As with depression, the history of modern anxiety parallels the shift of location of the self from the group to the individual.6 The rise of the powerful individual provided the basis for the current cultural strategy of competitive individualism, which in turn has shaped the new forms of anxiety experienced by moderns. The exceptionally intense competitive arrangements that exist in many segments of modern society have the effect of emphasizing technique and outcome. Individual participants often experience so much competitive anxiety that they disengage their private imagination in favor of situational pragmatics. Some people with strong creative inclinations experience frustration as they compromise this aspect of themselves in order to maximize the likelihood of competitive success.7 If the rewards are high, they are often able to persist in their compromise, but smaller payoffs frequently fail to mask their discontent.
Research on the emotional consequences of competition shows consistently that competitive arrangements are associated with greater anxiety.8 When anxiety levels are high, there is a concomitant impairment of performance. The competition-anxiety relationship is so well established that researchers often expose their participants to competition when they want to create anxiety in the experimental situation. This is referred to as competition-induced anxiety.
Over long periods, this type of anxiety can create a state of competition fatigue, wherein the person is drained of the ability to compete with intensity and determination. In the leadup to this syndrome, the fatigued person often reports feelings of emptiness and an acute awareness that social needs are not being satisfied. Sometimes the individual remains in the competitive environment, in which he or she might need to live with the consequences of reduced performance. In other cases, afflicted individuals attempt to use the experience in order to construct for themselves an alternative life-style that revolves around cooperation and the cultivation of positive social relations. This may involve a physical retreat to a remote geographical area, which is intended to facilitate a life-style and attitude change. Those who are burned out by excesses of competition may employ isolation as a form of refuge, or they may seek out groups or communities that reflect their need for change. It is quite remarkable, for example, how many members of communes and dropout communities have former lives as aggressive competitors in a range of professional occupations. They frequently report that competition had become an intolerable substitute for true personal control in their lives.
Rather than viewing competition fatigue as a disorder, it is better to understand it as a creative diagnosis by individuals who gradually recognize that a relentlessly competitive orientation deprives them of much that is important in life. It often represents a new maturity that rests on the awareness that hypercompetition builds barricades between people, while also furthering anxiety, isolation, and alienation. But most modern-day competitors find it difficult to escape the cultural mind-set that equates survival and desirability with triumphant competition. Most will respond to the isolating and anxiety-arousing effects of competitive striving by redoubling their effort or shifting their energies toward different competitive pursuits.
The prospect of easing away from a competitive approach to life conjures up catastrophic fantasies about failure and destitution. To some extent, these worries have a basis in reality since the entire economic structure of Western life implies a certain degree of competitive willingness. In this regard, many people now find themselves in what has been termed a competition trap wherein they cannot find relief from the pernicious effects of highly competitive life orientations.9
The world of competition invites an intrapersonal fraudulence that paves the way for additional anxiety. Humanistic psychologists have long known that artificiality lies at the heart of anxiety and that a successful cure lies in the restoration of authenticity to people's lives. Yet the radical reliance on competition for purposes of self-marketing has led moderns to package themselves in such a way that any semblance of an authentic person is disguised beyond recognition. It is not uncommon to hear people referring to themselves, and their abilities and qualities, as a package that is on offer.
Although the hope is that this package will be competitive and thus able to attract a good valuation, the fraudulence (both to self and others) involved is almost certain to take a toll. Anxiety becomes more likely as we continue to sacrifice authenticity for purposes of becoming competitively fit standardized units.10 Without the inner knowledge that we are someone, we are confronted by the unsettling feeling that survival, and reality itself, rest on the ever-shifting demands of surface impression. With these intrapsychic dynamics, the nervous self-as-package cannot even savor many of the fruits of victorious competition.
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Tips And Tricks For Relieving Anxiety... Fast Everyone feels anxious sometimes. Whether work is getting to us or we're simply having hard time managing all that we have to do, we can feel overwhelmed and worried that we might not be able to manage it all. When these feelings hit, we don't have to suffer. By taking some simple steps, you can begin to create a calmer attitude, one that not only helps you feel better, but one that allows you the chance to make better decisions about what you need to do next.