THE THREE LAYERS OF ANXIETY
Ultimate anxiety levels are dependent on the interaction between the psychiatric disorder and underlying anxiety levels
LAYER ONE ---- PSYCHIATRIC DISORDER
LAYER TWO ---- CHARACTEROLOGICAL ANXIETY
LAYER THREE ---- BASELINE ANXIETY
Baseline anxiety increases or decreases depending on genetic and environmental influences
So the question that needs to be asked is how do these anxiety states manifest themselves?
In both acute and chronic anxiety the symptoms are overt manifestations of mental state dysfunction. In acute anxiety the symptoms are clearly evident, distressing and debilitating. They are obviously discernible. In chronic anxiety the symptoms are equally obvious but are continuously present in either continuous or fluctuating patterns over an extended period often months or years. In subliminal anxiety in contradistinction the symptoms are by definition covert. Its manifestations are secondary, often perceived in terms of characterological manifestations. Subliminal anxiety affects the characteristic behaviour patterns of its sufferers in subtle ways reflecting an underlying anxiety that often goes unrecognised. Subliminal anxiety is the anxiety we do not see; the anxiety we do not comprehend. It is the silent invisible anxiety of our innermost subconscious or unconscious states of being. It is who we really are underneath it all in conflict with a non-empathic world. It is forms our experience of a unique existential reality. More often than not it presents most starkly in its interaction with the environment.
In subliminal anxiety, the anxiety of secondary manifestation, the symptoms are indirect obtuse and vague. The symptoms of subliminal anxiety are the covert hidden symptoms of a process of anxiety that affects us all but expresses itself in ways that seem uniquely personal. The essence of subliminal anxiety is the anxiety that we can all acknowledge but never clearly define. Usually we live in complete ignorance of it and how it shapes our existence. We live in blissful unaware-ness. It is ironically however the anxiety of our every moment. It is the anxiety of our very existence in this world. It is the pervasive reality of the all-encompassing painful feeling of fear that comes from the unavoidable confrontation that we have on a daily basis with the actuality of our daily existence.
The essence of subliminal anxiety is the anxiety that we can all acknowledge but never clearly define.
So how can we recognise subliminal anxiety in ourselves? The first thing to recognise is that the symptoms are indirect and generalised. Direct and focussed symptoms are not the habitat of subliminal anxiety. Subtlety holds sway.
Anxiety affects us in so many ways being expressed in fact in almost all bodily systems. It therefore presents in a multiplicity of ways. Subliminal anxiety is the form of anxiety that is the broadest of all. The simplest way to understood it is to conceptualise it in terms of categories rather than individual anxiety related symptoms.
Arbitrarily we could then create approximately five categories although these are by no means exclusive.
- Symptoms is to do with relatedness and sensitivity to others.
There is much peripheral anxiety implicated in relations and relatedness. Living things make other living things anxious and fearful for their own safety. People make other people anxious. Anxious people make other people even more anxious. The result of this is that the anxious person becomes hypersensitive to the reactions of others in relation to them. They demonstrate extreme sensitivity to the opinions, feelings and moods of others. This becomes a preoccupation. You could say with some conviction that you will not be opposed that anxiety sufferers are chronically unable to mind their own business.
In order to fend off imagined fantasies of what others are thinking they tend to create all sorts of compensatory defensive reactions. They become in colloquial terms “paranoid”. This can take for example the form of overdoing things often seen as an attempt to control. They are seen as trying to control others. In fact they are trying to control the environment so they do not have to fear it as much as they do. A predictable environment is far less problematic than an uncontrolled one. When relating to others they do too much; talk too much and remember too much. They obsessively tell you for example about how you reacted at your last meeting recounting details that you would often rather forget. This naturally makes people uncomfortable self-conscious and wary. It makes them anxious.
People with anxiety are stuck on other people and their emotion sticks the irrelevant details to their mind. Anxiety is the glue of human existence. Too much and you are stuck to every aspect of the minutiae of your life which is disconcerting to society. Anxiety is a particularly sticky glue which makes it exceedingly difficult to dislodge oneself from whatever it that makes you anxious. The nasty thought sticks in your mind longer than you wish and so does the guilt about having it. You know this is irrational but that makes no difference. The thoughts about it go around and around in your head incessantly and tirelessly. This stimulus binding is evident more concretely in other psychiatric disorders but in anxiety a psychological reactivity is produced that is well-nigh impossible to escape.