Denying anxiety and fear or dealing with all that entails? To meet an emotion is to open the nameless room that terrifies us precisely because we do not know what it hides. The symptoms are both mental and physical and it is the body itself that speaks: blocked chest, labored breathing, crazy heart, a thousand chills on the skin …
I freeze, I can’t act. The freezing, freezing , reactions and emotion, is one of the effects studied psychology in relation to fear. It is a real state of paralysis that can occur in the presence of a highly traumatic event. In the animal world it constitutes a defensive tactic dictated by the survival instinct . Yes, because fear is connected to the deepest level of our original drives. Live or die.
Fear marks a saving limit because it is alert to danger but, beware, an overdose can be just as lethal: it can literally make us go haywire. When the sense of panic spreads then I can no longer reason and I lose myself: in front of me only the desolate and dark land of an uncontrolled anxiety .
Perhaps this is why in ancient fairy tales and thriller films the places of fear have always been places where we cannot see and touch what we have in front of us: dark woods, the kingdom of fog and night, the darkness that swallows everything. Approaching that territory of darkness is the act of courage needed to unmask Bluebeard’s secret door: the only way to survive is to enter it and see what fear is made of , give it a name, contextualize it. Even breathe it.
- Strong is not born, it is made
A being who has just come into the world seems the most vulnerable thing ever seen before, yet it already has great strength within itself, the same indomitable tenacity that has allowed each of its cells to remain attached to existence from the very first beat of the heart.
While his mother is still licking him, the young foal is already trying to get to his feet with difficulty: he succeeds, in a very short time, and a couple of hours after birth he is already there, alone, vacillating and in precarious balance, ready to support its weight. We humans need more time to take the first steps and even more, perhaps, to feel we can make it. Yet, day after day, we are here: still alive, still standing despite everything. Remember this, today you are stronger than yesterday .
The strongest souls are those tempered by suffering. The most solid characters are littered with scars.
- Fear is the school to learn from
The sense of danger is what helps to define the limit towards which I can push myself and within which I must stop: it is a deep instinct, atavistic, and it is part of our evolution because in history, and every day, it allows us to survive. It is fear that stops us, locks our feet on a stop, pulls us back.
Whoever is never afraid is a dead man. When we do not feel fear, our safety is at stake. That is why it is important to honor fear . Once the rites of passage were used for this: learning to walk with one’s fears means learning to listen to the message they are bringing us and moving forward with the truth of our deepest emotions . It is not by denying them, but by accepting fear and anxiety that I can learn and make new discoveries.
- The courage to do the right thing is getting stronger
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, known as Mahatma, Great Soul , in 1880 is a young and shy student, not too fond of sports and an avid book reader. The head of the community where he was born, the coastal city of Porbandar, will declare him a “pariah”, excluded from his own society, yet this young man will not hesitate to leave alone for a totally unknown city: London. Young Gandhi goes to discover the other side of the world, meeting a culture totally distant from his own. He will remain a shy person, with a modest appearance, yet what each of his photographs transmits is a clear and direct gaze, which does not take a step back.
We are all afraid . The difference is the courage to do the things that are worthwhile for us. Gandhi will travel through South Africa and India: his mild, modest appearance and his frank gaze will become synonymous with an inner strength that is character, stance, authority that comes from the soul. This is true strength, it needs a few words because it is pure action.
A better planet is a dream that begins to come true when each of us decides to improve himself
- When fear follows you, turn around and face her
When we are very young, our fears take shape in places that are generally the territory of the dark : the black man lives in the cellar, that dark corner at the end of the corridor, the wardrobe. The shadow escapes, it has a thousand faces and since we were children we sense that this is precisely where the danger lies. For centuries, millennia, the greatest danger to survival was hidden in the unknown .
What we do not know represents a visceral and very ancient fear, almost impossible to eradicate or ignore. Do not be ashamed of your fears, of the anxiety that occasionally makes you wake up with a start at night. The anxiety attack today is a condition, studied, psychiatrized and sometimes too medicalized. But anxiety is not a lightning bolt that strikes the most vulnerable: anxiety and fear are part of the human condition, they are a space that we all have to cross. The sensation is taught by the history of cinema: two eyes that observe and follow you. The perception that someone is on your heels. Finding the courage to turn around and face fear means discovering what our most secret fears are made of .
- All fear disappears if it is to defend the one you love
On April 30, 1977, fourteen women gathered in Plaza de Mayo , the central square of Buenos Aires: they are the mothers of the disappeared and every week they will meet in the same place to ask the government about the fate of their children imprisoned, disappeared, literally swallowed up by the power machine. Every week, for years. To tell the world that it cannot be forgotten : the memory lives on.
