Life-Enhancing Anxiety: Key to a Sane World by Kirk J. Schneider

Life-Enhancing Anxiety: Key to a Sane World by Kirk J. Schneider was released on February 1, 2023, published by The University Professors Press. 

Life-Enhancing Anxiety makes a bold proposal: It is not less anxiety that we need today, but more, at least of a certain kind.

It seems counterintuitive. Anxiety is going through the roof in our time, and yet this book advances the notion that there is not enough anxiety— at least of a certain kind. People are laboring in the thousands, maybe millions, with anxiety disorders. There is a war going on in Ukraine, authoritarianism is on the rise, and climatic disaster is upon us. These crises are driven by as well as perpetrating anxiety; and yet this volume raises the prospect that the crises are the result of avoidance of a certain type of anxiety. Kirk Schneider calls this life-enhancing anxiety. Life-enhancing anxiety is the anxiety we must face to prevent life-destroying anxiety. It is challenging and requires pluck. But it also may just save us from the disastrous path with which we now contend.

The book comprises a collection of original and previously published essays that converge on what Schneider calls life-enhancing anxiety.  Life-enhancing anxiety is the invigorating degree of anxiety needed to become passionately engaged, ethically attuned, and creatively enriched. Set against our anxiety-avoidant times, life-enhancing anxiety enables us to “live with and make the best of the depth and mystery of existence.”

The potential for life-enhancing anxiety begins at the moment of birth—the point at which we shift from relative nonexistence and unity to sudden, abrupt existence and disunity. This juncture is both daunting and wondrous. Yet it is the management of the juncture by both caretakers and the culture at large that is all important; for it is that management that forms the bedrock for our capacity to deeply live, or to skim only the surfaces; to attain courage, or to seek refuge in gimmicks. The book goes on to elaborate this developmental arc and apply it to a range of personal and social challenges. Among these challenges are Schneider’s personal struggle with life-enhancing anxiety; the role of life-enhancing anxiety in the cultivation of a sense of awe (humility and wonder) toward all existence; the role of life-enhancing anxiety in the arts, particularly film and literature; applications within the discipline of psychology; applications to social and political crises (war and violence in particular); and applications to spirituality and religion. Schneider concludes the book with a brief section on the relevant research on life-enhancing anxiety, followed by an Epilogue. The Epilogue summarizes the implications of life-enhancing anxiety for a more sane, sustainable, and awe-informed world.


“In this fascinating book, Kirk Schneider–who has spent a distinguished career defending the core values of psychotherapists against dehumanizing pressures from an increasingly consumeristic, objectifying environment–helps readers find ways to survive and flourish in our stressful world. Instead of trying to soothe our fears that much is out of kilter in contemporary life, he suggests that if we are not anxious enough about the right problems, we risk being unequipped to address them. This provocative, brilliant, and paradoxically comforting book belongs in the library of anyone who cares about the fate of humanity. —Nancy McWilliams, Ph.D., ABPP, Distinguished Affiliate Faculty, Rutgers Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology, author of Psychoanalytic Diagnosis and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy

“Life-Enhancing Anxiety challenges us to rethink our understanding of anxiety as something to be avoided or managed at all costs. Instead, Schneider urges us to consider the many ways this basic human emotion can help us grow, more fully engage with existence, and transform ourselves in ways that lead to more fulfilling lives. In his view, anxiety is inherently tied to the experience of awe, a transformative experience that has become harder to come by in the increasingly regimented and standardized lives most people live. This is a provocative thesis that integrates ideas from previous existential thinkers, empirical research, Schneider’s decades of experience as a psychotherapist, and his insightful contemplation of his own life trajectory. It is a stimulating and rewarding read that will be of great value to psychotherapists, scientists, and lay people alike.” —Dr. Tom Pyszczynski, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, USA. Co-author of The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life with Jeff Greenberg and Sheldon Solomon

“In a world where any signs of discomfort are met with harshness to the point of total loss of tolerance for ambiguity, uneasiness, and disputation; and resilience has become a teachable skill rather than a natural and acquired fruit of life, Life-Enhancing Anxiety is a breath of fresh air. Schneider puts forward a solid argument based on empirical evidence, years of clinical work and personal experience to remind us of the necessity of recognizing anxiety as a life force. He invites us to reconsider the existential roots of anxiety as a powerful mobilizer and not a paralyzer. The wisdom shared in this book finally, should be enlightening for fellow mental health practitioners and their clients, community educators and students.” —Dr. Sara Nasserzadeh, Co-Founder of Relationship Panoramic Inc. and Senior Advisor to the United Nations

“One of the most common misconceptions about psychotherapy is that it helps us relieve anxiety. Yet, existentialist philosophers have always argued the contrary, that therapy should be employed to promoteanxiety. In this timely and radical study, Kirk Schneider, one of the world’s leading existential therapists, once again regales us with his uncanny ability to ease us into truths that we all too often wish to avoid. In showing that anxiety is not our enemy, but a friend that can potentially help us embrace life to the fullest, this remarkable book is destined to become a classic.” —M. Guy Thompson, Ph.D., Founder and Director, New School for Existential Psychoanalysis; author, TheDeath of Desire: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness; The Legacy of R. D. Laing: An Appraisal of his Contemporary Relevance

