Quotations about   anxiety

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If one were to write a book called “The Best Remedy against Self-Torment,” it would be very brief: “Let each day have trouble enough of its own.”

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) Danish philosopher, theologian
Christian Discourses (Christelige Taler), Part 1 “The Cares of the Pagans,” ch. 6 (1848) [tr. Hong (1997)]
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Added on 27-Oct-21 | Last updated 27-Oct-21
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To ruminate upon evils, to make critical notes upon injuries, and be too acute in their apprehensions, is to add unto our own Tortures, to feather the Arrows of our Enemies, to lash our selves with the Scorpions of our Foes, and to resolve to sleep no more.

Thomas Browne (1605-1682) English physician and author
Christian Morals, Part 3, sec. 12 (1716)
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Added on 27-Oct-21 | Last updated 27-Oct-21
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But the great hero himself tossed and turned.
It was like a man roasting a paunch
Stuffed with fat and blood over a fire.
He can’t wait for it to be done
And so keeps turning it over and over.

[ἀτὰρ αὐτὸς ἑλίσσετο ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα.
ὡς δ᾽ ὅτε γαστέρ᾽ ἀνὴρ πολέος πυρὸς αἰθομένοιο,
ἐμπλείην κνίσης τε καὶ αἵματος, ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα
αἰόλλῃ, μάλα δ᾽ ὦκα λιλαίεται ὀπτηθῆναι,
ὣς ἄρ᾽ ὅ γ᾽ ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα ἑλίσσετο]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Odyssey [Ὀδύσσεια], Book 20, l. 24ff (c. 700 BC) [tr. Lombardo (2000)]
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(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

But from side to side
It made him toss apace. You have not tried
A fellow roasting of a pig before
A hasty fire, his belly yielding store
Of fat and blood, turn faster, labour more
To have it roast, and would not have it burn,
Than this and that way his unrest made turn
His thoughts and body ....
[tr. Chapman (1616)]

He lay restlessly.
As one that has raw flesh upon the fire,
And hungry is, is ever turning it;
So turneth he himself ....
[tr. Hobbes (1675), l. 20ff]

Restless his body rolls, to rage resign'd
As one who long with pale-eyed famine pined,
The savoury cates on glowing embers cast
Incessant turns, impatient for repast.
[tr. Pope (1725)]

Yet he turn’d from side to side.
As when some hungry swain turns oft a maw
Unctuous and sav’ry on the burning coals,
Quick expediting his desired repast ....
[tr. Cowper (1792), l. 26ff]

But ever he rolled tossing to and fro.
As when a man beside a blazing fire
Turneth a rich fat goat-paunch to and fro,
Over and over, with intense desire
Quickly to roast it ....
[tr. Worsley (1861), st. 4]

But himself tossed to and fro.
As when a wight a'front a blazing fire
A savoury haggis full of fat and gravy
Restlessly turns and tumbles to and fro --
In hope right well and quickly for to roast it.
[tr. Bigge-Wither (1869), l. 24ff]

But, ev'n as when a man at some fierce fire
A savoury paunch with fat and blood replete
From side to side turns oft, intent with speed
Most prompt to roast it; -- so, from right to left
Ulysses swaying lay.
[tr. Musgrave (1869), l. 36ff]

But Odysseus himself lay tossing this way and that. And as when a man by a great fire burning takes a paunch full of fat and blood, and turns it this way and that and longs to have it roasted most speedily, so Odysseus tossed from side to side.
[tr. Butcher/Lang (1879)]

But he himself in meanwhile was tossing here and there.
As when a man hath gotten by a great fire blazing out
A paunch of fat and of blood, and turneth it oft about
Hither and thither, all eager to roast it speedily.
[tr. Morris (1887)]

Yet he himself kept tossing to and fro. As when a man near a great glowing fire turns to and fro a sausage, full of fat and blood, anxious to have it quickly roast.
[tr. Palmer (1891)]

He tossed about as one who turns a paunch full of blood and fat in front of a hot fire, doing it first on one side and then on the other, that he may get it cooked as soon as possible, even so did he turn himself about from side to side ....
[tr. Butler (1898)]

But he himself lay tossing this way and that. And as when a man before a great blazing fire turns swiftly this way and that a paunch full of fat and blood, and is very eager to have it roasted quickly, so Odysseus tossed from side to side ....
[tr. Murray (1919)]

But the strain tossed his body about, like the basting paunch stuffed with blood and fat that a man who wants it immediately cooked will turn over and over before a blazing fire. In such fashion did Odysseus roll to this side and to that ....
[tr. Lawrence (1932)]