The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo become a page of history. Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, Asociación Civil Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo , is currently a humanitarian association that in 2008 participated in the candidacy for the Nobel Peace Prize. What visceral and total fear is it possible to feel while fighting against the means of a strong power such as dictatorship? And what strength can arise when you fight for something and someone who goes beyond you?
Love must have the strength to draw certainty in itself. Then he will not be dragged, but
Hermann Hesse will drag
- When you touch it, fear melts like snow in the sun
Dawn comes and suddenly all the ghosts, as in the best of gothic fairy tales, lose consistency. Our fears vanish in the sunlight. How is it possible? It happens because when we are able to look fear in the face we are able to give it context and perhaps for the first time we really see what it is made of.
What feeds your fear? Sometimes they are self-beliefs that we have learned in the family or that we have built over the years. It does not matter what we are afraid of: the consequence of our choice, fear for our health, the hypothesis of losing the job or the love we are experiencing, can scare us. What matters is to start wondering what is the message that fear is bringing us and… read it. This is the difference between generalized anxiety and fear. Fear has a face and looking at your enemy is the first step in dealing with it. You may find that hers is a face you’ve known for a long time.
Fear creates the enemy, the enemy creates the defense and defense creates the attack. You get violent, you are constantly on your guard, you are against everyone. This must be understood: if you are afraid, you are against everyone.
- Each breath is oxygen that opens you to trust
The average respiratory rate is between 16 and 20 breaths in one minute. Think about how many breaths you take in a day. Most of the time we don’t notice it, both when we sleep and when we are awake. Breathing is obvious , natural. Yet there are times when we consciously put our full attention into this primal action, for example when we experience severe pain, during childbirth or when we panic.
Researchers from Stanford University, in the United States, have identified that behind the strong relationship between fear and breathing, a group of neurons located in the brainstem, at the base of the brain, could act. Neuroscientists have called them pranayama neurons , the same name that in India yoga disciplines identify the control of the vital breath, breathing techniques . The function of the pranayama neurons is that of a control unit capable of detecting variations in the respiratory rhythm, in direct communication with the locus coeruleus which in the brain plays a crucial role in the responses to stress and panic.
What does it mean? If our body is able to detect when our breathing accelerates because fear is entering the circulation, we too can influence this process. We can change the chemistry of our responses by working through the breath .
Your breath must flow gracefully, like a river,
and not like a rugged mountain range or a horse’s gallop.
Thich Nhat Hanh
- Inner strength arises from the imagination
When we think of an image, a photograph appears in our head. The heart, the nerves, the skin send signals: it is the current of a continuous exchange, but of what kind? Positive or negative, you too can choose the message to send to your brain. It seems that visualizing a natural scenario or a landscape that we love in a few moments helps to trigger a reaction capable of involving body and mind . This means that when you turn the eye of your mind towards something that makes your heart beat you have great power: you are building your resilience .
Close your eyes. Imagine spaces without borders. The vastness of the sea, the sunset that floods the mountain tops with light, the world seen from above through the air, as a bird experiences it. Right now your brain is processing images and according to neuroscientists while it performs a visualization operation inside us a change is already happening .The “as if” logic works like a magical medicine that spreads between neuronal connections: the heart’s rhythm slows down, the body begins to produce endorphins , the breath becomes wider and deeper. You are relaxing, you are finding a source of new energy.
We all have an unsuspected reservoir of strength within that emerges when life tests us.
- To live is to know how to take risks
Those who don’t take the risk never really start living. Do you know where the word “risk” comes from? In medieval Latin, RISCUS is the rock: sharp, it marks the most treacherous danger for ships, when the land is close but the possibility of a shipwreck is around the corner. Yet, life is just that. Walking in the balance knowing that yes, it’s true: falling is a real possibility . If that happens, we’ll dress up the skinned knees and the wounds will heal, again.
Day after day, we are learning to run faster. Today we know more than yesterday. Tomorrow you will be surprised at all the things you don’t know today.
I believe in pink.
I believe in kissing, kissing a lot.
I believe that laughing is the best way to burn calories.
I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong.
I believe happy girls are the prettiest,
I believe tomorrow will be another day,
And I believe in miracles
- Even the longest journey is made up of single steps
The monk Lao Tzu, considered the founder of Taoist philosophy, reminds us in a maxim that “Even a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”. Existence is a journey without a destination . Every day we walk and there will be times when we feel stuck on ourselves, stuck, and times when it seems easier to run. It doesn’t matter, it’s part of the game.
When we allow ourselves to be dominated by anxiety then it is easy to notice that we remain immobile , like a goldfish spinning around in a small glass bowl. In those moments our thoughts short-circuit, we “ruminate” obsessive thoughts and literally hit obstacles that appear insurmountable.
The only space you can act on is … now. Today you have the possibility to decide whether to move or not. Exactly now. Which direction do you choose to go in? Make good use of your compass and let it be the beginning of a courageous journey.