“In this expansive text, Kirk Schneider probes life’s fundamental questions and takes the reader on a search for depth, meaning, connection and love. He traverses key aspects of society and self to define what’s needed to heal divides in our cultures, politics, relationships and selves. Drawing from our experiences with Covid, political divides, racial and economic injustice, armed conflicts at home and abroad, tensions over school curricula, climate change and more, Schneider outlines how the psychology and science of anxiety are key to understanding and solving these problems. He even puts himself on the couch, with exquisite vulnerability. In an adept interplay of our most personal engagements with our sociocultural surround, Schneider illuminates how we can live amidst paradox, embrace anxiety, and transform suffering into growth. This is an essential read for those looking to understand our culture and our times and to create a life of deep meaning and purpose.” —Linda Michaels, PsyD MBA, Chair and Co-Founder, Psychotherapy Action Network (PsiAN) Psychologist, Consulting Editor of Psychoanalytic Inquiry and Fellow of the Lauder Institute Global MBA program

“In a world mired in anxiety and fear, Professor Kirk Schneider presents a ground-breaking analysis of anxiety while examining the deeply rooted existential nature of human disturbances. Schneider beautifully and powerfully illustrates the inescapability of anxiety in the human condition and provides a rigorous model of psychological hardiness. Schneider’s life-enhancing anxiety goes beyond the reductionist models of anxiety and delves into the interplay of elements that create the anxiety-inducing paralysis in our social and cultural milieu. While celebrating the bridge between philosophy and psychology, Schneider elucidates the vitality of awe for a more transcendent, sagacious mode of being.” —Sayyed Mohsen Fatemi, Ph.D., Adjunct Faculty, Department of Psychology, York University.  Author of The psychology of inner peace, Film Therapy, and forthcoming, Therapeutic Applications of Langerian Mindfulness

“Schneider offers a vital solution to addressing the epidemic of life-destroying anxiety plaguing our patients and clients. We desperately need a bigger picture of allaying anxiety than conventional psychology, pharmaceuticals, and avoidance through addiction to technology. Cultivation of life-enhancing anxiety is the paradigm shift to cultivate the capacities of love, creativity, humility, wonder, and a sense of adventure toward living–what Schneider calls “awe“ in the midst of so many unknowns.  For humanity to thrive in our next chapter on Earth, we need this brilliant book to open a new door to embracing (and engaging with) Life-Enhancing Anxiety.” —Michael Amster, MD, coauthor of The Power of Awe and researcher at the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center

About the Author:

Kirk J. Schneider, PhD, is a leading spokesperson for contemporary existential-humanistic and existential-integrative psychology. Dr. Schneider was a 2022 Candidate for President of the American Psychological Association (APA), a cofounder and current president of the Existential-Humanistic Institute (an award-winning psychotherapy training center), and a two-term Member of the Council of Representatives of the APA.

He is the past president (2015-2016) of the Society for Humanistic Psychology (Division 32) of the APA, recent past editor of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology (2005-2012), a founder and frequent presenter/facilitator of the bridge-building dialogue approach the Experiential Democracy Dialogue, and a trained moderator for the conflict mediation group Braver Angels.

Dr. Schneider is an adjunct faculty member at Saybrook University and Teachers College, Columbia University and an Honorary Member of the Society for Existential Analysis of the UK and the East European Association for Existential Therapy. He received the Rollo May Award for “outstanding and independent contributions” to the field of humanistic psychology from the Society for Humanistic Psychology and is a Fellow of seven Divisions of the APA (5, 9, 32, 42, 12, 29, & 24).

His work on existential-integrative psychotherapy has been featured in a special issue of the Journal of Psychotherapy Integration (March, 2016), as well as The Wiley World Handbook of Existential Therapy and the APA’s forthcoming Handbook of Psychotherapy. Dr. Schneider has published over 200 articles, interviews, and chapters and has authored or edited 14 books, including The Paradoxical Self, Horror and the Holy, Rediscovery of Awe, Awakening to Awe, The Spirituality of Awe, The Polarized Mind, The Handbook of Humanistic Psychology, Existential-Humanistic Therapy, Existential-Integrative Psychotherapy, The Wiley World Handbook of Existential Therapy, and The Depolarizing of America: A Guidebook for Social Healing. Dr. Schneider’s work has been featured in Scientific American, the New York Times, USA Today, The Guardian, Vanity Fair, Forbes Health, Psychology Today, BBC World News, and many other health and psychology outlets.

