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Anxiety, Panic and Survival

Striving to 'Be', to Exist, as Best we Can


Carl Rogers, perhaps one of the most influential psychologists in American history, founder of the Humanistic Psychology movement, based his client-centered therapy approach on the concept that everything in life strives to 'be', to exist as best they can, given their circumstances. In his book, 'A Way of Being', he describes one of his boyhood memories, that, to him, clearly demonstrates this 'drive to exist' in all things.

The family used to store their winter's supply of potatoes in the basement, in a bin that was several feet below a small window. The conditions were unfavourable, but the potatoes would begin to sprout – pale white sprouts, so unlike the healthy green shoots that they sent up when they were planted in the soil in spring. These sad, spindly sprouts would grow two or three feet in length as they reached toward the distant light of the window.

To Rogers, these sprouts that would never mature and never become plants were striving to become. In their futile, bizarre growth they were fighting to survive and flourish, even under the most adverse circumstances(1).


"A state of uneasiness or tension caused by apprehension of possible misfortune, danger etc." and to be anxious is to be "worried and tense."

"Sudden overwhelming feeling of terror or anxiety."

"To continue in existence."

(The Collins English Dictionary)


Panic and Panic Attacks
Nervousness, Anxiety, Panic
Anxiety, Panic and Survival
Panic Disorder


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Free Anxiety eBooks


More Resources:
The Biology of Fear and anxiety-Related Behaviours – NCBI – NIH


1. Rogers, C. R. A Way of Being (1995 New Ed edition). New York: Houghton Mifflin Books. p. 118>

2. Yonas, A. (1981) Infants' Responses to Optical Information for Collision. In Development of Perception: Psychobiological Perspectives, Vol, 2: The Visual System (Eds. R. N. Aslin, J. R. Alberts and M. R. Peterson). New York: Academic Press


And it's the same for every living thing on the planet. They are driven from somewhere deep inside to 'be', to exist and grow, to survive. We are all the product of millions of years of evolution, designed to survive at all costs.

The child in the womb competes with her mother's body for resources, newborn pups in a litter fight to get to the mother first – from first conception we fight to survive.

Basic survival needs include: the need to eat, to eliminate waste and to have shelter. However, what interests us here is the need for self-protection. We are driven to deal with actual or potential situations that are dangerous and may harm us and it is this drive that is closely associated with anxiety-related problems.

Nature will not trust us with the survival of our genes (her genes actually), so we are programmed to behave in ways that will help us to protect them in certain situations. Newborns will duck at looming objects(2) and, as adults, we don't have to learn how to jump out of the way of a speeding car.

We have an internal system that energizes us to take action, either slowly if the threat is in the future (nervousness and anxiety) or in an instant if the threat is imminent (panic). Instant energy helps us to deal with immediate danger or avoid it – to stand and fight or run away.

See also: The Fight-or-Flight Response for an explanation of how the energization of our body to ready us for action relates to anxiety symptoms.




See also:-  Free Anxiety Symptoms eBook

Anxiety Symptoms: What's Happening and Why


Essential information for anyone experiencing anxiety-related symptoms. It is totally free to read on-screen, download and print – no personal details required. ›› More Details




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