Odysseus nevertheless could not help tossing to and fro on his bed, just as a paunch stuffed with fat and blood is tossed this way and that in the blaze of the fire by a cook who wants to get it quickly roasted, twisting and turning thus to one side and the other ....
[tr. Rieu (1946)]

He himself rocked, rolling from side to side, as a cook turns a sausage, big with blood and fat, at a scorching blaze, without a pause, to broil it quick.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1961)]

Yet Odysseus' own self thrashed this way and that. Just as a man before a blazing fire who's skewered a paunch that's stuffed with blood and fat will swiftly turn ths spit this way and that, eager to have it roasted fast.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1990)]

But he himself kept tossing, turning,
intent as a cook before some white-hot blazing fire
who rolls his sizzling sausage back and forth,
packed with fat and blood -- keen to broil it quickly,
tossing, turning it, this way, that way.
[tr. Fagles (1996)]

Nevertheless, he could not help twisting and turning, just as a paunch stuffed with fat and blood is turned this way and that in the blaze of the roaring fire by a man who wants to get it quickly roasted.
[tr. DCH Rieu (2002)]

But Odysseus himself kept tossing back and forth. As when a man has stuffed a paunch full of fat and blood, and keeps turning it back and forth on a blazing-hot fire, because he wants it to be cooked as soon as possible, so Odysseus kept turning back and forth ....
[tr. Verity (2016)]

He writhed around, as when a man rotates a sausage full of fat and blood; the huge fire blazes, and he longs to have the roasting finished.
[tr. Wilson (2017)]

He still tossed and turned, back and forth. Just as a man
eager to roast a stomach stuffed with fat and blood
turns it quickly round and round on a blazing fire,
that is how lord Odysseus tossed and turned ....
[tr. Johnston (2019), l. 25ff]

Added on 15-Sep-21 | Last updated 15-Sep-21
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For he says that evils are neither diminished by time nor lightened by being premeditated; that meditation on evil to come, or, it may be, on that which will never come, is foolish; that every evil is sufficiently annoying when it comes; that to him who has always thought that something adverse may happen to him that very thought is a perpetual evil; that if the expected evil should not happen, he would have incurred voluntary misery in vain; that thus one would be always in distress, either in suffering evil or in thinking of it.

[Nam neque vetustate minui mala nec fieri praemeditata leviora, stultamque etiam esse meditationem futuri mali aut fortasse ne futuri quidem: satis esse odiosum malum omne, cum venisset; qui autem semper cogitavisset accidere posse aliquid adversi, ei fieri illud sempiternum malum; si vero ne futurum quidem sit, frustra suscipi miseriam voluntariam; ita semper angi aut accipiendo aut cogitando malo.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Tusculan Disputations [Tusculanae Disputationes], Book 3, ch. 15 / sec. 32 (45 BC) [tr. Peabody (1886)]
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Discussing the teachings of Epicurus (fr. U444). Source (Latin). Alternate translations:

For that neither are Evils abated by long time, nor yet alleviated by foresight of them; and that the poring on Evils not yet come, and perhaps that never will come, is foolish. For that all Evil is Vexation enough, when it is come; but he that is always thinking that some Adversity may possibly befall him, to him it becometh an everlasting Evil; but if it shall never actually come upon him, a voluntary Disquiet is taken up on false grounds; so the mind is always vex'd, either with enduring, or expecting Evil.
[tr. Wase (1643)]

Evils are not the less by reason of their continuance, nor the oighter for having been foreseen; and it is folly to ruminate on evils to come, or that, perhaps, may never come; every evil is disagreeable enough when it doth come: but he who is constantly considering that some evil may befall him, charges himself with a perpetual evil, for should such eve never light on him, he voluntarily takes to himself unnecessary misery, so that he is under constant uneasiness, whether he meets any evil or only thinks of it.
[tr. Main (1824)]

For evil ls not diminished by time, nor alleviated by premeditation: that it is folly itself to brood upon evil that is future, or indeed, perhaps, is not to be at all: that evil is hateful enough when it comes: that, to the man, who is always musing upon that which is to come, his meditation itself becomes an eternal evil; and, should it prove that his apprehensions have been groundless, he burdens himself with a voluntary misery; and thus, between the encounter and contemplation of evil, he is always in trouble.
[tr. Otis (1839)]

Evils are not the less by reason of their continuance, nor the lighter for having been foreseen; and it is folly to ruminate on evils to come, or such as, perhaps, never may come; every evil is disagreeable enough when it does come; but he who is constantly considering that some evil may befall him, is loading himself with a perpetual evil, and even should such evil never light on him, he voluntarily takes upon himself unnecessary misery, so that he is under constant uneasiness, whether he actually suffers any evil, or only thinks of it.
[tr. Yonge (1853)]

Added on 23-Aug-21 | Last updated 13-Sep-21
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Fear, born of that stern matron, Responsibility, sits on one’s shoulders like some heavy imp of darkness, and one is preoccupied and, possibly, cantankerous.

