The Root Cause of Societal Disintegration – Untreated Anxiety

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Being trapped by relentless untreated anxiety is the core driver of destructive human behaviour. Anxiety is the sensation generated by your body’s stress chemicals in response to a mental or physical threat. It is not primarily a psychological issue. It is a gift in that it is the mechanism that permits survival of every living creature. It evolved to be incredibly unpleasant. Species that didn’t or couldn’t take action to quell the threat, didn’t survive. So in addition to “survival of the fittest,” we are also the evolution of “survival of the most anxious.” We hate feeling anxious and will do anything, at all costs, to resolve or avoid this feeling.




Anger is anxiety with a chemical kick

When you lose control or are trapped by anything, including your thoughts you will become angry.It is the body’s definitive survival response manifested by a more intense level of stress reaction to improve your chances of survival. Sustained levels of threat physiology affect every cell in the body and translate into many different mental and physical symptoms. You’ll eventually become ill or worse yet, develop a disease.

Can’t escape your thoughts

We cannot escape our thoughts, we are all chronically exposed to some level of threat physiology. . Neuroscience research shows that unpleasant thoughts are sensory inputs that create similar bodily responses as other physical threats. Pleasant input yields reward chemicals and a feeling of contentment. Unpleasant input stimulates fuel consumption, stress hormones, inflammation, and excitatory neurotransmitters; and you’ll feel anxious or angry. They are not psychological issues and they are just words humans use to describe these sensations. Not only can you not escape your unpleasant thoughts, they progressively become stronger as you battle them.

Since the reaction to a threat is control, we are all are focused on gaining more it, which means we want more power. What we call “socialization” is actually a massive power struggle. These efforts to gain control play out in an infinite number of ways with horrific consequences. Why would these early patterns change even though we intellectually know that love, peace and compassion are better principles by which to live our lives? There are several reasons:

  • Survival reactions emanate from unconscious brain and are about a million times stronger than the conscious brain.
  • When you are upset, the blood supply to your neocortex (thinking region) of your brain decreases and you cannot think as clearly. The phrase, “losing my mind” is more true than you might think.
  • Peace and love are conscious choice and are no match for survival reactions.
  • Part of the anger response includes dopamine, which is addicting. People don’t want to give up the power of anger. Why would you want to feel vulnerable? There are no rewards in nature for being vulnerable, including humans. However, vulnerability is at the core of successful human relationships. It is a big problem for the human race.

The patterns of behaviour, which are established on the school ground, play out through adulthood. Every child has anxiety with it being more of a problem if he or she is from an abusive family. They are thrown into the sensory overload of the school system without any awareness of how to process it. Then they are taught that having more self-esteem is a desirable trait – except that it isn’t. Achieving self-esteem means that your self-worth is dependent on the approval of others who are also searching for an identity. You are using conscious means to solve a problem that originates in the powerful unconscious brain. It’s a mismatch and is an endless deadly loop.

The need for power and control

Bullying is one of the earliest individual manifestations of the need to gain power to deal with anxiety. There’s even a physiological reward for being a bully. It has been shown that children who are bullied have an elevated C-reactive protein compared to those who haven’t been bullied. This is a marker of inflammation and high levels are associated with many disease states. What I find particularly disturbing is that the bullies had significantly lower levels of these markers. (1) Power has its rewards.

What is even more problematic is the cultural effect of untreated anxiety / anger has on the human condition. Human history is one of unending power struggles and violence. People in power use fear to subjugate other people. This occurs in families, at work and at a societal level. It is the history of the human existence. For example, it has been the custom of nations to systematically torture conquered populations as the first act of rule. Do you think this is outdated and irrelevant? Seattle has a remarkable center that treats the survivors of torture from around the world. Their data shows that there are still over 118 nations that utilize political torture.





The Future

Although statistics show that the world has less violence than it ever has, it’s still pretty awful and seems to be getting worse. The basic power struggle at the individual and collective level hasn’t changed. We are also headed down a dangerous path in that teen anxiety/chronic pain has gone up over 800% in a decade. Many people in their late teens, twenties and early thirties are suffering from crippling anxiety. I was this play out in my office every week. They were also angry, reactive and often not open to new ideas. This group is headed into taking charge in their family and workplace with a large percent lacking resilience skills. I am seeing many buckle quickly and also am seeing a disturbing trend of workers being bullied by managers.

We have to get this right – and soon. Every person has anxiety, whether they feel connected to it or not. Instead of relaxing and enjoying the incredible comforts of living in this modern era we are becoming more reactive and angry (destructive).

Although psychology has a role in dealing with anxiety, the current paradigm of addressing it can’t work and it isn’t working. If anxiety is the survival sensation created by your body’s stress chemicals, the correct approach is to use tools to decrease these hormones. Psychology has to be combined with these other strategies. There are numerous effective ways of accomplishing this and these form the essence of the DOC process.

Implementing methods to regulate the body’s stress chemicals are simple and could be taught in school starting as early as pre-school. This would decrease the need for more power, and creativity could flourish. Consider the impact of treating this as a public health issue and teaching how to effectively calm down the nervous as a part of the basic school curriculum.

Untreated anxiety/ anger is the most important public health issue on our planet. It’s the root cause of destructive behavior. Our human survival will depend on us addressing it correctly as a physiological survival response. We have the knowledge and means to accomplish this task. Can we get our brains back “online” soon enough to do it?




Listen to the Back in Control Radio podcast Societal Disintegration – Untreated Anxiety.

  1. Copeland W, et al.” Childhood bullying involvement predicts low-grade systemic inflammation into adulthood.” PNAS (2014); 111: 7570-7575.