Transforming and Managing Anxiety: I. The Nature of Containment

Transforming and Managing Anxiety: I. The Nature of Containment

In a previous essay, I have identified the multiple challenges that face us in the mid-21st Century. I have also noted the nature of anxiety that is generated by these challenges and the processes engaged to transform (metabolize) this anxiety and allow members of a society to manage and often even reduce the anxiety. This is being done so that the challenges can be addressed in a successful manner. While all of this makes sense in a straightforward manner, the process of metabolism is not easy to engage.

Throughout this series of essays on the nature of true freedom I have identified ways in which metabolism can be derailed and true freedom can be derailed. In this essay, I look specifically at this derailment into authoritarianism and at the multiple ways in which this derailment can be avoided—in favor of the construction and engagement of a wide variety of containers that enable the transformation to take place. It is in the identification of viable containers that we begin to find the pathway toward true freedom.

Authoritarian Settings for Metabolism

The fundamental question is: how then do we metabolize? How do we move as Bion (1995) suggests from alpha to beta? Put in a different framework, what do we do with the charging (though imaginary) lions. The typical response is to fight back. We want to tell off our bulling boss, and let that regulatory agency know what we really think of them and their stupid bureaucratic ways. This is a primitive (and often ineffective and even counter-productive) way in which to manage stress. It might provide a temporary release for our accumulated adrenaline, but this release is only temporary. We soon find that other lions are attacking us or the same lion is still attacking (often with greater strength and resolve).


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William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

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