fear, panic, thresholds


2008-8-31

aMusing my genius: "Going back into the dark realms of my early memories as a little kid, much of the world seemed a deeply scary place to me."

Reading that post, I was musing on my own 'fearlevel' in life... My dreamworld appears to be quite scarce on nightmares. That's something I've found quite interesting every time I talk to others about dreams. Now it's likely for people to state they don't have any dreams. That's more like "I don't remember any dreams." Yet I do. I actively work with dreams. And I can't really recall any major nightmares. Same in waking life. I seem to manage life's challenges with quite some 'trust'. In situations where it would be perfectly normal for me to panic, especially considering my visual handicap, I'm usually quite surprised by my own calm and collectedness.

Oh, I do have 'fears'. After all I live a life that could easily be labeled as agraophobic - I seldom venture outside my appartement alone, I avoid the need to contact strangers if I can. Sure I can explain them well through my handicap and the fully natural need of anyone to feel in control - which is hard if you only see 10% or less of what is going on around you.

So in that sense I do have fears. What I find more interesting is the way they form my life and my emotional state.

Fear - or "living in fear" - is something that is about the future. Fear is about something that has not yet happened. And may or may not actually happen. "Living in fear" means that we let a possibility affect our emotional state NOW. We let the future - and an uncertain one - ruin our emotional well being in the present.

I can clearly remember several situations as a child, and some as an adult, where I was in a situation that was suitable for me to be afraid: being lost / separated from my parents in a shopping mall at age 4, being stuck half way up a rockface with the 'realization' that I can't get all the way up but also not back down, having taken the wrong bus in Amsterdam and being on the OTHER side of it with only one more hour before my flight leaves etc.

I remember I was looking at fear in those situations. Early in my life, I think I paniced. But at some point i my life I seem to have found a spot of clarity. A friend in school once told me a trick (this was in regard to the fear of failing exams): "Imagine what the worst possible outcome would be. Imagine that outcome has already happened. Now what? How do you feel, how does it affect your life?"

It turns out, a lot of things we fear are merely inconvinient. Missing my plane from Amsterdam? Honestly, what would have happened? Yes it would have been majorly inconvinient. I had every reason to avoid that possibility to happen. But if it had transpired? In the long run, I'd still be sitting here today. It may have affected my life for one or two days. Other's consciously put themselves into far worse situations for 'adventure'. And I have done just that in my youth. I climbed up rocks without any safety measures, well knowing that my climbing abilities are limited. Then I hung there, sometimes quite stuck. I went through that panic moment of realisation that I'd had gotten myself in a situation I no longer controlled. And I went past the panic. After all, what good would panic have done me then and there? Only calm collectedness was of any use. The ability to observe options and find solutions.

In NLP there is a technique called "Going beyond the threshold." The technique is very similar to what my friend explained in school. You imagine the thing you fear has already happened. You look at your emotional and physical life AFTER it has happened. Right afterwards, half a year later, two years etc.

Yes, I have fears. I guess I may even have more than most. The difference might be that for some 'fear' is a deliberating emotional experience. A state of paralysis. Maybe I just learned very early in my life this trick of going beyond the threshold. What can happen, and what effect would it have?

Very interesting about this process is that things that loom as Big Black Clouds of Doom quickly become Major Inconviniences that you can live with if you must. The difference is that Black Clouds of Doom are outside our control, almost inevitable. Major Inconviniences are very inside our control. If not the Inconvinience itself, then at least the way we deal with it. We regain a sense of control over our life. Even if we can't control the stroke of fate itself (an accident for eg), we can still control how we deal with it. We can control what we do after it has happened.

And isn't all of our life just that? We didn't control when and where we were born. We hardly control when we meet whom. But we do control how we deal with the cards dealt to us.

Maybe I can wrap this up with a thought from a book I'm currently reading: "Nightmares are often dream encounters that have not been fully realized."

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