Easing The Rule of Fear – Healing Anxiety
Many people on this planet live under the rule of fear, in a state of physical, emotional and mental tyranny. Fear keeps them in a condition of emotional misery, suppressing their health and their higher consciousness. Trapped in survival mode, people with anxiety are consumed with feelings of dread, driven by compulsive action that they undertake in order to ward off a perceived, expected, or imagined danger.
While anxiety is a universal human emotion known to us all, some people’s destiny is more directly involved with learning to overcome this particular type of suffering.
Anxiety can range from a vague and constant sense of foreboding, uneasiness, worry, a pervasive background feeling that it is not safe to relax, to a more acute and sudden full-blown state of panic. During panic the body becomes highly dys-regulated, which is to say it shuts down, under the onslaught of fear chemicals flooding the body and mind.
This flood of chemicals is designed by nature to be called upon if necessary to face a life-threatening danger, but for the person with anxiety, physiological reactions of fight-flight are being mobilized in anticipation of danger that only might occur.
People who are frequently and severely triggered into fear deserve the utmost compassion, as they are tolerating a truly hellish state. Fear’s hard, toxic effect on the body feels awful and has many health repercussions. The thoughts generated by fear are appropriate for a war zone: “I have to do something right now or else, I have fight someone off, I have to escape but I can’t, Someone please get me out of here, I’m helpless, I’m about to die, I have to do something not to die, but I can’t, I’m trapped, I’m powerless” and so on. For many people coping with anxiety, it is the grueling anxiety attack itself that eventually becomes the most feared experience. It is no wonder they may begin to live in terror of encountering their own fear, and shut their worlds down to reduce the risk of getting triggered.
When we are oppressed by anxiety we become obsessed with control. To stay in a posture of guardedness against a danger we fear, which, although dreaded and sensed, cannot be predicted or managed, we maintain a state of vigilance. We stay battened down, crouched, hyperalert and uneasy, ready to spring into action should the dreaded reality come to pass. We opt out of situations and events that are too open-ended or unknown, believing we must be able to have prediction and control in order to manage and reduce the experiences of anxiety that have been oppressing us. We may spend our energies scanning the environment and anticipating all potential outcomes of all events. We may be shut out of the present moment – where all joy exists – because we feel compelled to look past what is happening here and now, into a projected potential future. Unable to stop and sense into the now, we are locked out of pleasure and trapped in a loop of planning for what could happen, what might go wrong. A friend once described this as “pre-living”– a practice of unhealthy dwelling on the future. Though we might scoff at fortune tellers, psychics, and magic eight balls, we unquestioningly believe our own equally unscientific predictions.
The anxiety disorders named by medical science have different flavors, according to which danger we may be especially preoccupied with, as well as ways we may have behaved to ward those dangers off. Those of us relating to the description of social phobia may fear humiliation, and thus seek shelter in isolation. Those of us relating to the flavor of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may fear contamination, and ward it off with rituals and repetition. People with separation anxiety feel intense fear when losing contact with a person or place that signifies safety to them, while people with specific phobias may be centered on one particular threat, such as snakes. There are many different ways to experience anxiety, and the broadest category, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, refers to a pattern of chronic, general fear which may be attached to a wide variety of triggers or even seem to just exist in us without an anchor. What exactly we fear and obsess over may feel personal, but the physiology of fear is the same for all these disorders: rapid heart rate, sweating, shallow breathing, stress, and hypervigilance are signs that the body is in fight-flight mode.
Severe anxiety is such an uncomfortable and harrowing experience that many sufferers seek relief in the form of drugs, alcohol and prescription medications, as well as other disordered behavior patterns like relationship addiction, codependency, and unhealthy eating. But as with all illnesses of the soul, short-term suppression of the surface symptom alone does not get at the underlying reason that these kinds of signals are coming up in the body all the time, in the first place.
For a person who is afraid of her own state of fear, and therefore of the many things that could cause her to go into that state of fear, she first of all needs help learning how to get out of that fear state and back into feeling good. As she is able to begin to get herself out of fear, she will fear her fear less, and gradually learn to regulate herself in situations where her fearful reaction is not useful for her. As a result, she will not need to compulsively take actions meant to keep her out of fear – she knows that, should fear arise, she can get herself out of it. Her world can then open up, and she can collect experiences of safety, notice the times when it all worked out fine.
At Villa Kali Ma we are equipped to teach women with anxiety how they can ease their own states of fear and learn to have sovereignty over their own emotional worlds again. Yoga, gardening, breath work, somatic experiencing, EMDR, massage and nutritional healing, amongst other supports, help the body to re-set to the physiological state of relaxed calm. Every time a woman is able to allow and eventually deliberately create experiences of safety in her body, she grows stronger in her ability to counteract fear. At the same time, emotional healing of previous life events that wired us to fear life in the first place is facilitated through expressive arts, individual and group therapy, and the healing joy of finding safe community through connection with other recovering women. Over time, the cultivation of a reliable spiritual connection that provides supple and abundant support for navigating her human experience likewise gradually replaces the state of fear. With time and practice, women who have suffered under the rule of fear can come to live peaceably and happily in a more loving, safe, and relaxed kingdom of love.