31 Aug The Real Danger of Fear
Something Was Lurking
A sense of anxiousness washed over me as I stood, not so patiently, in line for my turn at the checkout. It was a palpable flush of a keen awareness that something was lurking in the aisle to my left, just waiting to pounce. Without moving my head, I begin to scan my surroundings. Just as my eyes began to move like a cartoon character, I located the source of the impending doom…someone I had not seen in many years. Our paths had not intersected since my late teens and that was just fine with both of us as our last encounter was, let’s just say, ‘unpleasant’. There it was the predator, a sabretooth tiger and I was the prey about to be devoured as there was no escape. Despite my efforts to invoke the cloak of invisibility, the tiger crouched as the scent of fear wafted through the air.
The only words that were running through my mind are not suitable to share here. As our eyes met, I felt the corners of my mouth ooze upward as my eyebrows furled. One might as well gaze deeply into the soul of what is about to consume them. My shoulders tensed as the breath quickened; finally, it was my turn at the checkout. Despite my overwhelming desire to ditch the items and run for the door, I proceeded with the motions of the transaction. As I hastily made my way from this arena of death, there was a familiar sound beckoning from behind.
I Had Been Mauled
As I turned, once more my eyes met those of the predator. The tiger approached with out-stretched paws as it lunged toward me. Much to my astonishment, it seemed I was being embraced, not eaten. I stood paralyzed, unable to reciprocate as I was certain I had been mauled and did not realize I was dead yet. The tiger offered a low rumbling growl that my brain began to interpret as words, humble and sorrowful tones. It seems as though the tiger was acknowledging that our last encounter was indeed harsh and would like make amends. We exchanged cursory conversation for a few moments and then each went on our separate ways, both fully intact.
From the safety of my now locked car, I began to analyze the event (yep, this is still my superpower). Why had I been so frightened? What created the physical response to a perceived threat? When else in my life have I experienced this? Seriously, when was the last time I had been stalked by a sabretooth?
After many hours of introspection, it became clear that this was a learned response. In my life there have been relatively few times when I was in true danger; events that would have caused my physical being to be critically harmed. Why was it that a chance encounter (or synchronicity) with an old acquaintance brought forth such a response that the fight, flight, freeze response was invoked?
Confusion Between Danger And Fear
I am now working to understand how my confusion between danger and fear is affecting the choices I make. What I have discovered so far is that I can logically understand that danger is real and fear is an illusion or learned pattern. There is danger in crossing in a busy street, walking a tightrope over the alligator pit without a net, and skydiving.
There appears to be a sub-category of danger that falls into what I would call ‘calculated risk’. Examples of this would be crossing the street in the crosswalk when the walk sign is active, feeding the alligators before walking the tightrope, and wearing a well-prepared parachute when you leave the airplane.
But the most delightfully frustrating discovery has been that fear plays a profound role in my existence. For me fear is the sense that something might go wrong or even worse, I might make a mistake; which activates the danger response. Imagined or real (whatever real means), the response is the same. My stress hormones must not ever subside as my brain can imagine danger in everything. Each action must be carefully thought through and a plan for every variable must be developed prior to embarking on any journey.
The knotted double-dutch ropes of fear and danger that I skip over every day leaves me exhausted. Some days existing is all that is possible because of the fear of conflict around every corner. This imagined potential sucks the life from my soul. Why do I continue with this thought/behavior? I long for a place and time where we are kind, loving, and honorable. For it is there that my mind has decided I could retire the ropes and rest a bit.
The Only Stripes I Can Change Are My Own
However, until this utopian land is discovered, I will continue my journey in this life. Employing techniques like self-hypnosis, reiki, meditation, and yoga to explore more helpful emotions and scenarios the mind can create. Learning more about me and how I create my own perceptions may well manifest that peaceable place I so desire. Along the way, I am committed to allowing courage to shine brightly when the fear rises up. This power will grow as I am able to recognize the truth of danger and the falsehoods of fear; resting in the truth that a tiger will do as it was created to. The only stripes I can change are my own.
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