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The Meaning of Anxiety [Paperback]

Rollo May
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Paperback, April 1979 --  

Book Description

April 1979
When this important work was originally published in 1950 the first book in this country on anxiety it was hailed as a work ahead of its time. Still just as relevant and illuminating, The Meaning of Anxiety challenges the idea that mental health means living without anxiety, and explores anxiety's potential for self-realization as well as exploring ways to avoid its destructive aspects."
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Pocket Books (Mm); Reissue edition (April 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067160385X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671603854
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 10.4 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,594,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Rollo May (1909-1994) was an influential existential psychologist and the author of Love and Will, The Courage to Create, and The Discovery of Being. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
Every alert citizen of our society realizes, on the basis of his own experience as well as his observation of his fellow-men, that anxiety is a pervasive and profound phenomenon in the twentieth century. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Outdated but a fantastic introduction to anxiety 24 Sep 2003
As a person who has been plagued by anxiety for over a quarter of a century, I found this book an excellent introduction into the affective state of anxiety. It resonates both with the layperson and professional, although there are probably countless other contemporary books that elucidate further. As a starting point, it truly is number one.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is enormous in its ambition and is very complex. Overall I feel it is biased to Existential therapists and I would perhaps have liked to see more Freudian detail re: his hypothesis and root cause.
The case studies are very useful but the book would be very confusing for the general public.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
125 of 125 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent in depth study of anxiety 11 Jan 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
I read this this book a few years back when I was in the throes of my own, rather intense, "anxiety disorder." I read many books on anxiety during this period and found that most of them fit into one of two catagories. The first catagory is the "conquer anxiety disorder" type, which explain the disorder in psycho-medical terms and propose a number of techniques (including drugs in some cases) for alleviating the symptoms. Some of these I found helpful, but they give very little insight into the "root" of the disorder or its deep psychological causes. The other type of book, which is more rare, delves into the philosophical and psychological roots of anxiety. Rollo May's book fits into the later catagory. Rollo May was a student of Paul Tillich who wrote "The Courage to Be" which examines anxiety from an ontological and existential viewpoint. He had a lot of influence on May's thought. The Meaning of Anxiety is an in depth study of anxiety: what it is, where it comes from, what purpose it serves, and in some ways how to transcend it. This book gives real insight into anxiety. The major thinkers on anxiety tend to be existentialists like May, Tillich, and Kierkegaard. When you read their work you gain a much broader perspective on this thing called anxiety.
50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
By dr. - Published on Amazon.com
This scholarly yet extremely accesible study of anxiety--from philosophical, social, theological, literary, cultural as well as biological perspectives--was first published in 1950, and updated by May in 1977. It is still the widest-ranging, richest, most intelligent and insightful exploration of anxiety currently available in one volume. In this postmodern era of hyperbiologism (which presumes anxiety and other symptoms to hold only physical meaning) and resulting wildly popular pharmacological treatments for anxiety, May reminds readers that anxiety has much more than mere biochemical causes and physiological significance: anxiety, insists May, is not necessarily pathological, but rather, a meaningful, necessary, vital and ultimately inextricable aspect of human existence.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life-changing experience 30 Jun 2007
By David Moses - Published on Amazon.com
Reading this book helped change my life. It gave me a new insight into my own life and made me start looking at things rationally instead of through the tinted lense that is anxiety. The case-studies are mind-blowing and really help one understand the core emotions that underly all people. I have specific underlined passages I often refer back to and think to myself, "there is no other way to describe what the author is writing other than pure genius."
10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful 21 Mar 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Perhaps a bit old-fashioned these days, THE MEANING OF ANXIETY is still a well-written and very useful compendium of different theories of anxiety, with a particular nod, pre-Freud, to Kierkegaard, as well as to cultural determinants, particularly ideologies of individualism. A good read though not up to date, missing out especially on the contributions of interpersonal psychonalaysis, evolutionary biology, and congnitive therapy.
10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Has grown uneven over time. . . 9 Nov 2010
By P. Troutman - Published on Amazon.com
There are, in my estimation, three main audiences for works of psychology: curious members of the public with a humanistic desire to know about their fellow creatures, those attempting to self-medicate and those with a professional interest. Each will get something out of Rollo May's work on anxiety but likely also experience some dissatisfaction.

The curious: they will likely be the most disappointed. They might enjoy the individual case studies of `Harold Brown' and the women pregnant out of wedlock. Even though they are short, there is a richness to them. They might also find inspiration in May's conclusions about how anxiety is not something entirely awful but is in many ways central to the human experience, particularly as we attempt to grow, for May argues that normal anxiety is part and product of risk and development.

On the other hand, the nicest thing that can be said about May's prose is that it is very `workman-like'. May obviously was a very smart fellow and in certain ways, this book isn't as dated as it should be for being thirty years past its second edition. But there is something dry about his prose. There is no panache, no elegant turns of phrases. Indeed, even though you can tell May is enthusiastic about his topic, he isn't able to get you to feel it.

The self-medicating bookworms: I suspect that they will only find interesting the initial discussion, up to Kierkegaard, in which May lays out his ideas, and then the ending, in which he tries to draw conclusions from his case studies. There's a whole lot of book between those, so if I were looking for help, I'd just read the beginning and ending at a library and call it a day. (But note that at least one reviewer motivated by their own pain has a better assessment on this score than myself.)

The professionally inclined: my sense is that the person who would get the most out of this book is a grad student in psychology who is on summer break the year before they do their orals. The first half of the book is an overview of anxiety from a number of different angles, attempting to define anxiety (as opposed to fear) and explain its causes. May doesn't pretend to be exhaustively cover each view, but he does give a good sense of different perspectives and this is two-hundred pages of lit review that would be worth the shelf space and money to actually buy, though his historical approach to anxiety seems a little breezy. (It's worth noting that in the biology chapter in particular has a strong proto-cognitive behavioral streak.)

The synthesis and clinic investigation that make up the second half of the book probably won't do much for a professional. May considers himself a post-Freudian, but he's probably not post-Freudian enough for modern audiences. He'll do things like interpret a response to a Rorschach ink blot as an erupting volcano as symbolizing a woman's upcoming labor and birth. And his relating anxiety almost entirely to childhood rejection seems a little pat, even if his arguments are intriguing. (That's the one part of the book that borders on provocative.)

So a curious, anxious psychologist might enjoy the whole book. Everyone else, I suspect, will get a lot out of some parts but get impatient in others.
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