Anxiety is not incidental to materialism – it is intrinsic
Anxiety epidemic. That’s how psychologists describe the spiraling anxiety levels among people today.
Anxieties are frequently attributed to uncertainties that arise from financial, political and cultural turbulences. However, if we look back at history, uncertainties have always been there, because the world itself is characterized by change – unpredictable, uncontrollable change. So, uncertainties alone can’t account for contemporary upsurges in anxiety.
What, then, is the cause? It is materialism. Of course, people throughout history have been infatuated with material things, but in today’s world, we have adopted materialism not just as a lifestyle but also as a worldview. We believe that matter is all that exists, or at least matter is all that matters. Our very sense of identity comes from externals, from what we possess and parade. By such obsessive identification with externals, we sentence ourselves to unrelenting anxiety because such externals are not in our control. Ironically, we try to counter the heightened anxiety by increasing those very externals such as wealth. Whatever relief we get is undercut by a deeper worry – what if we lose our sources of security?
Thus, within a materialistic worldview, anxiety is not incidental, being triggered by specific things that go wrong – it is intrinsic, being wedded into the temporality of the very things that comprise our security. The Bhagavad-gita (16.11) declares that materialists subject themselves to immeasurable anxieties till the moment of death.
If we want real relief from anxiety, we need to internalize a spiritual worldview by assimilating and applying Gita wisdom. The Gita’s fundamental insight that we are at our core indestructible spiritual beings reassures us. And its culminating insight that the world is overseen by an all-powerful, all-attractive, all-loving God who orchestrates things for our ultimate well-being provides supreme solace and strength, empowering us to tolerate and transcend our anxieties.
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