Anais Nin wrote this in her diary, between 1947-1955 (it was later published in Volume 5 of her diaries)…”Anxiety is love’s greatest killer”.


The next bit of the quote:

“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.”

And so anxiety doesn’t so much kill love. Love drops the anxious and moves on to sturdier ground. The anxious are left to fend for themselves.

Which is one of life’s cruelest ironies: the very people who need help, push it away at precisely the time they need it the most.

I’ve had many years alone to wonder why humans would evolve this way. Some could say it’s “survival of the fittest”; anxious types don’t help further humanity.

But the thing is, they have. And do. Research I’ve read over the years indicates a lot of village leaders or shaman displayed clear obsessive compulsive behavior. Their vigilance when it came to safety and hygiene served a critical role. A disproportionate number of leading minds in art, philosophy, literature and science were afflicted with bipolar or some other anxiety-related condition. Extended moods extend the human experience. It lunges us all forward into wonderful things.

So what’s the broader reason for anxiety killing love? I think it’s to push us back to love. Anxiety can be the very thing that pushes us to become our best person. When worked through, dug through, sat through, anxiety can be turned on its head. Anxiety doesn’t go away; you just flip to the other side of the same coin. And on this other side you find passion and bigness, and a desire to reach out and connect and …to love.

Anxiety can kill love. And then you realize you can flip the coin.

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • Kylie

    Without anxiety I would not have meet some amazing people and learnt countless new things. Although it I s not enjoyable but I’m no longer ashamed or embarrassed. I have learnt that by saying out loud to someone I trust when I’m anxious does help. Gives me a moment to get out of my head and shift the anxious cycle from a state of panic to awareness of why I’m uncomfortable.

  • Renee

    We label high-energy and concentrated focus as “anxiety” – and label a couch potato “lazy”: maybe both are very mindful ways each of us deals with stuff. All these labels on our every mood and behaviour ~ if we weren’t meant to exhibit these as human beings we wouldn’t. But we do, because we’re human. Love the skin we’re in.

  • Daniel L

    After all, what is happiness? Love, they tell me. But love doesn’t bring and never has brought happiness. On the contrary, it’s a constant state of anxiety, a battlefield; it’s sleepless nights, asking ourselves all the time if we’re doing the right thing. Real love is composed of ecstasy and agony.” Paulo Coelho – The Witch Of Portobello
    But again, what doesn’t hurt its not life, what doesn’t pass its not happiness … Flip the coin … 🙂
    Wish you a quick recovery !

    • What about the idea of love, less as a romantic notion, but more as a way of being in the world, individually? As positivity, giving, compassion, seeking to understand others, and framing our responses to others in this way…

    • Edel King

      there’s no agony in Love my friend if there is then it’s not real

  • Natalie

    Anxiety is not a defining characteristic of bipolar disorder. Bipolar is characterized by depressive and manic episodes.

    • Danielle

      Hi Natalie, anxiety is not a diagnostic criterion for Bipolar, but I have certainly worked with many, many people with this diagnosis who also experience problems with anxiety.

  • Briar

    So well put. Anxious people are often highly sensitive people. We don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water. I describe it to people as like being handed the keys to a Ferrari rather than a Volvo. Harder to drive at first and even scary but if you can get the hang of it you can go fast and far.

  • Ian

    I do love that final quote, Sarah. But golly gosh, I find it can take an awfully long time for the coin to land after flipping it. I’ve been meaning to say how excited I am about your work on food and anxiety. Let me know if you need another guinea pig to help do some testing. Bless … x

  • San

    Wow. I was pushing away everyone or craving closeness so much that the others walked away. I then began a relationship with an unavailable person. Now that I have worked through a lot and feel healthier, he separated. Anyway, I am no coming to the end of ‘Anna Karenina’ and so love the description of anxiety and how it pushes others away.

  • Monica

    Flipping the coin hasn’t worked for me – at least not yet. Anxiety still prevents me from opening up and being accessible to others. Although it is quite easy for me to make acquaintances I tend to bring my friendships and acquaintances to a halt at some point. Fortunately I didn’t feel like that when I met my boyfriend, with whom I’ve been together for six years now. I never feel the need to seal myself off from him.
    However, when it comes to my studies anxiety totally kicks in, which I lead back to that urge to be perfect, never fail and to do things on point or not at all. This strive for perfectionism and fear of failure often causes sleepless nights, tremulousness, and teeth grinding. the latter is even a problem when I actually feel relaxed…
    All that said, I love when you write about anxiety. It gives me hope, that I can conquer it all or rather turn it into a strength.

    So, thank you for that Sarah! xx

    PS: on a totally different note: there are a few blog posts on feng shui and general tips for arranging one’s home to create a calm atmosphere. It would be great if you could do more posts on that. Or maybe a tour through you iqs hq? I am currently rearranging my work space and could need some inspirational source.

  • jack

    I don’t think you can discuss anxiety in general terms and compare it to serious mental health conditions such as bipolar. Everyone experiences levels of anxiety on a daily basis. In fact we need certain levels of stress and anxiety in our daily lives to get things done. But there is a HUGE difference between anxiety and diagnosed mental health issues including anxiety disorders.

  • Struggling with anxiety is one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through. Overcoming anxiety has caused more personal growth in my life than anything else I can think of. And it’s so true that it drives you to love people that much more.

  • So, true. Anxiety does push love away. So difficult not to feel anxious when in the presence of those we love. But to turn it on its head. To push us back to love. Yes and to know we are not our anxiety. To accept what might happen with a peaceful mind. A very timely piece during the week of mental health awareness. Thanks Sarah.

  • trish

    oh I love the idea of flipping the coin on anxiety Sarah. i see my own anxiety as fear, as a shrinking back from life. whereas the flip is courage – and engaging with life. and yes, with love. thanks for the insight.

  • Deirdre

    and love, in the act of flipping the coin, can kill anxiety.

  • Esther

    I love this post!

  • Carolyn Franzke

    I love this Sarah – thank-you xx

  • Denice Marie

    Thank u! I especially needed to read that today.

  • Tess

    Hey Sarah,

    thanks for pointing out the obvious, that hasn’t been that obvious to me lately. Everything we suffer has an upside I guess. It just doesn’t show itself conveniently at the right time. I know there is light at the end of the tunnel. I just have to keep reminding myself of that. Cheers