Anxiety And Learning

Every time I put myself in a new situation, context or physical place, I experience, at the same time, two different, and somehow complementary processes. One one side, there’s anxiety – the anxiety of not knowing the situation, the context or the physical place. And on the other side is learning – or what I start to internalize once I engage with the situation, context and physical place.

The best example is living for relevant amounts of time (more than one year) in different countries, or cultures. I’ve done that before and I’m in the process of doing it again. But even the process of being exposed to a new programming language, or, at a way smaller level, the process of implementing a new feature in an app, has this mix of anxiety and learning.

Although anxiety is unpleasant, I find it fundamental in the whole process. I wonder what would happen if I wouldn’t experience this anxiety. Would my learning be as thorough as with anxiety? Would there be any learning at all? And what is anxiety, after all?

Anxiety is an emotion characterized by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, often accompanied by nervous behavior such as pacing back and forth, somatic complaints, and rumination. It includes subjectively unpleasant feelings of dread over anticipated events.


Well, let’s start with the fact that anxiety is an emotion. Emotions are a fundamental part of our psyche, but one that we have little control over. If we would be able to control our emotions, we would be able to feel joy with ease, all the time. Which is obviously something we can’t do, hence the entire industry of intoxicants.

Anxiety includes “subjectively unpleasant feelings of dread over anticipated events”. In other words, we fear what would may happen. And in even simpler words, the anxiety felt in new situations, contexts or places, is simply fear of the unknown.

And the alchemic transformation of the unknown in known, also described as “learning”, transforms anxiety in joy.

We may be so used to this process, that we’re taking it for granted.

But if you take the time to stop a little, something very interesting emerges out of it.

Just think about it: the more you learn, the less anxiety you’ll feel.

Think about that again.

Think about this over and over. Or at least every once in a while.

Wisdom is happiness.

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