Anxiety by Fritz Riemann [Actionable Summary]

This is a comprehensive book summary of the book Anxiety: Using Depth Psychology to Find a Balance in Your Life by Fritz Riemann. Covering the key ideas and proposing practical ways for achieving what’s mentioned in the text. Written by book fanatic and online librarian Ivaylo Durmonski.

Worksheet: Download the interactive sheet for taking notes.

The Book In Three Or More Sentences:

Anxiety by Fritz Riemann was originally published under the title Grundformen der Angst (Basic forms of fears). It’s a book about human behavior, fear, and how to control, mitigate, and overcome the feelings of fear. The author explains the origin of our fears, how they influence our daily lives, and aim to help us get rid of the things that frighten us most. Ahh, along with that, he presents four personality types that can assist you with getting to know yourself better.

The Core Idea:

Fear exists regardless of nationality, age, IQ, or gender. Despite its importance, we rarely realize how fear really influences us. Someone’s personal development and growth depend to a large extent on how they deal with their anxieties. That’s exactly what Mr. Riemann is trying to help us with in his book. To assist us with figuring out our deepest fears so we can confront them and finally feel better about ourselves.


  • According to the author, there are four main personalities types. Figuring out where you fit in will help you understand yourself better and conquer your fears.
  • When you analyze your fears and the reasons you’re afraid, you can start using this devious sensation in your favor.
  • What you do is what defines you as a person, not the gadgets you possess. They are simply distractions.

5 Key Lessons from Anxiety:

Lesson #1: Figure Out Who You Are To Get Rid Of Your Worries: Riemann’s Four Personality Types

What better way to overcome fear and anxiety than knowing yourself better?

According to Fritz Riemann, there are four different personality types. Each with a unique set of skills, and flaws susceptible to a certain type of anxiety.

Read all four and see where you fit in:

1. Schizoid Personality:

Schizoids seek to be independent. They don’t hope that someone will help them or save them. They are on their own in this world. Being independent is crucial for them. Even though Schizoids objectify people, treat them as an object or a thing, they also understand that being alone in this world is not practical. Therefore, they hold someone possessing qualities opposite to their close, but not too close because they don’t want to be emotionally attached.

Evading intimacy is a common thing for them. Above all, they dodge personal contact and fear meeting people one on one. When a Schizoid is among others, he strives to remain anonymous.

This I-don’t-want-to-speak-with-you behavior is formed in highly sensitive, labile, and vulnerable people. People who were previously exposed to a lot of pain from other people. Their overall behavior is their shield against what they have experienced in the past. Since they don’t want to be emotionally injured again, they keep their distance

2. Depressed Personality

This personality type is the complete opposite of the Schizoids. They need someone else in order to feel complete, alive. They’re doing everything possible to remove the space between them and their spouse. Feeling loved and being close to their lover, all the time, is like being in heaven.

Although it might first seem like a really cute thing, this state evolves into a complete addiction. Even the slightest absence of closeness is horrifying to the depressed type. They greatly fear being left alone.

This permanent dependence on others makes them incapable of making decisions on their own. They grow as if crippled, lacking an inner strength that usually other, capable people, use to overcome obstacles. All these weaknesses, not surprisingly, form all sorts of gloomy feelings: hate, jealousy, and envy. These, on the other hand, lead to chronic depression and an inability to cope with simple obstacles.

But how such a dependent behavior is formed?

It all begins when we’re very little. The main culprits are our parents – and more specifically, the mother part. In the back of her mind, the mother, doesn’t what her child to grow up. That’s why she constantly serves, adores, and spoils her children. Later, these babies grow without the necessary skills to cope with the world. Thus they need someone else to help them along the way.

3. Compulsive Personality

Compulsive people are cautious and predictable. People who plan long-term.

They greatly fear change and taking risks. Such people wear only their old clothes with the argument that they should save their new ones for later – in case something happens. They can be easily recognized by their annoying attention to detail, perfectionism, and the need to feel in control of the situation.

They plan ahead and think in great detail about things that may never occur. Often a compulsive person will play different scenarios in his mind with the person he just met. Considering the facts and the odds, he may even end a friendship or a possible relationship before it even started because the odds don’t seem good to him.

Again, such behavior is formed at a very young age. Growing overprotective and constantly looking for safety means that there was a constant nagging by his parents to behave, to be nice, to go to bed early. All these rules stick inside the young brain like needles, leading to a future of a compulsive personality.

4. Histrionic Personality

The magic of the new, the charm of exploring the unknown, the joy of being free. You certainly know such people. They love to travel, be among others, talk, socialize. Histrionic personalities fear being placed in a cubicle, the restrictions of the modern world, social norms, and doing the same thing every day.

They are adventurous and they want to make every day counts. Often such people don’t have a stable income, spend money like crazy, take huge risks, have secret relationships, and live on the edge.

They live for the moment, without clear plans and goals, always searching for new fascination, impressions, and adventures. Above all, they need to feel free. Free from obligations, rules, restrictions. Of course, the world we live in cannot offer such a frivolous life. That’s why such people typically build an illusory world where only fantasies exist.

Thanks to their inherent charm, and often to their beauty. They easily awaken sympathy, making it easy for others to fall in love with them. They get used to this early and expect similar behavior from everybody in the future. However, this doesn’t always happen.

The lack of a strong and firm parent figure is often the reason such behavior is formed. Additional causes are: a chaotic environment, conflicts between parents, and lack of early guidance or supervision. All these unclear and vague rules prompt the child to form an adventurous persona, constantly seeking new and exciting things to do.

