A psychologist confronts our pervasive misunderstanding of anxiety and presents a powerful new framework for reimagining and reclaiming the confounding emotion as the advantage it evolved to be.
We taught people that anxiety is dangerous and damaging, and that the solution to its pain is to eradicate it like we do any disease—prevent it, avoid it, and stamp it out at all costs. Yet cutting-edge therapies, hundreds of self-help books, and a panoply of medications have failed to keep debilitating anxiety at bay. A third of us will struggle with anxiety disorders in our lifetime and rates in children and adults continue to skyrocket.
That’s because the anxiety-as-disease story is false—and it’s harming us.
In this radical reinterpretation, Dr. Tracy Dennis-Tiwary argues that anxiety is an evolved advantage that protects us and strengthens our creative and productive powers. Although it’s related to stress and fear, it’s uniquely valuable—allowing us to imagine the uncertain future and compelling us to make that future better. That’s why anxiety is inextricably linked to hope.
By distilling the latest research in psychology and neuroscience, including her own, combining it with real-world stories and personal narrative, Dennis-Tiwary shows how we can acknowledge the discomfort of anxiety and see it as a tool, rather than something to be feared and reviled. Detailing the terrible cost of our misunderstanding of anxiety, while celebrating the lives of people who harness it to their advantage, she argues that we can—and must—learn to be anxious in the right way.
Future Tense blazes the way for a paradigm shift in how we relate to and understand anxiety in our day-to-day lives—a fresh set of beliefs and insights that allow us to explore and leverage even very distressing anxiety rather than to be overwhelmed by it. Through this new prism of thinking, even anxiety disorders can be alleviated. Achieving a new mindset will not fix anxiety itself—because the emotion of anxiety is not broken; the way we cope with it is. By challenging our long-held assumptions about anxiety, this book provides a concrete framework for how to reclaim it for what it has always been—a gift rather than a curse, and a source of inner strength, joy, and ingenuity.
Tracy A. Dennis-Tiwary, Ph.D. is a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Hunter College, the City University of New York, where she directs the Emotion Regulation Lab, and is cofounder of the digital therapeutics company Wise Therapeutics. She received her doctoral and postdoctoral training in clinical psychology at The Pennsylvania State University and New York University School of Medicine. She has published over one hundred scientific articles in top peer-reviewed journals and delivered more than three hundred presentations at academic conferences and for corporate clients. Dr. Dennis-Tiwary has been featured throughout the media, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, CBS, ABC, CNN, NPR, and Bloomberg Television. She lives in New York City.
“This book is going to smash your existing views about anxiety—and replace them with more helpful ones. As an expert on the neuroscience of emotion, Tracy Dennis-Tiwary has delivered the riveting read we all need to help us learn to worry well instead of worrying less.” — Adam Grant, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Think Again and host of the podcast WorkLife
“If you’re feeling more anxious than usual and, on top of that, feeling anxious about feeling anxious, then this book is for you. Anxiety, it turns out, is a feature, not a bug, of human nature. In Future Tense, Tracy Dennis-Tiwary offers a much-needed and compelling guide—based on years of scientific research and her personal clinical experience—to the emotion that is in some ways most easily misunderstood and, therefore, most undervalued. Clear, practical, and incredibly readable!” — Angela Duckworth, PhD, Rosa Lee and Egbert Chang Professor, University of Pennsylvania, and New York Times bestselling author of Grit
“A fresh, hopeful approach to anxiety that will soothe readers facing a world filled with pandemics, war, and political turmoil.” — Booklist
“A powerful and deeply informed new voice in the important conversation around anxiety and its causes and effects. Future Tense offers knowledge, empathy, and clarity in these times when chronic emotional pain has been normalized. Framing how anxiety works in our favor is a revolutionizing shift in perspective.” — Alanis Morissette
“Reading Future Tense is an epiphany; it will turn your understanding of anxiety on its head, and point you to new paths forward. It offers a long-overdue challenge to the medicalization and numbing of anxiety. Instead, Tracy Dennis-Tiwary encourages us to consider how to live and grow with anxiety, and find creativity in dealing with life’s fundamental uncertainties. A wide conversation around this book is urgently needed for our anxious times.” — Dacher Keltner, PhD, professor at UC Berkeley, faculty director, Greater Good Science Center
“Future Tense teaches us—with incredible research and great storytelling—that counter to everything we’ve thought and been taught, anxiety, when understood and used wisely, is one of the most valuable emotions to help us achieve our dreams. If you’re prone to anxiety like me or live or work with people who are anxious, this is a must read!” — Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and bestselling author of Permission to Feel
“Future Tense is groundbreaking. Filled with wisdom, compassion, and humor, it shatters our long-held assumptions and sets the stage for a new, hopeful way of understanding how to live—and thrive—with anxiety.” — Reshma Saujani, CEO of the Marshall Plan for Moms and founder of Girls Who Code
“Our minds classify anxiety as ‘bad,’ but that very idea keeps anxiety from delivering its often useful messages about what’s ahead. It’s time for the whole culture to learn how to use anxiety when it’s helpful and let it go when it’s not, but that starts with learning what it is and how to feel it. This wise and well-written book will help. Highly recommended.” — Steven C. Hayes, PhD, originator of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and author of A Liberated Mind