William McFee (1881-1966) English writer
“The Crusaders,” Atlantic (Sep 1919)
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Added on 2-Jul-21 | Last updated 2-Jul-21
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Americans are the only people in the world known to me whose status anxiety prompts them to advertise their college and university affiliations in the rear window of their automobiles.

Paul Fussell (1924-2012) American cultural and literary historian, author, academic
Class: A Guide Through the American Status System, ch. 4 (1983)
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Added on 1-Jul-21 | Last updated 1-Jul-21
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Helpless lust and unreasoning anxiety were just part of growing up.

Octavia Butler (1947-2006) American writer
Imago, ch. 2, sec. 9 (1989)
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Added on 3-Jun-21 | Last updated 3-Jun-21
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Loneliness, insomnia, and change: the fear of these is even worse than the reality.

Mignon McLaughlin (1913-1983) American journalist and author
The Second Neurotic’s Notebook (1966)
Added on 20-May-21 | Last updated 20-May-21
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This is love, and the trouble with it: it can make you embarrassed. Love is really liking someone a whole lot and not wanting to screw that up. Everybody’s chewed over this. This unites us, this part of love.

Lemony Snicket (b. 1970) American author, screenwriter, musician (pseud. for Daniel Handler)
Adverbs, “Collectively” (2006)
Added on 31-Mar-21 | Last updated 31-Mar-21
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I don’t know whether my life has been a success or a failure But not having any anxiety about becoming one instead of the other, and just taking things as they come along, I’ve had a lot of extra time to enjoy life.

Arthur "Harpo" Marx (1888-1964) American comedian, actor, mime, musician [b. Adolph Marx]
Harpo Speaks!, ch. 1, opening words (1961) [with Rowland Barber]
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Added on 19-Mar-21 | Last updated 19-Mar-21
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I will leave it for the present, as this letter is already pretty long. Such is my desire, my anxiety for your perfection, that I never think I have said enough, though you may possibly think I have said too much; and though, in truth, if your own good sense is not sufficient to direct you, in many of these plain points, all that I or anybody else can say will be insufficient.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son (18 Nov 1748)
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Chesterfield repeats the sentiment in a later letter (22 Sep 1749):
This letter is a very long, and so possibly a very tedious one; but my anxiety for your perfection is so great, and particularly at this critical and decisive period of your life, that I am only afraid of omitting, but never of repeating or dwelling too long upon anything that I think may be of the least use to you.
Added on 18-Mar-21 | Last updated 18-Mar-21
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I have now but one anxiety left, which is concerning you. I would have you be, what I know nobody is, perfect. As that is impossible, I would have you as near perfection as possible. I know nobody in a fairer way toward it than yourself, if you please. Never were so much pains taken for anybody’s education as for yours; and never had anybody those opportunities of knowledge and improvement which you have had, and still have. I hope, I wish, I doubt, and I fear alternately. This only I am sure of, that you will prove either the greatest pain, or the greatest pleasure of, Yours Always Truly.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son (16 Feb 1748)
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Added on 18-Feb-21 | Last updated 18-Feb-21
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I don’t kno as i want tew bet enny money, and giv odds, on the man, who iz alwus anxious tew pray out loud, every chance he kan git.

[I don’t know as I want to bet any money, and give odds, on the man who is always anxious to pray out loud, every chance he can get.]

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
Everybody’s Friend, Or; Josh Billing’s Encyclopedia and Proverbial Philosophy of Wit and Humor, “Mollassis Kandy” (1874)
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Added on 14-May-20 | Last updated 14-May-20
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What some call health, if purchased by perpetual anxiety about diet, isn’t much better than tedious disease.

George D. Prentice (1802-1870) American newspaper editor
Prenticeana (1860)
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Added on 12-May-20 | Last updated 12-May-20
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But reassurance can be the cruellest antidote to anxiety. Our rosy predictions both leave the anxious unprepared for the worst, and unwittingly imply that it would be disastrous if the worst came to pass. Seneca more wisely asks us to consider that bad things probably will occur, but adds that they are unlikely ever to be as bad as we fear.

Alain de Botton (b. 1969) Swiss-British author
The Consolations of Philosophy, ch. 3 “Consolation for Frustration” (2000)
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Added on 5-Sep-19 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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Anxiety is the unwillingness to play even when you know the odds are for you. Courage is the willingness to play even when you know the odds are against you.

