Exploring Fear and Anxiety — running away from our fear and anxiety, or hoping it will disappear of its own accord, is silly. Learning to see, recognize and deal with what arises is the mark of wisdom. Bodywork can help!
In This Moment
And thus is becomes November. Time for reflection, quieting our minds, and finding a centred way of being.
I recently read “Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety” by Daniel Smith — it was an OK read, with a few moments that were excellent. Smith points to researchers that differentiate between fear and anxiety. Basically, we fear “real things,” (the car that’s going to run us over.) Anxiety is “made up,” and is directed not at reality, but at the stories we tell ourselves.
The solution Smith proposes fits what we write about: discover the anxiety voice, and challenge it at every turn.
It’s similar to “The Work,” created by Byron Katie:
“Katie’s method asks four questions intended to help people identify stressful thoughts and to inquire into them, finding their own truth and understanding of their own situation. The questions asked of a thought are: 1) Is it true?, 2) Can you absolutely know that it’s true?, 3) How do you react when you believe that thought?, and 4) Who would you be without the thought? The follow-up step to these four questions is called “turnarounds” in which various opposites of the original thought are experienced.”
Many moons ago, I wrote a (still free!) booklet called “The Watcher,” which was all about the same idea: creating an internal, calm “voice” dedicated to one thing:
The counter-intuitive idea that fear and anxiety both fade when you:
Explore and experiment with those things you scare yourself about.
Our culture teaches us the opposite — that when you are scared, or confused, or anxious — run like hell.
I believe it is almost always a good idea to do the opposite of what culture teaches, and always, always, to confront our choices head-on.
If you’ve been with us for a while, you’ll know that one place where all of this “comes home to roost” is with Bodywork. We’ll be talking next issue about the mechanics of blocked energy and how Bodywork can help — this week, we’ll just look at how this works.
Here’s an example: yesterday I did Bodywork with a friend. The day before she’d reached for something and hurt her shoulder. She tried a shower, and doing some stretches. During the stretches, something else let go, and she got hit with a ton of pain — she almost went to Emerg.
I invited her over for a session, and she expected to only be able to stand 15 minutes or so. The session finished almost 3 hours later.
I worked on her back, and started nowhere near her shoulder. I started just above her pelvis. This surprised her, until I started digging around, and she realized how blocked and sore those muscles were.
As regards Bodywork, here is our perspective: There’s a sore spot, and I push on it, hard. I then look at referred pain (in the example above, the shoulder,) and then work on spots where old, old stuff is. (In the example, her sciatic, the rest of her butt, and around her sacrum.)
The cultural norm? “If it hurts, leave it alone. If there’s a problem, blame someone else. If there’s an emotion, stuff it.”
We beg to differ.
Nothing gets resolved by ignoring it. Plain and simple. Take relationship issues. Rare indeed is the couple who comes for counselling at the first hint of difficulty — or even before there is a difficulty.
No, people put up with minor discomfort, which becomes an issue, which becomes a problem, which becomes a fight, which becomes a crisis. Then, they show up and want the therapist to “fix it.”
Sometimes, years have passed since the whole thing started, but working on it back then didn’t happen, because such work was seen as painful, and therefore better put off.
Many, many people live their whole lives this way.
Others, like yesterday’s client, have avoided dealing with the cause of her pain by trying many physical routes — Bodywork, massage, physio. I keep suggesting that that root cause is her propensity for “delaying gratification.” Her body reminds her that there is one short life to live, and she replies, “Yeah, but I have things to do, people to fix, and others to contend with. When I get caught up, I’ll take care of me.“
And it never happens. Her passion is going to waste, caught by her inflexibility (and inflexible pelvis.)
One of the things I’ve had to get over is regret over how often clients show up, and then do a couple of sessions, just to get the pain down to a manageable level. They don’t want to move to a new level of understanding. They want psychological Aspirin.
I want people to deeply confront the games they are playing with themselves and with others, and to find alternatives.
I continue to practice getting over myself about this — letting go of expecting that clients actually want to be whole.
It does, though, get weird. People will uncover some old, ancient trauma, which is usually attached to physical symptoms. Often it is the symptoms — or perhaps better put — the persistence of the symptoms — that brings them in.
We start to work, and get to the real issue pretty quickly. Then, the walls go up. One client: “I really want a great relationship, but it shouldn’t be so hard! And working on myself takes so much time!”
A Bodywork block sometimes goes like this: I hit something that is a major “passion” block. The first thing I hear is a sigh of satisfaction: “Oh! Yes!” There’s a moment when the client truly feels a sensation that is chargy, and ripe, and good, and might lead to actual pleasure. Then, the body locks back up, and I hear: “Oh no! Not that! I can’t deal with that! You’re not going there, are you?”
I’m baffled. Many only want symptom relief, as opposed to getting to the root, the core, of the issue.
I start hearing excuses — money, time, distance, the illness. I am, I repeat, baffled.
Why would the person choose to stay stuck in the same crap, over and over, when tacking the root cause, while painful, is actually the only thing that works?
I think it boils down to this: people figure that their present level of pain, hurt, and disappointment is better, somehow, than the effort they imagine dealing with the root issue will cost them.
Of course, the joke is this: nothing, absolutely nothing, gets better by itself. Half measures provide a modicum of relief, but pretty soon the person is back where they started from — or worse.
Your life never gets better until you do!
It seems to me that, in my life, it has been far easier to tackle the big stuff head on. Not once in a while, but all the time. As I get older, with less physical resources to cover over the crap, I think tackling stuff at the root is essential.
We need to realize: as time goes by, our bodies are slowing down, breaking down, and coming up with all sorts of odd symptoms, diseases and problems. Eventually, things get more intense, and grab our attention (like in the illustration, above.)
You might fall down for a week or a month. The symptoms get worse.
Same thing with relationship issues. What was formerly swallowed whole is now hard on the stomach. Heartaches and stomach aches are common, and no longer passed off as aberrations.
As we’re noting, the way through this mine-field is through relentless self-reflection and examination. In a sense, the Bodywork metaphor is apt. What is required is deep pressure right where it hurts. No running away.
The irony is that the hard work pays off in fairly quick results. I have one client I work with who, last week, wrote,
Physically, my back is pain free. Still having stomach twinges and some feeling of heaviness way down.
I felt lots last night…more than in a long time.
It was like oh…hello.. it’s you… I’ve missed you.…where have you been…you are one hot, vibrant, deep, real, messy woman!
I really appreciated you staying with me through all that. I’m always amazed at your ability to know that I’m not finished even when I think I am.
The “staying with” is the easy part. There’s nothing I would rather do (other than hang out with Darbella,) than work with a client or a friend who is pushing through a drama or an illness or life itself. There is a beauty and a symmetry to this work, when we get out of the work’s way. As my friend, above, is noticing, as she once again moves deeply inside and tackles the issues she has been stuffing.
This week, list all of the excuses you use to keep yourself from being whole, real and alive. Ask yourself what excuse you are using to avoid dealing with the issue head on.
Then, get over yourself, and start!