The Real Cause of Anxiety


Anxiety is at an all-time high.

What are we so anxious about?

To answer that question, you might give one of many common answers:

  • I’m anxious about this timeline/quota at work
  • I’m anxious about my financial situation
  • I’m anxious about COVID
  • I’m anxious about the political landscape
  • I’m anxious about this job interview

The list, of course, could be much longer. There’s no shortage of things that make us anxious.

So what should we do about all these things that make us anxious?

The most common approach is simple: control.

If I can control the outcomes of all these external circumstances, then I can, in theory, eliminate my anxieties.

At first glance, this looks like a solid strategy. But if we look a little closer, we might come to see why it’s not.

If we look a little closer we might see that it’s not the timeline, the quota, poverty, nor COVID that we’re afraid of.

What we actually fear is our ability to HANDLE these situations.

Put another way, what we actually fear is our own mind. And rightfully so — our minds are out of control.

What’s an out-of-control mind? An out-of-control mind is a mind that’s running wild; a horse without a saddle; an untrained mind that can do nothing but react to everything that shows up out there or in here.

And since we are at the mercy of our out-of-control minds, the best we can do is desperately try to create external circumstances that will minimize the strength and frequency with which our mind reacts negatively.

But understanding full well how tenuous the situation is, we’re terribly anxious.

We’re spinning seven plates at a time and we are terrified of how our own mind will react if one of them falls.

And so there is a reframing that needs to happen if we are to tackle the modern day crisis of fear and anxiety. We must shift our focus and our efforts from control of the external to training of the internal; from getting what we want, to being able to handle anything that we get.

When you’re confident in your ability to handle anything, you are afraid of nothing. And that is the place from which anxiety disappears.

By Ryan Paugh

Hi there!

With decades spent exploring the outer world and the inner world, I share some of the insights I have learned along the way.

Topics include mindfulness, spirituality, growth, perspective, and career.

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