Perspective On Anxiety

Rollo May focused a lot on anxiety, particularly in his first publication which was titled ‘The Meaning of Anxiety’. In another of his books titled ‘Psychology and The Human Dilemma’, May defines anxiety as an ‘apprehension cued off by a threat to some value which the individual holds essential to his existence as a self’ (May, 1967). May’s interest in anxiety increased when he was in a Sanatorium with tuberculosis, he felt that between his own feelings and watching people dealing with anxiety gave him a greater understanding of it. He later felt that anxiety was important for individual growth and that it contributed to having a healthy personality. He proposed that anxiety can be dealt with by turning it into fear so that the feared object can be avoided or the fear could ultimately be faced, allowing the object to no longer induce fear (Yalom, 1980). May also used some existential terms differently than others did, for example: May used the word ‘courage’ to mean a person being able to face their anxiety and being capable of getting past it (Boeree, 2006).

"A person can meet anxiety to the extent that his values are stronger than the threat" (May, 1967, p.51)