Smithpractice | Applewood | Woodyates Road |London SE12 9JL | Tel: 07970 443892
David Smith
Counsellor and Psychotherapist
“Helping People Help Themselves”

Inherited Anxiety -11th April 2020

An often presented aspect of counselling and psychotherapeutic practice work is anxiety issues. So what actually is anxiety? If it can be understood, maybe it can be overcome. Anxiety is caused by the stimulation of the fight/flight/freeze mechanism that is inherent in all animals, of which we humans are but just one group. It is there to protect us in time of perceived danger. Very useful if the perception is that we are about to be attacked by a predator much larger than ourselves, here action needs to be taken. But what if the stimulation of this mechanism has occurred by a thought or an interpretation of what might happen. Here, although we need to keep this mechanism for when we are actually in danger, if we are not actually being physically threatened, this inherited response is not needed. So how can we overcome these uncomfortable responses? If we did not have this evolutionary mechanism, we would not have survived. In this regard the species that survive are those that are aware of potential danger and take avoidant or proactive decisions. The potential danger of course does not just relate to a predator, it can be environment, food, shelter. Here anticipation of something missing needing to be anticipated and action taken. The key word here is anticipation. Those that anticipate the consequences of events are therefore more likely to avoid danger have a greater chance of survival. But where might this lead if anticipation becomes anxiety…….Taken to a deeper level, this can relate to worry. Here we can see that as cognitions became more developed in our evolution the primal instinct becomes does have potential encourage this worrying. The typical “what ifs”. It may make us more safer, potentially neurotic but in less danger and therefore more able to survive and then create the next generation of our species. Whereas those with less anticipation skills, maybe struggle to survive. So maybe we can say that humans have survived due to anxiety potential and that this is why so much of it is around in our society now. We been handed down in our genes a natural ability to anticipate danger, this is our inheritance. But like any other inheritance there are those that can use it wisely and some will squander it with overuse…… ie worry.