Big questions on anxiety
Heidegger's notion of the unheimlich — the uncanny, how human existence can fundamentally be strange to itself. The "unacceptability" of being passive in modern life. Frontline stories from a psychologist and a social worker working with Sydney's vulnerable.
A crowd of around 35 people gathered at a Clear Spot Club event at the Leela Centre in Darlinghurst last night to hear varying perspectives on anxiety, with a general theme of looking beyond the self and the medical model to broader social and political structures that impact on the condition.
Sources of happiness
•tension free leisure • social peace • personal autonomy • interesting work • trust • family, friends and relationships • and yes, money and material wellbeing.
Michael Pusey's list adapted from Robert Lane's "The Market Experience".
Emma Tseris from Sydney University laid the groundwork in exploring how perceptions about mental illness have changed. She cited how the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — first published in 1952 with 106 pages — has grown to 947.
"Many critical mental health theorists have described an explosion in psychiatric diagnoses over the past few decades, whereby behaviours previously considered to be within the expected range of human experience — such as introversion — are now at risk of being classed as evidence of a mental disorder — such as social phobia."
"A medical approach of ‘eradicating anxiety’ can also be critiqued, as it is possible for anxiety to be a painful, and yet useful, experience," she says. "It is no longer sufficient for us to simply talk about anxiety, as we are so often now encouraged to do. Rather, it is time to look for answers about anxiety that lie not only within us, but also within our community contexts and broader experiences."
Meanwhile, aside from exploring the unheimlich, philosopher Dr Peter Banki raised the issue of anxiety being revelatory. "... it might not be simply negative, something to get rid of or to cure, but that actually anxiety discloses something essential about who we are and our being-in-the-world as such."
He also explored the role of humour in countering the condition. "... it gives voice to the despair, and allows it to actually be said, and not hidden, but in a way that is still life affirming, because it’s funny. It makes you laugh. If you laugh, you open up. Your mouth, your body opens. The laughter is an excess of life... It’s sad but also its nourishing and is an abundance."
Sociologist Michael Pusey, 77, argued that while his life is filled with certainty, younger generations are plagued with uncertainty. "Anxiety increases in the wake of the dislocating changes that issue from what we like to call ‘economic reform’". He also argued we live in an "upside down society" whereby we set material wellbeing and economic competition for jobs, money and consumption ahead of almost every other aspect of life.
"We can see this by reminding ourselves of some of the empirically proven sources of satisfaction and happiness that correlate most strongly with measured quality of life."
A Q + A followed, in which audience members discussed a range of issues, from a psychologist working with homeless men saying he needs more than ten government-funded sessions to provide support to queries about how spirituality could provide support for the anxious.