Status Anxiety

NOTE: This is a work in progress note.

A term originally coined by the writer Alain de Botton1 in his book of the same name, to refer to the kind of anxiety we experience when our “position” in society (under whatever idiosyncratic context) is threatened.


  • Sexual love is well-known to the point of being socially accepted and celebrated. Status – i.e., “love from the world” – is more covert in comparison (when not interpreted in economic sense alone).

  • Our […] self-conception could be pictured as a leaking balloon, forever requiring the helium of external love to remain inflated and vulnerable to the smallest pinpricks of neglect

  • We begin by receiving unconditional love as babies, but as we grow into adults the love becomes conditional upon “being polite, succeeding at school and later, acquiring rank and prestige”.

Actualism relevance

How does this relate to Actualism Method?

The root issue, it would seem, is that our identities are “separate” (using love as a form of bridge). “Our” existence, being relative to other identities, vyes for position and status. The solution is an actual intimacy2.

Richard: Actual intimacy – being here now – does not come from love, for love stems from separation. The illusion of intimacy that love produces is but a meagre imitation of this direct experience of the actual. In the actual world, ‘I’ as ego, the personality, and ‘me’ as soul, the ‘being’ – both subjectively experienced as one’s identity – have ceased to exist; whereas love accentuates, endorses and verifies ‘me’ as being real. And while ‘I’ am real, ‘I’ am relative to other similarly afflicted persons; vying for position and status in order to establish ‘my’ credentials … to verify ‘my’ very existence.

To be actually intimate is to be without the separative identity … and therefore free from the need for love with its ever un-filled promise of Peace On Earth.2

  1. I should point out that while some of Alain’s diagnosis of the problem is correct, his proposed solution does miss the mark. Read his book, but take his recommendations at face value.

  2. AF Topics - Intimacy