Let’s look into one aspect of fear and an idea for how to quickly deal with it.
Fear is esoteric – a figment of my imagination. It doesn’t actually exist as a physical thing.
Danger is a real probability whereas fear is an incorporeal imagined possibility. Just because I’m in a dangerous situation doesn’t mean I must be afraid – and when I’m feeling afraid it doesn’t mean I’m in any real danger.
When I feel fear, my cognitive mind tends to become distracted by it – thus losing touch with physical reality. Might losing touch with reality make danger much more dangerous? Might it also make it more difficult for me to communicate with others when I’m no longer connected to their reality, floating as it were in my own esoteric non-space and non-time?
Let me say it again – when I’m feeling afraid, I become ungrounded – existing in a realm of imagination separated from physical reality – even when I THINK I’m fully awake and aware. For example, standing on the edge of a precipice, I might feel my knees weaken and my breathing shorten or stop. I THINK I’m cognizant of these physical sensations that prove to me that I’m correct in attributing them to the danger I’m perceiving – my fear is justified. Yet, instead, I’m imagining falling, the result of which thought is that my body reacts in a fear response – The apparent physical sensations are the result of being ungrounded! My imagination has taken over my physical experience, turning my physical reality into esoteric nonexistence.
Let me clarify and amplify:
The fear response is not the fear! The body’s response to fear is actually a result of being ungrounded.
This leads me to wonder what might happen to my fear were I to become grounded.
One skill I’ve practiced to gain control over my fear is a very ancient one – the “take a knee” activity we saw demonstrated in the movie, After Earth, starring Will Smith and his son, Jaden. The process is pretty simple – whenever I become aware that I feel afraid, I ground myself by figuratively dropping to a knee; I then take inventory of and report my physical situation as it is right then.
The process follows this trail:
- Grounding – by slapping myself on the cheek or squeezing my leg firmly or maybe tugging on an earlobe or pressing down on the crown of my head, I become aware of my physical self connected to earth. This action alone can dispel many fears.
- Assessment – by inventorying my breathing rate, my heartbeat, my muscle condition (tight, loose, tense, etc.), and my senses – what I see, hear, touch, smell, and taste in the physical right now – I occupy my mind with earth and physical reality rather than fear. Avoiding interpreting the facts, I just note my physical situation in objective terms.
- Report – I speak out loud or inside my head my objective report of my physical situation – as though I was speaking to another person.
When I do that, my mind tends to clear from the chemicals of emotion and I start to think more clearly.
Grounding is perhaps the most effective way of dispelling fear. As fear is an esoteric construct devoid of physical reality, becoming solid with the earth makes physical reality take center stage of my awareness. My mind attends to the physical when I make it the priority. Grounding to the physical helps my mind settle down into what is actually HERE and NOW. Grounding is like a mind reset to baseline.
When I make an assessment of my physical situation, I focus on objects rather than subjects in the present moment – WHAT rather than WHY, WHEN and WHERE rather than HOW, and IS rather than WAS, WILL, COULD or MIGHT BE. The concept here is noticing what actually exists in my physical perception right now – rather than what I imagine could or might exist. For example, when standing at the edge of a precipice, I might focus my attention on the specific measurements of the area – [after grounding] “looks like there is a cliff of about 300 feet that starts about 5 feet from where I’m currently standing.” This sounds different than, “It’s a freaking long way down there and I’m way too close!” Do you feel the difference? I hope so.
Reporting is important in strengthening the grounding. As with the assessment step, reporting must be objective. To do that, I STAY in the PHYSICAL. I avoid value or degree statements – focusing instead on stating measurements that someone else can do to confirm my report. Part of reporting is fact-checking – so I work to make sure my facts are accurate and reproducible by another – I sometimes double-check my facts before I report them.
When reporting, I like to preface my report to myself with, “the actual facts are these…” or “the truth is actually this…” (I use the words “actual” and “actually” to bring my mind to a finer focus on the physical) – then report to myself the actual physical conditions as I sense them right now:
- “I feel a fluttering sensation in my gut.”
- “I see a bird in the sky.”
- “I smell bacon cooking.”
- “I hear someone speaking.”
- “My breathing rate is about a breath every five seconds.”
- “The temperature of the air feels about 65 degrees, there are 8 clouds in the sky, and the sun is shining.”
- PHYSICAL reality as I perceive it right now – stated in physical terms in present tense!
As I occasionally fail to realize when I feel fearful or find myself reacting instead of acting, I seek to enlist others in my life who may be willing to assist me. I sought out those closest to me – people I trust and with whom I often interact. I challenged them to either tell me directly, “take a knee” or give me a signal for the same, whenever they notice I’m into a negative emotion (triggered). My job was (and still is) to ground myself, take inventory, and report. With practice my mind settles down and I feel clearer, more relaxed, and more in charge of myself.
It’s a skill and so takes some practice. I’m still practicing.