Anxiety is excitement with no place to go

anxiety is excitment

The late Psychologist Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt therapy, often said “anxiety is excitement with no place to go”. Whilst I don’t believe this quote explains anxiety in its entirety I do believe it points to a type of anxiety that is the result of suppressed or misidentified excitement. I can certainly relate to the feeling of not knowing how to realise my excitement for certain goals and projects and therefore feeling a sense of pent up frustration, which at times can bubble up into an intensity.

I know for myself I need to take action on what excites me. This is key.  Lately I haven’t been doing this nearly enough! I have my reasons, health issues have arisen or life gets in the way but I believe it’s important to keep coming back to what is exciting and either FIND A PLACE TO GO with it, make a plan, or map out a path that’s going to get you there. Easier said than done but still important to remember when navigating through those difficult times.

When I was in my 20s I explored the idea of becoming a Dance Movement Therapist which is a type of body-centred psychotherapy that often incorporates Gestalt type ideas. I did some volunteering for a dance therapy association and took some classes which I really enjoyed. I wasn’t much of a dancer in the traditional sense but enjoyed the creative and improvisational process. I remember in one of the group workshops the facilitator kept singling me out to say “you are a real sensation seeker” … “look people she’s a real sensation seeker.”

At the time I didn’t know what she was on about but later I read that “sensation seeking” from a psych point of view is “the tendency to pursue sensory pleasure and excitement. It’s the trait of people who go after novelty, complexity, and intense sensations… and who are often “easily bored without high levels of stimulation” (Psychology today). Right on the money teach but I have no idea how she could have known this about me based on my movements dancing around like a freestyle idiot. LOL.

I went off the idea of becoming a dance movement therapist because I decided to pursue the music path instead. This is where I felt I had I had more skills/ ability but dance therapy has always been one of those careers that I’ve thought is very much underutilised and under the radar. It’s often an excellent choice for people who find talking therapies limited in their effectiveness. It’s used a lot with dementia patients, people with eating disorders and in drug and alcohol recovery. Perhaps it’s also ideal for real “sensation seekers.”

Sometimes you can talk about “anxiety” until the cows come home but really what you might require is to move, find direction or take action… to let your body talk and to remember your excitements. Below is a wonderful clip from a dance therapist on the topic where she explores the idea of anxiety as excitement in relation to her work with a client. It’s a wonderful clip and I hope you enjoy it!



4 thoughts on “Anxiety is excitement with no place to go

  1. It’s important to remember that, in gestalt therapy, excitement is about mobilisation of the organism, not about feeling good (which is a slight contrast with how excitement is meant more generally; see the etymology of “excite” for the sense of outwards movement).

    So excitement with no place to go can also describe being scared in a situation but feeling unable to leave, or having violent urges held in check.

    In both those examples, the organismic need begins to mobilise but is disrupted. So the movement might not develop enough to be recognisable as fear or anger, but has developed too far to simply be shut off. So in generalised anxiety, part of the early therapeutic mission is to repair the background context to understand what it is that’s being disrupted, and how the need to disrupt it arose.

    For a good book on understanding and working with anxiety from a gestalt perspective, see Panic Attacks and Postmodernity (, which characterises anxiety in the post-modern era as a fundamental crisis of belonging.

    Thanks for the food for thought!

    Liked by 1 person

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