Updated Last July 16, 2016

Anxiety brings a deeply-seated subjective sense that something bad will happen. However, so does fear. In casual discussion, the terms anxiety and fear are used interchangeably, but there is an informative energetic distinction to be made. Anxiety is caused by a strong impulse leaving the core and being arrested in the muscular layer. Fear is caused by a strong contraction of the tissues in the face of an external threat (albeit sometimes a remembered, imagined, projected, or social threat) Restated another way, anxiety is from an internal stimulus while fear is from an external stimulus. This difference then indicates a difference in remedies.

Contraction and suffering due to fear is best addressed by 1) removing any identifiable threats, 2) for unidentifiable or irremovable threats, by anger which re-expands the tissue and the organism. Protest is enough at times for healing, but if concrete actions to address the threat are reasonably safe and available, they must not be shirked. Of course, for realistically strong threats, fear and its physiological sequelae may be appropriate.

Anxiety, on the other hand, is best addressed by honoring the triggering impulse. This often involves bringing it to consciousness but if that is not possible, general constructive actions are helpful. Preferably, these are directed at the person or obstacle that seems to have triggered the impulse. However, any truly constructive life-affirming action can suffice. Now in any case, anxiety tends to produce the sense that something needs to be done (which further distinguishes it from fear which tends toward paralysis and inhibition) Four types of actions tend to be undertaken to satisfy this sense:

While all actions reduce anxiety in the moment, only constructive actions prevent its recurrence. Anxiety leads to anxious, ruminating thoughts, but the content of these thoughts tend toward more superficial conflicts and the are usually not the root cause of the anxiety. Unlike action, thought does not resolve anxiety to any degree and may increase it. In the body, anxiety is most strongly felt in the chest, followed by the rest of the torso and the temples. Anxiety may not be obvious at lower intensities. There are three ways in which anxiety makes itself known:

In the Reich and Lowen tradition, anxiety is seen as a sign of life, albeit a painful one. The generally advised approach to anxiety is then increasing the body's (and ego's) tolerance for energy, life and feeling. Where baseline anxiety is high, lifestyle tends to be busy or frenetic but without any pleasure or satisfaction.. At that point, trying just to be uncovers considerable anxiety. That is why 'doing nothing' when disquieted can be so beneficial, it allows conflicts and motives to surface, but the price is tolerating some distress. For most people, strong anxiety is uncovered when character defenses start to fail, either because the external stress or shock is great enough, or the character has been softened with bodywork and character analysis. Strong character-dystonic impulses emerge which cause panic and disorientation. A goal of therapy is to avoid large jumps in anxiety, but no progress can be made without some anxiety.

Bodywork in the Reich and Lowen tradition can both cause and release anxiety at times, but it leads eventually to authentic living in which anxiety plays only a minor role. Drug therapy, in contrast to bodywork, is dysregulating and up-regulating. and inevitably leads to greater anxiety. Stimulants reduce anxiety in the short-run perhaps by spurring activity, but of course stimulants increase anxiety in the medium and short run. Sedating drugs and opiates including endorphins quell anxiety briefly but again in the medium and long run increase it through up-regulation.