the common roots of anguish, angst, anxiety, anger, and arrogance

An anxious person

An anxious person (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I am an expert on both bitterness and arrogance. My extensive first-hand experience with those patterns of experience makes me an authority on those subjects… and, by the way, I am not just being arrogant when I claim this distinction.”

In fact, I have had at least a few people repeatedly tell me that I was arrogant. Without being told, I already knew when I was bitter, but arrogance is one of those things that people may be hesitant about claiming for themselves. People who are being arrogant may prefer other terms such as “justified” or “right” or “righteous,” which reminds me of the term “self-righteous,” which reminds me of the terms “antagonistic” and “arrogant” and “rude” and “jerk.” (As for those who are thinking of the term “righteous” as in spiritual purity, note that I prefer the term “spiritual purity.”)

Notice how rare it is that someone would say,” Of course I am being a jerk, but it is entirely justified!” People tend to just skip the middle part and focus on “I AM…JUSTIFIED!”

When I have been arrogant, I always had excellent rationalizations for being arrogant. “I am only being an arrogant, self-righteous jerk because of the following excellent justifications. I’d like to tell you about them now and I’d like to be very loud as I do so. Are you ready? No? Well, that is your problem, not mine. Here I go….”

Once a Jerk, Always a Jerk

Once a Jerk, Always a Jerk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being arrogant can be an interesting way to invite attention to one’s self. It is an advertisement of a dominant concern with being the deliverer of some particular communication, typically a criticism that includes a condemnation.

By the way, criticism does not require condemnation. Criticism can simply identify anything that might be missing as well as anything that might be excessive or less than the best possible, according to whatever perspective or interpretative system.

So, when I am being arrogant, I want someone to listen to me. I want someone to understand me. I want sympathy. I want someone to help me deal with an underlying issue or anxiety or fear. I am testing to identify someone who can assist me in  handling my distress, for arrogance (AKA “righteousness“) is fundamentally an indicator signaling distress.

I recently wrote to someone these words: “You are not just bitter. You have also been arrogant.”

“When I was arrogant, you have even been bitter that I was arrogant, rather than just noticing the arrogance. Are you offended when a frightened idiot displays arrogance, or do you just notice it?”

“Arrogance is a lot of fear covered with a brief [sudden] surfacing of anger… whenever the fear is recognized. When the arrogant anger subsides, the basic anxiety and paranoia is still present- the fear of fear itself.”

Notice that the words “anguish, anxiety, angst, and anger” all have many letters in common.


1175–1225; Middle English anguisse  < Old French  < Latin angustia tight place, equivalent to angust ( us ) narrow + -ia -ia; compare anxious;  akin to anger


early 13c., “acute bodily or mental suffering,” from O.Fr.anguisse, angoisse “choking sensation, distress, anxiety, rage,”from L. angustia “tightness, distress,” from ang(u)ere “to throttle, torment” (see anger).
[C13: from Old French angoisse  a strangling, from Latin angustia narrowness, from angustus  narrow]


1520s, from L. anxietatem (nom. anxietas), noun of quality fromanxius (see anxious).


1620s, from L. anxius “solicitous, uneasy, troubled in mind,” fromang(u)ere “choke, cause distress” (see anger). The same image isin Serbo-Croatian tjeskoba “anxiety,” lit. “tightness, narrowness.”
[C17: from Latin anxius;  related to Latin angere  to torment; see anger , anguish ]
1840–50;  < German Angst  fear, anxiety, Old High German angust (cognate with Middle Low German angest, Middle Dutch anxt ),equivalent to ang-  (akin to eng  narrow, constricted) + -st (suffix)


1944, from Ger. Angst “neurotic fear, anxiety, guilt, remorse” fromO.H.G. angust, from the root of anger (q.v.). George Eliot used it(in Ger.) in 1849, and it was popularized in Eng. by translation of Freud’s work, but as a foreign word until 1940s.
1150–1200; Middle English  < Scandinavian;  compare Old Norseangr  sorrow, grief, akin to Old High German angust  ( German Angst fear), Latin angor  anguish
[C12: from Old Norse angr  grief; related to Old English enge,  OldHigh German engi  narrow, Latin angere  to strangle]


c.1200, from O.N. angra “to grieve, vex;” the noun is mid-13c.,from O.N. angr “distress, grief, affliction,” from P.Gmc. *angus (cf. O.E. enge “narrow, painful,” M.Du. enghe, Goth. aggwus”narrow”), from PIE base *angh- “stretch round, tight, painfully constricted, painful” (cf. Skt. amhu- “narrow,” amhah “anguish;” Armenian anjuk “narrow;” Lith. ankstas”narrow;” Gk. ankhein “to squeeze,” ankhone “a strangling;” L.angere “to throttle, torment;” O.Ir. cum-ang “straitness, want”).

