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Anxiety is generally an ally that keeps us safe by making us appropriately cautious, particularly in unfamiliar situations. Sometimes though anxiety gets ideas beyond it’s station and develops its own Logic. It takes over because it assess that life is too important to leave us in control (like HAL in the Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey).

Anxiety is a survival response; it’s job is to keep us safe, but when it takes over and develops its own logic it can severely limit our freedom and our enjoyment of life.

By ‘logic’ I mean a system of reasoning that uses its own set of principles to asses whether something is true or false or, as in the case of anxiety, safe or unsafe.

Part of what anxiety does is to make us alert to threat. It does this by giving us uncomfortable feelings, and it changes (distorts) our thinking. That distorted thinking taints our assessments through its own logic. We become hyper-alert to threat, even when there isn’t one. Anxiety has won, and virus-like it gains increasing control by what I call the Logic of Anxiety.

When this happens, it creates a trap. There are many reasons we can become persistently anxious, in some cases to the point of developing a debilitating anxiety disorder. Whatever the cause, the remedy is the same; it is to challenge the Logic of Anxiety and learn our way out of it.

You can do this with the help of a therapist (but please don’t talk endlessly about your anxiety because that can make it worse), or you can do it on your own. The first step in either case is to remind yourself that, by the time it becomes a problem, anxiety is no longer to be trusted.

As an ally, anxiety is vital. There are times when it is entirely appropriate to allow it to control us.  When the Logic of Anxiety takes over though, like HAL, the wisest course is to unplug it.

Who the heck was HAL?

Best watch the video, but if you don’t want to: In the film 2001, HAL was the cognitively-programmed computer that controlled everything on the spacecraft and interacted with the crew. HAL’s most famous line was “This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it”. After killing several of the crew HAL was eventually outsmarted and ‘decommissionedby the last surviving member.

 

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