it as your enemy, for it is not. It can actually become your friend if you could only understand it. It could become your weapon. A weapon against a mediocre life. 

Anxiety can be used as a weapon once it is understood. Unlike reason, anxiety is more animalistic, instinctual, you could say. This is why it is so powerful, it’s also why it can drive you mad if you don’t listen to her, worse, if you avoid her. However, if you decide to listen and to sit down with her, she’ll become an unimaginably strong allied and advisor. 

A story about jazz and panic attacks

I love jazz music. It speaks without speaking. When you are asked about what did it say to you, it’s difficult to answer. It can be fast and desperate like kissing after a long time without seeing your loved one, or slow and mellow like a walk on a Sunday night through the park on your way home, melancholic, soothing and pleasant.

I began to really understand anxiety for the first time when I moved to Mexico City. I arrived in the city with an amount of money I’m too shy to share with you and a job prospect for becoming a mountain guide, nothing palpable though, just the prospect. I slept for a couple of weeks on a friend’s sofa, did a couple of mountain training here and there, thank god they said yes and I got the job and then moved in with my cousin.

Not paying rent for the first couple of months saved my ass. Mountain season began until winter, so I had push through summer with the little money I had plus eating a diet that consisted of lentils and broccoli. 

I laugh remembering all the things I had to do to survive. Eating cheap and staying home reading a book not to spend any of the precious money I had to move around. 

But, back then, it wasn’t as funny as it is now. Not having any money sucks monkey balls.

One night, I went to a free jazz exhibition that played at the Fonoteca Nacional, a gorgeous government culture house that functions as a museum of sound in Mexico City, please go if you have the chance. 

I had had a cup of coffee that day and felt generalized anxiety gorging in my stomach. As I walked to the show, my mind was racing, telling me how much of a fucking loser I was, without money and starting all over at 27, how my cousin was pretty much done with having a parasite living in his house, how I wasn’t able to support my family if something bad happened. You know, the lovely stuff that our lovely minds like to tell us on our ears from time to time. 

I arrived and sat down to hear the music alongside other forty or fifty jazz enthusiasts, and man, it was beautiful. It moved me hard, it spoke for me and with me. Ha, my eyes just got a bit teary by remembering. 

The music began moving a bit too fast, and faster, the drums pounding in my heart faster and faster. 

And then… I felt it. The dreaded panic attack. Man, it feels like a rollercoaster. You really don’t know if you’re going to be able to endure it. My heart began racing fast, I felt really, really hot. The music movement felt just too fast to bear. I thought I was going to lose control. It was too much, all was too much. I was in a strange big ass city and began to question if I could really pull this “daring greatly” plan of mine. I felt alone and powerless. Going back was not an option, I had no money for psychologists either. It was me and me against whatever came.

Thank god, by that time Stoic Answers already existed. So I wasn’t new to the school of pain and hardship. I’ll be forever grateful to Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus. They smiled at me when nothing else did and lifted me up to be a man as they were in there time. I also meditated a lot so I was able to access my reason in the face of unbearable anxiety. I looked at my thoughts, I felt my quenched stomach and I heard the fast jazz music. The panic slowly went away and left a milder anxiety in its place.

I felt good about myself. Because although I certainly was in an entirely fucked up situation. I was there by choice. I believed that I could do more with my life. That was why I had decided to go to a place I did not know anything about, with no money, just to see what was possible. 

It was the best decision of my life. You see, all that fuckery I went through, has only given me strength. I now have a lot of adventures to tell and laugh with myself about. I’ve become my own friend and anxiety has been there all along with me, the entire time. We are good friends now. She’s a harsh friend. 

Like the friend that always tells you the uncomfortable truth that you don’t really want to hear, just like that is anxiety. She’s bold, cool and she’s also a bitch. If you’re going to be his friend, she expects you to be just the same, bold and cool. She’s a woman of high standards. 

Anxiety as a friend or as an enemy

We all have a calling. Your calling and my calling are different, but we bought equally have something inside of us that calls for greatness and for daring adventure. This calling is our self-expression. 

Don’t imagine self-expression as this artistry concept (although it is) in which you have to become a musician or a painter. In reality, self-expression is more like engagement with life, with moving, with doing your work and realizing what you’re truly capable of. 

“Circumstances don’t make the man, they only reveal him to himself.”
Epictetus

It’s about movement and engagement. It’s about realizing that no one is responsible for your self-expression but you. It’s entirely up to you to live up to your full potential. That’s the first part. 

“One of the most important [revelatory] moments is when the client grasps that no one is coming. No one is coming to save me; no one is coming to make life right for me; no one is coming to solve my problems. If I don’t do something, nothing is going to get better. The dream of a rescuer who will deliver us may offer a kind of comfort, but it leaves us passive and powerless. We may feel if only I suffer long enough, if only I yearn desperately enough, somehow a miracle will happen, but this is the kind of self-deception one pays for with one’s life as it drains away into the abyss of unredeemable possibilities and irretrievable days, months, decades.” Nathaniel Branden 

Now, at the crossroads of action, of doing vs not doing. You’ll encounter someone. You’ll encounter good old anxiety, waiting for you. If you decide to go with her, you’ll have to become her friend for you are going to be close, very close. You’ll also need to become the best version of you if you are to hang with her. 