Anxiety (Photo credit: Rima Xaros)

All of those words are related to exasperation, like being out of breath or having trouble breathing, being exhausted, desperation, despair, and terror. Rage is like being squeezed tight. The tension can be… suffocating, similar to a panic attack of asthma.
Here is what Jesus said about anger and the raging fires of the hell of rage:

20For I say to you, that unless your goodness will exceed that of the Scribes and the Pharisees, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 21You have heard that it was said to the ancients, “Do not murder, and whoever murders is condemned to judgment.” 22But I am saying to you, that everyone who will be angry against his brother without cause is condemned before the judge, and everyone who will say to his brother, ‘I spit on you’, is condemned before the assembly, and whoever will say ‘You fool.’ is condemned to the Gehenna of fire.

Note that I think that a better translation might be “contempt.” The issue is not just the natural spontaneous anger that is normal for any child, but the danger of blame, animosity, resentment, contempt, rage, and hatred.
James 3:6 “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” (From a letter written by one of the disciples of Jesus).

Anxiety (Photo credit: Alaina Abplanalp Photography)

Arrogance has a function. So does anxiety. It may not be most functional to “avoid” them (as in totally repress or deny them).
The old Biblical saying “turn away from evil” implies to withdraw from what is terrifying or disturbing, but not to condemn it or judge against it, but to complete the disturbance and experience peace and even courage and appreciation.
Avoiding arrogance and anxiety could keep you stuck in them. Until you get firmly planted in admitting your own arrogance, you cannot step beyond it.
It is like being in Oregon and trying to cross the border in to Colorado. There is a problem with that idea. Oregon does not border Colorado. One can go through Idaho and Utah to get from Oregon to Colorado, though.
So, when you step in to arrogance fully (and humbly!), then you will have the opportunity to experience anxiety directly and learn its value. Until then, anxiety may remain something for you to avoid and deny.
There may also be a sense that other people should never be anxious, like even children: “why are they so anxious sometimes!?!?!” That is an instance of arrogance.
You cannot have a sense of humor about anxiety until you can admit arrogance without needing to fall back in to bitterness, which is a wonderful thing to experience until you are ready to openly enter anxiety. If you ever master anxiety, then your experience of living may dramatically shift, like stepping out of hell in to heaven- which allegedly is similar to stepping out of Utah in to Oregon, but not quite the same.
Remember that the one who enjoys life the most loses the game of hell. Beware of enjoying hell or it may turn out to be  a dream from which no one can escape without sacrificing bitterness, arrogance, and even anxiety, angst, anguish, and anger.
Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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7 Responses to “the common roots of anguish, angst, anxiety, anger, and arrogance”

  1. carlsimmonslive Says:

    Hey, thanks for the mention. And being from Colorado with a daughter in college in Oregon, I feel you. 🙂

    • jrfibonacci Says:

      I lived in Roseburg, Oregon one summer and loved it, though I also loved my brief visit to the Loveland area of Colorado. I’ve actually never been to Utah, so any arrogant remarks by me in regard to Utah are based entirely on presumptive, dramatic, creative license. 😉

      • carlsimmonslive Says:

        Hmm. I’m IN Loveland; my daughter’s a senior at Multnomah. And I LIKE desolate stuff, so Utah would probably be my thing (much like eastern Colorado is — being originally from New Jersey, it still blows my mind that there are places ion the country where you can drive and see NOTHING).

  2. madrastra Says:

    I found this really interesting and very useful. thank you for linking it to my blog. you are the first person to leave a message as I use this blog as a place to explore for myself some very difficult life issues I am experiencing. But I keep it public in case it is useful for anyone else. Or in case someone drops by with something useful for me!
    You are right – the link between arrogance and fear is easily forgotten and the thread that runs through arrogance anxiety angst and anger is one that is tying me in knots at the moment.
    Best wishes and thanks for the energy you put into this post

  3. OneHotMess Says:

    Thanks so much for the link! I appreciate it! This is a great post, as well. I lived in Oregon, Beaverton, for 7 years as a child, and in Remond for 7 years as an adult. Cannon Beach is my favorite place on earth! I miss the west!

    • carlsimmonslive Says:

      ha — my daughter just took me to Cannon Beach when I was up visiting her two weekends ago or so. Cool place. And really weird to see a packed beach in April; even the Jersey Shore’s desolate until Memorial Day.

      • OneHotMess Says:

        Yess, it’s grown quite a lot since I was a kid. I fear I may have to find a less popular beach, and just go visit. Bruce’s Candy Kitchen, and the Haystack Bakery are two “must visit” places. despite the lines 😉

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