As if all that wasn’t twisted enough, we must add the notion of ‘internalized fear’, one of the plagues faced by a society in which there is no cause to be afraid anymore, forcing the instinct of fear to turn inward. At times, it seems old Friedrich would have loved to go back to a time when crazy Visigoths and other conquerors roamed around Europe, clashing with each other on a daily basis and terrorizing the meek and powerless – hey, I never said the guy was perfect. But it is interesting to consider a certain type of existential anxiety as the result of being protected from the perennial conflict for survival and supremacy (or appear to be so) – having no way of exerting our fighting spirit and energy, while being weighed down by the awareness of sin and obligatory guilt and humility, we have no choice but to lash out at ourselves, in the form of mental punishment and, of course, resentment towards those who seem to have miraculously escaped this manmade spiritual hell.
The more I think about it, the more it seems surprising that I would choose such an author as a kind of therapeutic guide. And yet it’s also very unsurprising that this analysis on anxiety would speak to me as much as it does.
Though I wouldn’t say that I lack confidence in general, the image of someone hell-bent on never having any pretentious thoughts, to which guilt and long analyses of their actions come easy, while action not so much, struck close to home. Actually, my first ‘revelation’, if you will, was learning Nietzsche’s thoughts on the importance of forgetting. In one of his earlier books, he said that strong characters were the ones that were able to forget what didn’t suit them, and store only what helped them to continue to act, here and now. Instead of intentionally remembering every little thing, like a nerdy German historian, the strong don’t dwell on what only brings about guilt or embarrassment (note: Nietzsche died, of course, long before the rise of nationalism and its consequences). If this were true, there was no doubt on which side of the comparison I personally stood.
But in practice my attempts to apply as much as I understood about Nietzsche’s philosophy in my own life were questionable, if not downright disastrous. I thought the key was self-empowerment by convincing myself I had no doubt that I was powerful – although, my reasoning may have been a little less simplistic. But looking back, it couldn’t have been a lot more nuanced either. When the inevitable disillusionment struck, it struck hard, my previous anxieties now fortified by the guilt about feeling anxious again.