The German word Angst, fear, came into the English language in the early 1940s. In its English, psychiatric sense, “angst” signifies a feeling of insecurity, anxiety, or apprehension. So it is only appropriate that the word comes to us from German, a language spoken by people who are constantly wracked by angst, and who almost seem to enjoy it.
Germans like to worry. They worry about politics. They worry about the environment. They worry about their national identity and their image abroad. They worry about the economy. They worry about worrying. It’s not that Germans don’t like to have a good time. It’s just that they seem to be able to have a good time worrying. They enjoy discussing their worries. Criticism is a national pastime. Journalists do this on the editorial pages of newspapers and magazines. The average German does so on Twitter, in letters to the editor or over a beer at the local Gastwirtschaft. This Germanic trait is also carried on, to a lesser degree, by the Austrians and the German-speaking Swiss.
Opinion polls conducted in the German-speaking world tend to show a more pessimistic view of things than might generally be the case in many other countries. But, if challenged, the Germans, Austrians, and Swiss would tend to respond that they are merely being more realistic than the overly optimistic Pollyannas in other countries.
It was the Austrian Sigmund Freud who tried to reduce angst through psychoanalysis.
If you want to learn more about angst and Sigmund Freud, there are two Freud museums in Europe, one in his native Austria, and one in his land of exile. The London Freud Museum is located in Freud’s former home in the London borough of Camden. The Freud Museum in Vienna was founded in 1971 in his former apartment at Berggasse 19 in the Alsergrund district. For more, see our Sigmund Freud page.
Note: This article is based on a chapter in the book The German Way by Hyde Flippo.
AT THE GERMAN WAY
- Sigmund Freud – A biography of the Austrian who invented psychoanalysis in an attempt to reduce “angst”!
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