For more information on Dr. Schneider’s work visit

Thinking: A Memoir by Richard E. Nisbett

Richard E. Nisbett is one of the world’s most respected psychologists. His work has inspired thinkers like Malcolm Gladwell:

“The most influential thinker, in my life, has been the psychologist Richard Nisbett. He basically gave me my view of the world.” -Malcolm Gladwell, The New York Times Book Review

Richard E. Nisbett recently released his memoir Thinking, published by Agora Books (on February 3, 2021).

Thinking: A Memoir is both an intellectual autobiography and a personal history. It describes Nisbett’s research showing how people reason, how people should reason, why errors in reasoning occur, how much you can improve reasoning, what kinds of problems are best solved by the conscious mind and what kinds by the unconscious mind, and how we should think about intelligence in light of answers to such questions. It shows that self-knowledge can be dramatically off-kilter and points to ways to improve it. The book shows that different cultures have radically different ways of reasoning, some of which are demonstrably superior to typical Western ways. The book starts with the author’s early experiences, many of which directly influenced his subsequent research.


“Richard Nisbett is one of the most influential psychologists on the planet.  But he’s not just an important psychologist, he’s an important thinker, full stop.  This memoir chronicles a truly extraordinary life of scientific discovery, interdisciplinary dialogue and public engagement. It’s astonishing how many of Nisbett’s remarkable discoveries resonate far beyond his home field: in philosophy, no psychologist, with the possible exceptions of Freud, Skinner, and Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman, has had as much impact on how foundational issues are conceived.” –John Doris, Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University, author of Lack of Character: Personality and Moral Behavior

“Nisbett’s vivid anecdotes provide an insider’s view of social psychology and the characters who have created the field, including him. While worth reading as a memoir, the book provides an ideal introduction to social psychology.” –Randolph Nesse, author of Why We Get Sick and Good Reasons for Bad Feelings

Thinking is available for sale on: and Noble.



Why “Thinking” as a title for a memoir? Doesn’t everyone think? Yes, but not that many people think a lot about thinking, or so I think. Also, only a tiny handful of people have spent a lifetime doing scientific research on thinking.

I have studied how people reason and make inferences about the world, how people should reason and make those inferences, what kinds of errors in reasoning are common, why errors in reasoning occur, how much you can improve reasoning, what kinds of problems are best solved by the conscious mind and what kinds by the unconscious mind, how important IQ is compared with other kinds of cognitive skills, and how we should think about intelligence in light of answers to such questions. In trying to answer questions like these, I have built on my training as a social psychologist by collaborating with other social psychologists, as well as with cognitive psychologists, developmental psychologists, personality psychologists, neuroscientists, behavior geneticists, economists, philosophers, statisticians, computer scientists, a psychiatrist, a political scientist, and a legal scholar.

I couldn’t have learned as much as I have about the human mind without collaborating with such a wide range of people. Collaboration made it possible to develop a view of intelligence very different from that of the scientists who specialize in that field. I have come to believe that the consensus about intelligence that existed at the end of the 20th century was largely wrong in crucial respects. Essentially, I think the consensus placed too much importance on heritability and too little on the environment, and utterly failed to recognize the importance of the interaction of genes with the environment. I think the consensus was also wrong in emphasizing IQ-type talents to the exclusion of valuable cognitive skills and knowledge that don’t help you get a high score on an IQ test. And the consensus was decidedly wrong in concluding that genes might play a role in the difference between blacks and whites in IQ.

Working with so many excellent people was possible only because I spent most of my career at the University of Michigan. There are terrific academics in virtually every field there. Equally important is the character of the university, which encourages collaboration among faculty. I believe collaboration in the behavioral sciences is more common at Michigan than at any other university in the U.S. This book offers some speculations about what it is that makes collaboration likely in a university.

As a consequence of the collaborations, this book is unlike any intellectual autobiography you’re likely to encounter. Though personally I’m pretty independent and individualistic, as a scientist, I’m very interdependent and collectivist. The intellectual diversity of these research teams has made it possible to work on an extremely wide range of topics, some rather distant from the topic of thinking, including the proper way to understand the contributions of personality to social behavior, the application of microeconomic principles to decisions we make in everyday life, why the typical job interview is worse than worthless, the fact that there is a “culture of honor” that accounts for the violence of the U.S. South, how members of different cultures perceive different aspects of the world and why it is they literally perceive them in a different way, and how ecologies dictate economies which dictate characteristic social relations which dictate ways of perceiving and thinking.

About the Author:

Richard E. Nisbett is one of the world’s most respected psychologists. His work focuses on issues in social psychology and cognitive science. He has received the Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions from the American Psychological Association and many other national and international awards. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is a recipient of the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. His book The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently . . . and Why won the William James Award of the American Psychological Association. That book, as well as Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count and Mindware: Tools for Smart Thinking have been translated into multiple languages. His newest book is Thinking: A Memoir. 

To learn more, go to

To request a copy of Thinking to review or an interview with Richard Nisbett, please contact Kelsey Butts at Book Publicity Services at or (805) 807-9027.