Our Mental Selves & Fear
I’ve been feeling stressed lately. For over 3 years now, I have had to deal with a family member who is convinced that I am not family & who has been very vocal & aggressive about it. It has not been pretty. It has been pretty nerve-wracking & worrisome because their perception of reality does not coincide with mine. This situation has brought up a lot of fear in me that I’ve worked on pretty regularly for the last 3+ years through my prayer & emotional work. It has caused me to question my version of events, my truth, my beliefs, my perceptions. I have feared that I am creating negative consequences for myself & for others by my continuing to interact with & participate in this discord. Like Job, I have feared that I must have done something wrong since this is happening to me. I have feared that my version of events, my reality is wrong since someone else has such a different version. At times, I have feared that I am crazy. Believe me, there is nothing more crazy-making than having someone in your life who is convinced that what you think is reality is not real! I’m pretty sure I’ve seen more than one movie using this ploy in the script.
While this is an unusual example, you can probably think of times you have been anxious, worried or fearful when, like my situation, it was not due to an animal attack. I bring up animal attack because this is the classic example given when describing fear & the “fight or flight” stress response of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). The ANS triggers the “fight or flight” stress response which readies the body to fight or flee from danger. There aren’t too many animal attacks happening in the course of most people’s lives these days but we still seem to experience plenty of anxiety, worry, fear, stress & the resulting ANS activation. Most of us are not daily fighting or fleeing for our lives but rather dealing with long term, low level stress due to intractable people & situations such as my own example above.
Now you may be wondering why I am talking about fear & anxiety under the heading of “Our Mental Selves” rather than “Our Emotional Selves” so let me digress & explain where I’m coming from. While fear is an emotion & therefore more a part of our emotional self, anxiety can be thought of as a mental emotion or state arising from our mental self as can despair, probably. Generally, for the purpose of our discussion, consider that ideas, beliefs, perceptions, thoughts, words & some attitudes & emotions are a part of the mental self.
Today, people are more likely to experience unrelenting, long term worry & anxiety versus temporary outright fear for their lives. So, while the emotional self’s fear of impending doom can definitely trigger the “fight or flight” stress response of the ANS, so can the mental self’s experience of worry & anxiety. Worry is an activity of the mind & the mental self that often triggers anxiety & fear & therefore the stress response. What you may not realize is that worry & anxiety over something currently happening, something that has already happened or something that might happen in the future will all have the same effect. While you may realize that what you’re worrying about isn’t actually happening right now, this minute, your body does not & will activate the ANS as though you are being chased down the street by danger. This is what makes the long term, low level stress of the mental type especially destructive because there is no immediate resolution as there would be with a single, sudden, frightening event. The mental type of stress & resulting ANS activation could literally last for years instead of seconds. A lot has been made of the self-created stress of the “Type A” personality but I’m pretty certain that whether or not you are a “Type A” doesn’t matter nearly as much as the length of time you are stressed. A typical “Type A” blows up & moves on – the mental equivalent of being chased down the street by danger. As long as this isn’t happening on a daily basis, probably not beyond the ability of the body to recover. But what about the family members of this person? Not too many people can take the blow-ups of others & move on so they are left with stewing over the previous blow-ups & worrying about & dreading the next blow-up, walking on eggshells trying to prevent it.
So what is the solution? Quit worrying! The upsetting thoughts rattling around & movies playing over & over again in your mind/brain/mental self are completely unproductive & usually move you no closer to any sort of resolution. Instead, surrender them to the Holy Spirit in prayer each & every time you find yourself back in the rut of fretting & worrying. I have also in contemplation, gone before God with a basket or apron full of eggs & one by one handed them over naming the person, worry or upsetting situation that each represents, letting go & letting God. I figure putting all of your eggs in one basket is a good thing if you are handing it over to God. This technique works especially well at bedtime before falling asleep. Another thing you can do is forgive each thought as it occurs. Since your thoughts direct your energy (energy follows thought), by forgiving each & every thought you have that isn’t best, over time you create an energy of peace & quiet within yourself. The negative thoughts die down & what you are left with is your divine self that God created you to be. An amazing side effect of this is that you will have created the space within you in which the Holy Spirit can be present & communicate with you. This is infinitely more satisfying than the out of control fear, worry & anxiety & the resulting stress & ill health that thinking negative thoughts & scenarios creates. This is what will resolve the stressful problems in your life. This is what will move you forward into a better life.
Live, Love & Laugh in the Light of God