When I decided to move to Mexico City, I made the choice to become close to her. 

At first, it was hard, she didn’t know me nor I knew her. But after a time, I became used to her. It’s the beginning of the relationship that’s hard. But afterward, you’re happy that you have a cool new friend and not some loser friend that does nothing but suck your life energy. 

That’s the other road. The road of mild comfort. Back at the crossroads. If you decide to take the path of least resistance, the path where anxiety doesn’t seem to be around. You’ll feel good and cozy, for a while. For anxiety will not follow you immediately and you will not be close to her but she’ll catch up with you one day and that day will be terrible, for she will not be your friend anymore, but your enemy. She’ll be telling you fucking loser until you go crazy and you’ll know it’s true. 

Taking the path of self-expression is dangerous, obviously. It’s certainly not fun to be poor and laughed about because you are taking the first steps in following your dreams, and you can certainly get in really bad situations. Hell, you can even die while trying. 

But if you think that taking the safe path is less dangerous. Oh boy, you are so wrong. 

“When a person sacrifices his right to self-expression [i.e., self-realization] for the sake of survival, his very survival is endangered, not from without but from within. With the surrender of the right to self-expression the meaning of life is lost. This is not a psychological phenomenon only. Self-expression is the direct and immediate manifestation of the life force in an individual. Self-expression is equivalent to life expression and a life that isn’t expressed, isn’t being lived. That leads to a slow death.” — Alexander Lowen

You’re screwed either way. There is no safe path. 

However, the path of self-realization and heightened anxiety at least offers treasures and greatness. While the path of safety and mild anxiety offers a slow death on a self-built tumb. 

How to make Anxiety a weapon

If you feel anxiety. You are not sick, you are not wrong. In fact, it only means that you are a healthy human being. 

What you are able to imagine, you are able to undertake. Whatever you can imagine becomes a possibility. If those possibilities that you imagine call on you and more importantly, make you feel alive, you need to follow them. That’s the only way. 

“Possibility means I can, In a logical system it is convenient enough to say that possibility passes over into actuality. In reality it is not so easy, and an intermediate determinant is necessary. This intermediate determinant is anxiety. . .” Soren Kierkegaard 

Anxiety, with, its brute animalistic force, will aid you in giving you energy, and if you let it, it will become excitement and fruitfulness instead of fear and despair. 

Like I said, in the beginning, you will have to start developing a relationship with her. But with time, you will become good friends, trust me. Know now that she can be your enemy or your ally. She’s not going to be friends with someone who does not take action and loves himself enough to actually believe in the possibilities that his own mind shows him. Start now, trust me, you’ll not regret it, and you’ll regret it if you don’t. 

Feel anxiety, don’t run away from it, feel it and take action in spite of it. If it accentutates it just means that you are on the right path for you are taking action. Keep at it and use it to your benefit.

Thanks for reading, 

Ricardo Guaderrama 

Become a Patreon

subscribe and receive the Askesis ebook to further develop your practice of stoicism.
Subscribe here

I’m always open to suggestions and am happy to answer any questions. stoicanswers@gmail.com

4 Comments

  • I suffered from lifelong anxiety which wasn’t abated until I was diagnosed bipolar and the medication worked. I don’t cultivate concepts of enemies or weapons because I don’t see myself as any different to any other human trying to make their way in this world. Frankly, anything can be a weapon if you’re so minded as to put another human being down. Sometimes this is necessary, such as if you’re being physically attacked. Seriously, you can put someone’s eye out with a pencil, if you really want. Or just your finger. It’s important to feel and name anxiety. It’s a reall bad idea to act on it. Keep it and use it to your benefit, by holding the feeling, not giving it out so that others feel it, learn to hold it, and understand what’s behind it, which is usually great sadness. Look for the sadness. It may seem a very difficult emotion to sit with, but if you let it hold you, it will be the mother you never had. If none of what I’ve written makes sense to you, ignore it. But I think that I understand you, and hope that you might feel the same.

    • Hello Mrs MacNonymous, thanks for the insightful comment. I think I kind of got it. It was not my intention for this to be understood as something to put other people down. On the contrary, I would like to put other people up. I used the word weapon because of the strong meaning of it.

      I wanted to use it as in making something useful out of anxiety, maybe I should’ve used the word tool. I agree with you with that part of sitting with anxiety, it’s true, you cannot run away from it.

      “It’s a reall bad idea to act on it. Keep it and use it to your benefit, by holding the feeling, not giving it out so that others feel it, learn to hold it, and understand what’s behind it, which is usually great sadness.”

      I believe this part is the core of what you wanted to say and I tried to explain in the post. So, if I understand correctly, you think that what’s helpful of it is to understand it?
      If so, I think we are on the same page, as understanding it makes you realize that you need to hear and understand yourself for the anxiety is trying to tell you something.

      Again, this might be true for a person with normal levels of anxiety. How do you think a person with a disorder and a normal person would defer?

  • Ricardo: So well written!  I have bipolar (anxiety tags along). Stoicism makes me more calm and serene.  Yes, I do teach.  Some of these almost-adults are clueless about respect😟 Terry Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s