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January 9, 1978

The Meaning of Anxiety

JAMA. 1978;239(2):145-146. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03280290065032

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Nearly everyone would agree that Auden's phrase "the age of anxiety" aptly describes our era. In 1950, three years after the publication of Auden's poem, Rollo May published The Meaning of Anxiety, a thoughtful discussion of what he called "one of the most urgent problems of our day." Since then numerous studies of anxiety and related subjects have been made by many authors, while May himself has produced several books offering psychological insights on a variety of topics: The Courage to Create, Love and Will, Power and Innocence. Now, in a second edition of The Meaning of Anxiety, May amplifies and refines his ideas.

The first part of the book summarizes and analyzes the contributions of other writers: literary portrayals of anxiety by Camus, Kafka, and Hesse as well as philosophic interpretations by Spinoza, Pascal, and Kierkegaard. Long chapters discuss biological and psychological explanations and the theories of Freud, Rank,