A Point of View: Four types of anxiety, and how to cure them
3 November 2014 12:13

A Point of View: Four types of anxiety, and how to cure them

LONDON. KAZINFORM Anxious by nature, Adam Gopnik has spent years looking for cures for his constant worrying.I returned home to New York this week, after reporting trips to London and Paris, to find the city in a mild panic about....

Ebola. Now, Ebola is one of those things that really are worth having a panic about - a horrible and highly infectious fatal disease of mysterious vectors. On the list of things to worry about, this is real - unlike whether Chelsea's Diego Costa was fit enough to play Manchester United (another item on my worry list), BBC News reports.
But how to worry - and how not to - that's the question. I am a professional worrier, anxious by vocation, one thumb always hovering above the panic button. I am so quick on the iPhone keyboard that, in London, riding the rising midnight tide of a toothache, it took me no more than 30 seconds to find an all-night dental clinic on Baker Street - not far, I noted (still a tourist at heart), from Sherlock Holmes's lodgings.
Undue anxiety is the New York affliction, as unearned melancholia is the Parisian one - and over the long years I have discovered various cures, or at least treatments, for galloping anxiety, which I shall now share. Four overlapping but largely distinct types of anxiety afflict modern people, each with its own pathology and palliative. They are catastrophic anxiety, free-floating anxiety, implanted anxiety, and existential anxiety. Let us take them one by one.
Catastrophic anxiety is the fear of something really horrible happening, right out of the blue. The plane goes down, the virus was left lingering on your plane seat, the terrorist bomb goes off in your bus. By far the best treatment for this fear I've ever found came from a professional guide to cheating at cards.
There was a period in my life when I was spending time among great sleight-of-hand men, card magicians, in Las Vegas, and one of them slipped me a guide to card cheating that had been privately printed by a professional card cheat. (Card magic and card cheating are Siamese twins, and no great card magician has not flirted with fiddling his neighbours).
It was a sour piece of work, but it taught me something vital. Since a card cheat can only cheat effectively on his own deal, unless he has the cards marked (hard to do) the rest of the time he has to just play smart, and this means fully internalising, as instant reflexes, all the statistical probabilities of card playing. I recall the cheater's insistent formula about these odds, almost his precise words, with indecent clarity: If the odds on whatever it might be - say, drawing to an inside straight - are 10-to-one, you'll see it this week; if it's 100-to-one, you won't see it this week, but you will see it this year. If it's 1000-to-one you won't see it this year, but you will probably see it once. Anything more than that - 10,000-to-one, 100,000-to-one - you're never going to see at the card table. It's just never going to happen. Yeah, but it will happen, to someone you say! Someone draws an inside straight. Yeah, he said, but you won't.

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