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To live in anxiety is to be human

Many people are anxious at times in their lives but, for some, anxiety can take over their lives

Published on Jul 26, 2014 2:39 PM
Two Brazilian players crushed by their team's World Cup semi-final defeat against Germany earlier this month in Brazil. What happened with the Brazilian team is a classic illustration of the Yerkes-Dobson law, where moderate levels of anxiety improve performance, but only up to a point. -- PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

"SOME people believe football is a matter of life and death... I can assure you it is much, much more important than that," said the legendary manager of Liverpool Football Club, Bill Shankly.

In the wake of that humiliating trouncing of the Brazilian football team in the semi-final of the World Cup - a defeat that assumed the proportion of a national tragedy - that quotation doesn't seem so ridiculous.

Various explanations have been advanced for this inexplicable and spectacular failure of a football powerhouse. Much had been said about the excessively high expectations placed on a team whose nerves were stretched as they inched closer to that coveted trophy that represented so much more to the Brazilians.

Signs of a potential meltdown were evident in the ill-concealed strain on the faces of the players and their occasional tearful outbursts. The team was already, to steal that line from the 19th-century poet Robert Browning, dangerously close to the edge of things.

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Background story

Paradoxically, bravery is often found in those with excessive fears over other things. Mahatma Gandhi might have been fearful of addressing crowds who adulate him, but he showed redoubtable moral and physical courage in standing up to the might of the British Empire.