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There are some emotions which have been with me for the better part of my life – or perhaps every single day of my life. I call them constant companions. Guilt, pain, and fear come instantly to mind. I talk more about physical pain than emotional pain these days because, as my emotional pain decreased thanks to antidepressants and hard work on my cult past, my physical pain has grown, thanks to osteoarthritis. Both kinds of pain, though, are tough to live with 24/7.
Fear also is really hard to live with. It permeates every facet of my life, sometimes subtly, sometimes ferociously. It feels like a cage, boxing me in and preventing me from exploring life freely. It’s much safer sitting home alone with my computer or a good book and experiencing life at a distance.
It’s embarrassing at times. I cringe when I say I am phone phobic and many times I don’t say anything, I just grit my teeth and push through. When the fear starts mounting toward panic, I say something like, “I’m almost talked out” and end the call. It’s embarrassing to be late for an appointment because I got lost even though I had driven the route many times. I am always afraid of getting lost, and sometimes the distraction of anxiety makes my fear come true. So I allow myself extra time just in case but sometimes I don’t allow myself enough time to reorient myself.
When I get into the car, I whisper to myself, “It’s okay if I get lost. I have a full tank of gas, several maps, a GPS on my iPhone, and a charge card. And if worst comes to worst, I can ask for directions.” That’s reassuring, but not reassuring enough to totally take away the anxiety.
When the memories were flooding me, I became so agoraphobic that it took courage to go from one room to another in my own home. When you shake going to the bathroom or into the kitchen to cook dinner, that’s really agoraphobia! After all these years, it still happens when I am in flashback mode.
I figured out that I felt safe where I was because nobody was hurting me at the moment and I could see that I was alone. But I could not see all of the next room from where I was and danger might be just around the corner. In the flashback, I had one foot in the present and one in the past. My adult mind knew there was nobody else in the house but my little-girl terror had no such assurance. I felt quite a bit better when I figured that out, but it still was frightening to move from one room to another.
These are just a couple of examples of how fear interferes with living my life fully. I try to figure out what caused the fear in the first place (often easier said than done) and by soothing self-talk and reality checks. Sometimes I am successful, sometimes not. I try and push through the fear, but sometimes I just give in to it. That’s okay – I can’t spend all my precious energy on fighting battles that just pop up again in an hour.
It comes down to choosing between three ways of handling fear: figuring out the cause, talking myself through it, and giving in. And there are two ways of giving in: pushing the fear aside by avoiding looking at whatever is frightening me and allowing myself to sit still and pay attention to the fear, letting it wash over me. It’s reassuring to know that if I do nothing except feel the fear it will eventually turn into something else.
Frank Herbert said it eloquently in “Dune.”
LITANY AGAINST FEAR
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past
I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
6/21 Summer Solstice
6/23 Midsummer’s Eve/St. John’s Eve
6/28 Full moon
7/4 Fourth of July/US Independence Day
7/25 St. James’ Day/Festival of the Horned God
7/27 Full Moon
8/1 S N Lammas/Lughnasadh
8/26 S Full moon
Dates important to Neo-Nazi groups
6/6 D-Day: invasion of France in World War II
(Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lamas, Halloween, solstices, equinoxes, and full moons.)