The Age of Anxiety

by Peter Milhado PHD on June 12, 2015

W H. Auden tagged this time in history as ‘The Age of Anxiety’ and I understood what that meant when I lived and worked in L.A. from the mid-seventies to the late eighties. What I saw then still is true today. A lot of people racing around in frantic activity, going from meeting to meeting, channel surfing on TV, never being quiet and reflective. Now that our economy has taken a dive, ‘survival anxiety’ is spreading like wildfire, as any psychotherapist can attest to. Financial worries are getting more intense affecting the middle class, not only poor folks. Many people, including even prosperous ones, have anxieties about ending up on the street, pushing a shopping cart with all of their belongings in it.

This kind of anticipatory anxiety is triggered by an imagined future collapse or personal catastrophe. We’re disconnected from the grace of The Great Mother and run the danger of losing hope and trust. Michael Lerner tells us that our world is out of touch with itself. Many people don’t recognize the sacred in each other anymore. The mantra, “what can others do for me and how can I use them for my own needs ?” is pervasive in our culture. Everything is measured to the extent that it maximizes wealth, power and ego. Predatory capitalism is making people sick everywhere. The last time I went to the mall I felt like I was witnessing a collective slam dance, I had to get the hell out of there. In our business culture, corruption has become an art form. It seems the bigger the corporate organization the more unavoidable is its immorality and blind stupidity.

Another source of collective stress comes from the “Beauty, Youth and Health Terrorists” as promoted by T.V., magazines and the bullshit celebrity culture. Hollywood and Madison Avenue set standards no one can keep up with and always leaves people lacking and wanting. The mass media extols the rich and is successful in making many people feel bad about themselves because they don’t have a lot of money, or aren’t physically trim and aren’t conventionally beautiful. Millions of people in our country suffer from a new psychological condition called “Collective Stress Syndrome” and we’re not immune to it in our beautiful valley. While still in L.A., I spent countless hours educating patients that a great part of their anxiety and fear did not originate in their individual histories but were collective in origin. Just becoming aware that we all share this stress together brought some relief.

There was another epidemic, which is still current, named pathological materialism (getting and spending). This also had an impact on my work, as some folks would come to therapy not to become more soulful, but to become more successful’, which to them meant becoming better sharks than the sharks around them. What a bummer that was. I dealt with this powerfully contaminating collective anxiety and madness by leaving LA on Friday afternoons and going to an isolated cabin, next to a creek, half way up Mt. Wilson in Pasadena.

It would take me about two hours to hike in with my backpack filled with three days worth of supplies and books. Friends would visit sometimes, but most of the time I was alone except for the presence of Artemis looming all around. Most evenings I spent sitting in front of a small wood burning stove staring into the fire for hours. About every two months, I would follow the call of Hermes and Dionysus, which would take me to a small village outside Ensenada. Being a peasant by birth, I felt comfortable with the soulful warmth of the Mexican peasants. By day I went to their markets and enjoyed their many celebrations and in the evenings I ended up in those dark cantinas filled with sweet sadness and mystery. We all have to find our individual ways to combat collective anxiety and to replenish and rejuvenate.

So how do we protect ourselves from this ‘collective stress syndrome’?

Here are six healing antidotes against the onslaught of collective anxiety:

1. Friendship and intimacy

2. Relationship to nature

3. Soulful solitude

4. Creativity

5. Becoming involved in a soulful tribe or community

6. Psychotherapy

7. Service

One for all and all for one. Love to Mother Meera

Peter Milhado © 2015

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

dick oswell June 14, 2015 at 11:08 am

Ill seen ill said.
(alas after all your years still the voice of one crying in the wilderness—half way up the mountain, unheard time/space away)
Weaver of projectable bubble wrap wielding a past designing needle helping ‘others’ for profit and ego satisfaction.

“The gods have become diseases; not Zeus but the solar plexus now rules Olympus and causes the curious symptoms of the physician’s consulting room, or disturbs the brains of the politicians and journalists who then unwittingly release mental epidemics.” so sayeth the Jung.
Sadly dear peter your ‘self’ has been infected.

Peter Milhado PHD August 21, 2015 at 2:18 pm

are u pure

Neila Isik August 22, 2015 at 12:24 pm

Fantastic articles and many thanks for sharing.

dick oswell August 23, 2015 at 8:52 am

beyond positionalities

julie December 24, 2016 at 8:54 pm

In my case the west coast if Ireland did the trick, got me untangled from the madness of the current art world – also Zen poetry helped, also! At any time in history voices in the wilderness are the only ones making any sense.

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