Emotional Competency

Explore the Logic of Passion

Uncertain Threat

Both fear and anxiety are provoked by danger. Fear is the response to a specific and immediate danger. Anxiety results from a non-specific or generalized concern or threat. Fear is a perceived (external) threat, anxiety is a conceived (internal) threat.


  1. Distressed by an uncertain threat,
  2. Inability to relax,
  3. Distress from existential concerns,
  4. Concern for an unidentified unpleasant event,
  5. Anticipation of something harmful waiting to happen.

Root: From Latin ānxius, from angere, to torment

Anxiety describes a prolonged moderately intense condition provoked by a specific event that can upset the present order of things. It is the distress we feel when existential concerns are provoked by an immediate or upcoming event. 

Physiological Responses

  1. Inability to relax,
  2. Worry, intrusive thoughts,
  3. Sweating, stomach distress, increased pulse rate, dry mouth,

Related Terms

Anxiety, 1894Synonyms for anxiety include: apprehension, anguish, unease, concern, nervous, misgiving, qualm, disquiet, distress, unnerved, distraught, threatened, defensive, uneasiness, edgy, jittery, trepidation, timid, tense, uneasy, consternation, and worry. The terms dread, alarm, and panic may refer to either anxiety or fear.

Anxiety is closely related to stress. Anxiety is a response to a general threat; a form of loss. Stress is a general response to meaningful loss.


We cope with anxiety by trying to prepare, distracting ourselves, seeking reassurance, taking steps to relax, or taking steps to reduce the threat. Ineffective attempts at coping may lead to over control, resulting in behavior often described as a "control freak".

Origins and Benefits

Anxiety can provoke a vigilance leading to further investigation, further preparation, and taking steps to increase safety and reduce threats. Anxiety can promote surveillance and forethought. Actions that reduce anxiety often increase safety.

Anxiety Unleashed

When anxiety continues unchecked it can lead to several serious difficulties. Excluding substance abuse cases, more than half of the adult Americans suffering from diagnosed mental disorders suffer from those classed as “anxiety disorders”. These include: panic attacks, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and generalized anxiety. Prolonged stress can also alter the human hippocampus and its memory functions. This includes reduced memory functions, as well as forming persistent and disturbing memories of highly emotional events. Stress also promotes primal thinking.

Paths of Anxiety

Events that can trigger our fear or anxiety are common and frequent occurrences. How we respond to those provocations and the choices we make critically affect our peace of mind, well being, and our lives. The following figure illustrates choices we have and paths we can take to either prolong or resolve our fears. Use this like you would any other map: 1) decide where you are now, 2) decide where you want to go, 3) choose the best path to get there, and 4) go down the chosen path.

Paths of Fear

This diagram is an example of a type of chart known by systems analysts as a state transition diagram. Each colored elliptical bubble represents a state of being that represents the way you are now. The labels on the arrows represent actions or events and the arrows show paths into or out of each state. You are at one place on this chart for one particular relationship or interaction at any particular time. Other people are likely to be in other places on the chart. This is similar to an ordinary road map where you plot where you are now, while other people are at other places on the same map. Begin the analysis at the green “OK” bubble, or wherever else you believe you are now.

OK: This is the beginning or neutral state. It corresponds to a person who is relaxed and not feeling fear or anxiety. The green color represents safety, tranquility, equanimity, and growth potential.

Conceived Threat: A conceived threat—resulting from contemplating harmful future events—triggers your anxiety.

Perceived Threat: Something scary happens in your world that you perceive as a threat. You are afraid and need to choose the right path for your fear.

Anxious: You are worried, nervous, and distressed. You focus on all the bad things that could happen. You are feeling stress and if this continues for much longer the stress will continue to escalate.

Relax: You relax and focus. As you settle down and regain your focus you can begin to comprehend what you can change and what you cannot. Now that you are composed you take action and attend to the threats you can change and accept those you cannot. The treat is resolved to the best of your ability, you are relieved, and OK again.

Unhinged: If you are anxious and fail to relax, you can become unhinged. This can lead to serious problems of: panic attacks, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and generalized anxiety. These problems require immediate professional help. Get the help you need.

Primal Messages

A typical response to anxiety sends the primal messages of: unsafe, unsure, weak, concerned


  • “Anxiety is the interest paid on trouble before it is due.” ~ William IngeExternal Link
  • “What, me Worry” ~ Alfred E. NeumanExternal Link
  • “All that matters makes us anxious.” ~ Peter Block


[laz] Passion and Reason: Making Sense of Our Emotions, by Richard S. Lazarus, Bernice N. Lazarus

[Ekm] Emotions Revealed: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life, by Paul Ekman

[OCC] The Cognitive Structure of Emotions, by Andrew Ortony, Gerald L. Clore, Allan Collins

[Gol] Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama, by Daniel Goleman

The Emotional Brain, by Joseph E. Ledoux

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Create Your Life, Your Relationships, and Your World in Harmony with Your Values, by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Arun Gandhi

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