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Guest Post: Anxiety
Posted by Heebie-Geebie on 06.17.24

NickS writes: Two links, the more fun of which is this piece about Inside Out 2, which will probably be relatable for many at unfogged:

Many people who live with a lot of anxiety would agree that anxiety is not a lot of fun. But I don't think it's a villainous emotion. As such, I appreciate the way that "Inside Out 2" gives its anxious antagonist a heart and some positive characteristics amidst its frantic quivering.
Riley isn't a parent. But her emotions are another story. They're parts of her. But they're also sort of her caregivers. Joy, especially, is a maternal figure, and expresses that mothering through what looks a lot like anxiety -- she's worried whenever Riley forms unhappy memories, and she tries to encourage her to forget and repress them. Which is not, the movie makes clear, an ideal coping strategy.
Anxiety keeps Riley from being her best self. But at the same time, (and this is the way in which anxiety is not a villain) Anxiety really does care about Riley, just as anxious parents care about their kids. And her maybe obsessive attention and investment gives her some insights that Joy doesn't have. ...

Less fun but perhaps also recognizable is this essay from Rick Pearlstein about the depressing experience of arguing about politics on twitter (via LGM):

I've spent half my life now, starting in 1997 when I was 27, trying to make sense of the right. It was a fortunate career choice. With each passing year, the right became more and more the star of the American political show. More and more, people began telling me, with aching earnestness, that what I did was profoundly valuable to them. I helped them understand their childhoods; I helped them fear the future less, because they saw what we had overcome before. They still feared the future, but they were grateful, because I inspired them to launch their own careers as activists or politicians to fight for it.
This has been a fortunate thing for my soul. Writing that last sentence, in fact, I misted up a little bit--which is a good thing, because for the last several days, I've felt so dead inside that I've hardly had any emotions at all.
So, saying you should vote for [Biden] anyway is a hard argument to make. Maybe I should be gentler on myself that I've not managed to persuade the literally thousands of people on the left raining abuse down upon me for making it. All the same, my failure is gutting me worse than anything that has happened to me before in my career.
What it comes down to, I guess, is this. If I of all people can't convince people on the left to fight right-wing authoritarians who consider them veritable Untermenschen, then what the hell have I been wasting half my life on this work for?

Heebie's take: I have thoughts!

1. On Inside Out 2: I enjoyed it! My teens both said that it's pretty accurate on the representation of anxiety. It's less of an existential gut punch than the first one, because that one is about saying goodbye to childhood, and this one is about the onset of puberty. So it stands on its own as a story that tries to explain young teenage brains to the viewer.

2. On kids today: I almost posted something about dumb old Jonathan Haidt blaming all the kids' anxiety on cell phones, because he's been on a PR circuit meant to intersect as often as possible with my demographic.

On the one hand, I think his theory is dumb. On the other hand, my teenagers both have far more anxiety than I did. On the third hand, their father is Jammies and it is definitely not the phones, for either of them. Really.

3. On Perlstein: I'm marinating in this idea, which came up last week, that becoming demoralized is how Democrats lose, and how toxic it is. I'm trying to hold myself in check. But am I just a normal-moralized person in an objectively demoralizing world? (no! fight the drift! etc!)

Part of me sees public opinion as a primordial goop. To get anything done, you've got to collect enough goop into a barrel. But Republicans, Fox News, etc, they make the goop much more viscous. So it's harder to get it into a single barrel using our clumsy fingers, the goop leaks more easily between the slats of the barrel, etc. This is why we should strive to have as many analogies as possible on Unfogged.

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