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A Psychologist's Thoughts on Clinical Practice, Behavior, and Life

Of Adult Anxieties and Lingering Childhood Fears

Consideration of anxiety has a long illustrious history. Pascal, the French seventeenth century child prodigy, mathematician, and physicist, suffered from anxiety and wrote "all of the misfortunes of men derive from one single thing which is their their inability to sit still in a room." Anxiety is today's most frequent mental health diagnosis, having as a common complaint the inability to sit still.
Yet were humans unable to experience anxiety its species could not have endured since it is a critical survival mechanism: a reptilian instinct that mortal danger approaches and warning the need to prepare. Now, these dangers are rarely lethal, referring instead to job or relationship difficulty. While these anxieties are readily interpreted, the inexplicable frighten most since they erupt from the bedrock of personality created during early life: the struggle for autonomy and conflicts about self-assertion and intimacy, fragments of which persist to do battle.
Once, during my successful treatment of a young child, her mother shared her own troubled childhood. I remarked that her mother "had issues." She instantly retorted, "My mother was a perfect mother," stormed from my office and removed her daughter from my treatment.
A woman in her eighties, the recipient of numerous national awards, said after receiving her latest, "I wish my mother could have seen this."

Childhood emotions linger throughout life, to be expressed in artistic creations, self-defeating behaviors, and fears.

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