Lesson #2: Fear Can Simultaneously Activate And Paralyze Us

If we analyze fear without being afraid, we will immediately get the idea of its dual aspect. On the one hand, it can activate us, on the other, paralyze us.

Imagine the following scenario for a moment: It’s late at night. You’re walking home all by yourself. Suddenly, a guy holding a gun jumps in front of you and starts screaming – he wants your wallet.

At this exact moment, you can be these two things: 1) Scared as fuck. Paralyzed from the situation. Speechless. You will probably stand still for a moment and after several threats, you will hand over your possessions. 2) Scared but rather curious, “Is this guy for real?” After quickly analyzing the situation, you can grab his gun, punch the guy in the face and knock him over. Exactly what the guys in the action movies do.

You don’t want to remove fear from your life, rather, you should strive to embrace it, learn from it, accept it. To use it as a tool. Overcoming fear means a step forward in your development as a person.

So, if you’re afraid of doing something, the best advice will be to do it. This will help you get comfortable and overcome your fear in the long run.

Lesson #3: Our Attitude, Behavior, Thoughts Define Who We Are

In short, what you do is what defines you.

Remember what the Mechanic said in the book Fight Club: “You are not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis.” Well, he is totally right.

Marketers try to sell us the idea that we are our possessions all the time but this doesn’t mean that it’s true: “If you’re a funny looking hipster, curious about new high-tech products, you should definitely buy Apple products.” That’s what Apple is trying to sell us – at least in the past.

You’ve become exactly the person you are, not because of your body structure, or the pair of sneakers you’re wearing, but because of the things you say, do, and think about. A new watch, new car, new glasses, new refrigerator, a new hat even might look and feel nice, but they don’t define who you are.

An iPhone surely looks and works fine, but it’s just a phone. When you get one you don’t instantly turn into a cool-looking bearded guy wearing sunglasses when there’s no sun. You’re exactly the same guy, but with an expensive phone.

If change is what you’re looking for, start from the inside. Consider what are your thoughts, habits, and actions? Not what clothes you wear or what car you drive.

If you want to become a better person, don’t look for things to buy. Look for negative patterns in your behavior that you can improve.

Lesson #4: Failure Is Part of Becoming Successful

Centuries ago, people were mainly afraid of natural disasters, demons, witches, gods. Today, we emphasize on other, more abstract things: fear of public speaking, the dentist, commitment, clowns. But what we are really afraid of is ourselves.

Overcoming fear of heights or your worries before going to the dentist will surely make your visit there more pleasant, but it won’t really be something life-changing. In reality, what really makes a difference is blocking your negative thoughts. Worries about things like death, rejection, failure.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to accept that bad things will happen. That you will definitely perish at some point. That not everything you start will turn into a million-dollar company. That there will be a lot of rejections before a girl says, “yes, I will go out with you.”

Failure is part of being alive. Realizing this simple fact will help you maintain your motivation high even in times of despair.

Lesson #5: Our Early Years Are Of A Real Importance

If you carefully went through the four personality types mentioned above, you probably noticed a pattern. Something that was part of each of the four. Can you say what it was? That’s right, what happened to us in the past. The way we think and perceive the world around is largely influenced by how we’re raised by our parents.

Even though we can make efforts to change/remove some nasty habits destroying our lives. If we were exposed to bad parenting in the first couple of years of our lives, it will be really hard for us to heal the wounds.

What you can do though, is learn from both your, and your parent’s mistakes while raising your own children. The child’s earliest environment should offer, along with basic cares like: emotional warmth, attention, stability, tenderness, and support. Also a strong and equitable character that serves as an example to the child.

Or in other words, don’t ruin your child’s life only because yours was ruined.

Actionable Notes:

  • Your fears: What are you afraid of? Fear, like love, success, growth, is something personal. In order to conquer your anxieties, you must first realize what they are. List them on a piece of paper and also think about situations in which they occur.
  • The main cause of your fears: Fear occurs whenever we find ourselves in situations which we are unable to, or still not capable of handling. Think about speaking in front of others or about your first job interview. If you don’t have experience in any of the above, you will surely feel hesitant and nervous about doing them. Naturally, when we expose ourselves to more unfamiliar situations, we will lower our fear bar and increase our confidence.
  • Get comfortable with being different: To become independent, totally autonomous and to handle most of the problems life throws at us, we must differ from others. However, the more we stand out, the more lonely our surrounding world becomes. This naturally creates feelings of uncertainty, misunderstanding, rejection, wrong judgment, and other nasty follow-up feelings. But the opposite is even worse. The more we try to blend in, the more we’ll sink into the ordinary, mediocre lifestyle we all try to escape from.

Commentary And My Personal Takeaway

Although the book was written more than 50 years ago, the information inside is astonishingly true even today. It’s surely a must-read for everyone. At least for everyone who wants to gain some knowledge about their own limitations and of those around them.

Fritz Riemann convincingly explains why sometimes moral superiority, modesty, and some good character traits are in fact hidden aggression and are far from the truth of morality, modesty, and kindness.

The main thing I liked is the author’s idea that our real problem is not fear, but the overestimation of a certain type of fear. We give more than the necessary importance to a certain fear. Basically, our mind has a tendency to exaggerate things. And when it magnifies a certain fear, this leads to internal terror.

Notable Quotes:

“We must strive for stability. We need to establish and set up in this world like it’s our home, plan for the future, be purposeful as if we are to live forever. As if the world is stable and the future predictable – at the same time knowing, that our life can end at any moment.” Fritz Riemann

“I have become exactly the person I am not because I have a certain body structure, but because I have a certain attitude, a definite behavior towards the world and the people around, which behavior I have acquired from the history of my life.” Fritz Riemann

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