There has been a tendency in the sociology of education to stress the anxieties and fears that are so potently aroused in relation to the transition to secondary school. While this work is extremely important we suggest that an emphasis on fear and anxiety cannot get to grips with the very real sense of excited anticipation with which the children's talk in our study is also infused. The focus of this paper is to consider some of the ways in which anxiety does figure in children's narratives around the secondary school transfer. We examine some of the positive functions of anxiety as part of a developmental process, placing it as an integral and necessary force in transitional states, particularly those connected to changes which impact powerfully on children's construction of 'self'. We consider some of the ways in which some psycho-dynamic frameworks (object relations theories) and social theories (particularly modernism) conceptualise anxiety and its place in the struggle involved in the project of 'selfhood'.