(Excerpt from the book The Misleading Mind)
We experience stress often, and it can seem diffuse and general. Yet we tend to become anxious when we fear certain consequences, and these are directly related to what we have decided to value. Say you have a deadline for a project you are working on, and you are becoming more and more stressed as the deadline approaches. Naturally, the date of the deadline is itself arbitrary; it is entirely the project of the context of your job. If your deadline is July 15, what is “July 15”? It is merely a label, and it’s reality as a “deadline” does not exist except as a concept, albeit a concept in many people’s minds.
Even the fact that it is a shared concept, a mutually agreed-upon date for the completion of work, does not make the deadline more “real” in any inherent sense. Indeed, our whole lives are spent in just such mutually agreed-upon fictions, and yet the stress and anxiety we feel don’t seem arbitrary or made up. Once we become anxious, that anxiousness feels real, and it lives inside us until we alone take control of it and transform it.
(This topic continues in the book The Misleading Mind)