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Anxiety, Time and Psychical Structure

The Letter, Issue 19, Summer 2000, Pages 1 - 31


Andre Michels

To begin with I would like to examine the relationship between anxiety and neurosis in the way Freud impresses it on us. Does a neurosis have a stabilising effect, even stemming anxiety or, on the contrary, does it contribute to its increase? Can we assume a correlation between the two insofar as anxiety decreases at the rate of the structuring of the neurosis and vice versa? What meaning can we attribute to the physical discharge of anxiety? This is very different in hysteria, hypochondria and the so- called psychosomatic illness. A feature of the latter, if it appears in its 'pure form' and is not covered too much by the neurosis, is an almost complete absence of fear which can be understood as one of the reasons why the subject may not see any clear reasons for undergoing treatment. In most cases, however, anxiety appears as a motivational factor and so will generally be included in the list of psychical suffering.

Protection against anxiety?

Freud says:

... I think the question has never been seriously enough raised of why neurotics in particular suffer from anxiety so much more than other people. Perhaps it has been regarded as something self-evident: the words 'nervös' and 'ängstlich' are commonly used interchangeably, as though they meant the same thing. But we have no right to do so ... [These words are by no means equivalent to the colloquial English 'nervous' and 'anxious'. 'Nervös' might be rendered by 'nervy' or 'jumpy' and 'ängstlich' by 'nervous' in its colloquial sense. 'Anxious' in its ordinary usage is more like the German 'bekümmert' or 'besorgt'.][2]

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