Essay, Research Paper: Discovery Of Being

World Literature

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It seems as though every Sociologist creates his or her own definition of
Anxiety. Each definition of Anxiety being ghastly different, however, tying back
to three common situations: Fear, Encounters with primary groups, secondary
groups, and the public, and Anxiety towards Self-Growth. In analyzing Rollo
May's "The Discovery of Being," we find that May incorporates many
different definitions of these situations from other Sociologists, as well as
ties in many of his own thoughts and ideas. Also at times, May disregards
strongly other Sociologist's views on these situations, creating an interesting
and unique view of society and Psychology. In this analysis of "The
Discovery of Being," we will examine May's particular definitions and
thoughts on Anxiety and Being, Anxiety and Encounter, and Anxiety and
Self-Growth. Early in the book, May touches on his views of Anxiety, he
discusses Anxiety as being something that does not arise from a fear of
"lack of libidinal satisfactions or security," but rather out of fear
of our own powers, and any pertaining conflicts. He discusses this as a present
day problem, which has been significantly influenced by society and present
societal goals. Libidinal satisfactions are so easily encountered in our day
that it becomes hard to avoid them. The prevalent Anxiety is found upon
self-reflection and our own realizations of what we actually can do, but for
some reason neglect to do so. Our constant outlook to go further in society than
our neighbor is tied to our Anxiety of Being and Non-Being. May looks closely at
the concept of Being, and notes at one point that "Being" is a
participle, also meaning in the process of "being something." An
individual's Being is constantly changing throughout life, never reaching a set
point. More specifically, May defines Being as an individual's pattern of
potentialities. Anxiety arises when these potentialities grow harder to obtain
or hidden from clear view. In modern society, man no longer holds his Sense of
Being, but is looked at as a mechanism for others to succeed or save time or
enjoy their libidinal satisfactions. "A man knows himself not as a man or
self, but as a token seller in the subway, a grocer, a professor, a
vice-president of AT&T, or by whatever his economic function may be."
The point where Anxiety plays into Being is moreover in the state referred to as
non-being. Non-being traditionally would be looked at as death, of which, even
to this day, causes for much Anxiety. However, in today's society, non-being
also refers to the state of not achieving or not meeting your potentialities. In
light of this, people seek ways of avoiding any confrontation with non-being.
"Perhaps the most ubiquitous and ever-present form of the failure to
confront non-being in our day is in conformism, the tendency of the individual
to be absorbed in the sea of collective responses and attitudes,…,with the
corresponding loss of his own awareness, potentialities, and whatever
characterizes him as a unique and original being." The second
Anxiety-plagued situation is that of Encounter with another individual. May sees
encounters as a phenomenon where individuals take an extraordinary risk in
forming trust bonds while determining the amount, if any, of self-disclosure the
individual is willing to share. May includes several levels of encounters with
which we deal with on a day-to-day basis. The first level is that of real
persons, where our loneliness is subsided by interactions with nearly anyone.
The second level is that of friends, of whom we trust and of whom listen and
understand you. The third is esteem/agape in which you display an inner-concern
for people's welfare. And the final level is simply erotic. May describes
Anxiety in Encounter as arising out of anticipation and an altering of our
comfortable temporary security as we are opened to another individual. There is
a brief moment when we must decide how to react and interact with this person,
which generally clears the way for Anxiety as to how this person will in turn
react to your responses. Anxiety about the self-image arises, as self-concept
begins being questioned. May notes that it is not possible in an encounter for
"one person to have a feeling without the other having it to some degree
also." Thus, Anxiety, when felt by one participant of the encounter, is
generally felt by all other remaining participants. The final situation in which
Anxiety commonly arises is within Self-Growth. May's describes every human as
being centered in themselves, and centered in their respected lives. Sudden
changes throw off the balance of this center and can cause much distress.
However, May states that "all existing persons have the need and
possibility of going out from their centeredness to participate in other
beings." This is our first glimpse of Self-Growth. The Anxiety that arises
in this attempted Self-Growth is found in the risk involved in straying from
one's center. By no means is the amount that one strays from his center
proportional to the growth that will result, but the more risks taken, or the
more times he strays from the center, the more growth he should experience.
Self-Growth can be viewed as a direct result of May's human awareness or
Self-Consciousness. Anxiety emerges quickly when discussing Self-Consciousness,
especially in the case of high school and college girls. Suddenly, a
self-concept is conceived and every waking hour is spent creating the
self-image. Anxiety strikes high when the image is not upheld or becomes
outdated. Self-Growth also ties in with May's modern day definition of Being.
The modern man who lacks the sense of being, and is only recognized for his
contributions to the societal machine, leaves little room for self-growth, and
yet bears so much Anxiety as a result of his non-being. In looking at May's
ideas of conformity being the catalysts for non-being, self-growth becomes
insignificant, and Anxiety remains fairly low. This is because one's
centeredness also becomes the boundaries, not allowing for one to stray past and
take the added risk involved in seeking self-growth. Anxiety is defined in
Webster's Dictionary as "distress of mind; uneasiness." Although vague
and bland, this definition seems to cover the variety of ways that Anxiety can
creep into one's head. We looked at three different situations where Anxiety
commonly arises, and in each of the situation, we returned with a new entirely
unique definition. An amazing point of May's was that he claimed Anxiety changes
and with it, the definition of Anxiety changes as time passes by. Societal goals
change, and thus self-growth changes; mannerisms and interaction techniques
change and encounter changes; personal power and libidinal satisfactions change,
and so once again May's definition of Anxiety and Being must change as well.
Thus, the process of studying Anxiety is a constantly changing field, yet
remains a similar feeling to all who experience it, regardless of the time
period. May's unique writing style and brilliant thoughts made Anxiety a
remarkably easy and interesting topic to read about.
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