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.

fear anxiety

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.

pelvis muscles

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!

Make Contact!

So, how does this week’s arti­cle sit with you? What ques­tions do you have? Leave a comment or ques­tion!

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