Thomas Szasz (b. 1920) Hungarian-American psychiatrist, educator
The Second Sin (1973)
Added on 1-Aug-18 | Last updated 1-Aug-18
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Anxiety is love’s greatest killer. It creates the failures. It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic.

Anaïs Nin (1903-1977) Catalan-Cuban-French author, diarist
The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 4, 1944–47, Feb. 1947 (1971)
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Added on 25-May-18 | Last updated 25-May-18
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Love looks forward, hate looks back, anxiety has eyes all over its head.

Mignon McLaughlin (1913-1983) American journalist and author
The Neurotic’s Notebook (1963)
Added on 4-Apr-18 | Last updated 4-Apr-18
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I define anxiety as experiencing failure in advance.

Seth Godin (b. 1960) American entrepreneur, author, public speaker
Poke the Box (2011)
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Added on 7-Mar-18 | Last updated 7-Mar-18
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Anxiety is the handmaiden of contemporary ambition.

Alain de Botton (b. 1969) Swiss-British author
Status Anxiety (2004)
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Added on 10-Jan-18 | Last updated 10-Jan-18
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Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength — carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.

Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983) Dutch evangelist, concentration camp survivor
He Cares, He Comforts (1977)
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See Spurgeon.
Added on 22-May-17 | Last updated 1-Aug-18
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There is no such thing as inner peace. There is only nervousness or death.

Fran Lebowitz (b. 1950) American journalist
Metropolitan Life, “Manners” (1978)
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Added on 15-May-17 | Last updated 15-May-17
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Suspicion begets suspicion.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], # 928 [tr. Lyman (1862)]
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But the greatest gift in the power of loneliness to bestow is the realization that life does not consist either of wallowing in the past or of peering anxiously at the future; and it is appalling to contemplate the great number of often painful steps by which one arrives at a truth so old, so obvious, and so frequently expressed. It is good for one to appreciate that life is now. Whether it offers little or much, life is now — this day — this hour — and is probably the only experience of the kind one is to have.

Charles Macomb Flandrau (1871-1938) American author and essayist
Viva Mexico!, ch. 7 (1908)
Added on 25-May-16 | Last updated 25-May-16
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When thinking about life, remember this: no amount of guilt can change the past, and no amount of anxiety can change the future.

Other Authors and Sources
Anonymous
Added on 29-Oct-15 | Last updated 29-Oct-15
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Why worry? If you’ve done the very best you can, worrying won’t make it any better.

Walt Disney (1901-1966) American entrepreneur, animator, film producer, showman
In “The Amazing Secret of Walt Disney,” Interview by Don Eddy, The American Magazine (Aug 1955)
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Added on 10-Aug-15 | Last updated 10-Aug-15
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The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.

Buddha (c.563-483 BC) Indian mystic, philosopher [b. Siddharta Gautama]
In Bukkyõ Dendõ Kyõkai, The Teaching of Buddha (1966)

Likely a paraphrase of a variety of the Buddha's teachings.
Added on 15-Sep-14 | Last updated 15-Sep-14
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Do not imagine you can exorcise what oppresses you in life by giving vent to it in art.

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) French writer, novelist
Letter to Louise Colet (25 Nov 1853)
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It is said that our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) British Baptist preacher, author [Charles Haddon (C.H.) Spurgeon]
The Salt-Cellars (1889)
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Added on 27-Aug-13 | Last updated 1-Aug-18
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Most people today don’t want honest answers insofar as honest means unpleasant or disturbing. They want a soft answer that turneth away anxiety. They want answers that are, in effect, escapes.

Louis Kronenberger (1904-1980) American critic, novelist, biographer
“Unbrave New World,” The Cart and the Horse (1964)

An allusion to Proverbs 15:1 "A soft answer turneth away wrath."
Added on 21-Nov-12 | Last updated 17-Nov-17
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Better beans and bacon in peace than cakes and ale in fear.

Aesop (620?-560? BC) Legendary Greek storyteller
Fables [Aesopica], “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse” (6th C BC) [tr. Jacobs (1894)]
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Alternate translations:

  • "The Difference betwixt a Court and a Country Life. The Delights, Innocence, and Security of the One, Compar'd with the Anxiety, the Lewdness, and the Hazards of the Other." [tr. L'Estrange (1692)]
  • "Give me my barley-bread in peace and security before the daintiest feast where Fear and Care are in waiting." [tr. James (1848)]
  • "A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety."
Compare to Proverbs 17:1 "Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife."
Added on 3-Oct-08 | Last updated 16-Sep-21
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