A Venn diagram for the anxious

June 30, 2021 • 2:15 pm

I have a theory, which is mine, that on average Jews tend to have higher levels of anxiety than non-Jews, but my evidence is only anecdotal. and includes self-observation. I could even give reasons why this might be the case: the history of Jews being driven out of their homes, persecuted, denigrated, demonized, or killed, which might lead one to have a “glass half empty” attitude. I certainly instantiate this tendency, and tend to worry needlessly, especially when it involves ducks. (I realize, of course, that there are plenty of anxious goyim.)

But I’ve been helped by this diagram that a member of Team Duck drew for me when I was being too anxious about the ducks.(I’ve fancied it up a bit.) It shows you what you should worry about and what you shouldn’t. The intersection of the circles is the locus of worry. And it has helped a bit.

h/t: Alexis

41 thoughts on “A Venn diagram for the anxious

    1. IFF you know how to fix it.

      (Is there a better known shorthand for “if and only if”? That’s what I was taught at school.)

  1. Uh oh. Looks like someone shot a big black arrow into the area of ‘Things I Should Worry About.’

    Now I’m not sure if that’s something else I should worry about.

    1. Give the (probable) hominid a Kevlar tee-shirt. (Ask at your local motorcycling clothing shop ; see also “gravel rash”.)

    2. The ‘things I can control’ circle is unravelling.
      It will bleed out into the ‘things that matter’.
      Then ‘what I should worry about’ will be all the ‘things that matter’ – which is everything…
      Should I be worried..?

    1. No, it was shot with such force it’s coming out the other side. Examine it more closely. Reversing it will just widen the hole, the very thought of which is concerning. Or not.
      Now I don’t know what to do. Could go either way.

      1. Good point! I just prefer that it point at the intersection of the two sets. Am I worrying unnecessarily? I can’t tell because I can’t tell if it is within my control. There is that to worry about.

  2. A nice diagrammatic summary of a good part of Stoic philosophy…and much more easily said than done, of course. But it is useful to put things in perspective. (I feel anxious just thinking about it, though.)

    1. We have a nearly two-week-old brood of only three little ones, fiercely protected by their mother Coco (#5). I haven’t put the announcement up because I wanted to keep people away from the babies for two weeks. I’ll put up a post with pictures now. Smallest full brood I’ve ever seen, but they’re doing well. The other ducks ignore them.

      1. Am reminded of Edward de Bono, if I correctly remember: “If everything matters then nothing matters.”

  3. I like this

    I will point out an idea, apparently from the Dalai Lama -apologies if I altered the meaning :

    If there is something that can be done about a problem, then there is nothing to worry about.

    If there is nothing that can be done to solve a problem, then there is no use for worry.

    There is no use for worry.

    … now I have to look it up. Which will take a while.

    1. I couldn’t find that quote, but was impressed by this (unrelated) one:

      If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.

      The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality (2005)

  4. Skeptical Inquirer had a lovely flow chart that pretty much shows the same. I keep it at work. I’ve pulled it out for someone more than once.

  5. … on average Jews tend to have higher levels of anxiety than non-Jews …

    Iz nu? Someone should be surprised by this?

    A pogrom here, a pogrom there; it adds up.

  6. I’m reminded of an exchange between Moe and Larry. They’re in a car, with Larry at the wheel:

    Moe: “Do we need any gas?”
    Larry: “I don’t know. I can’t tell if the tank is half empty or half full.”

  7. I’m an atheist but was brought up as a Catholic. One thing from my previous religious faith that I feel is useful (perhaps the only thing) is the Serenity prayer

    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    courage to change the things I can,
    and wisdom to know the difference.

    1. If I’m recalling my altar-boy liturgy correctly, the Serenity Prayer isn’t Roman Catholic in origin, but was penned by Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, and serves as a staple of 12-step recovery programs.

      Still, I gotta agree with you, Liam, that (aside from the God part), it expresses a sentiment most folks can get behind.

    2. I agree with Ken – that was guff dreamed up by some dude in the 1930s, as part of beating people senseless with god-inspired guilt, as part of making them suffer for their illnesses.
      I must remember to kick the next psychobabblologist I see.

    3. What I’ve always disliked about this prayer is pretty much the entire prayer. The only meaningful line is #2, but if you follow that, you’re likely to die before you ever gain “wisdom” in the first place. Secondly, regarding the first line, if you want to accomplish the second line, you’re obviously not accepting things, whether you can change them or not. Change in this context is weak, but I see “things I cannot change” as religious jargon. Blech.

  8. And then real life intervenes with softer lines of probability so we add ‘What I feel is important’ and ‘What I feel I can control’… producing ‘What I feel I should worry about’. Possibly. Some of the time.

  9. I suspect anxiety about the future is a survival strategy. Certainly worrying if you are prepared for next time the horde rides in is important.
    Without any particular expertise or data to back it up, I have always assumed that in areas with seasonal shortages, it is not enough to stock up. There would also need to be a mechanism to keep us from emptying the stocks prematurely. Constantly worrying whether there will be enough might be such a mechanism.
    I imagine the mechanism would need to be a pretty strong one, as one or two binges by a few individuals could prevent a whole tribe from surviving the winter or the drought.
    Of course, the down sides of constant worry are legion.

  10. I agree with your theory that Jews tend to worry more than most… and I also realize there is no love in worry.

    As a nonjew who worked at Grossinger’s hotel as a young adult, I remain heavily influenced: I celebrate Pesach, and now reflect on what I think I learned while living there. To my mind, many Jews use and direct their worry toward an action and often toward a constructive end. In this way, the worry can be transformed into outer acts (not remain inner negative stress). Maybe it becomes a driver? Much like my own anger toward my ex-husband was channeled & helped me finish grad school….

    Peace be unto you, Jerry. Remember there is no love in worry. Examine, change what is in your control. I’ve found meditation (simple sitting with the breath) and mindfulness (paying attention to each moment as it is) to be immensely helpful. May you know peace deep in your bones. 💚

  11. Another expression which I think bears mentioning on this topic :

    Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

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