The other day I wrote about the movie, “My Name is Khan,” I touched on the topic of fear and how it affects us. I often bring in my own experience because it makes me human. As this is a website for my psychotherapy practice, I wanted to talk about issues from the heart. Often people think that psychotherapists must lead perfect lives, since we “know” the answers. In fact we are only able to see through you but not through ourselves.
Fear is a topic that I have experienced greatly throughout my life. As I have worked on it, I began to understand it globally as well. I have begun to realize that fear is what is behind most problems in this country and the world.
Often we look for short-term solutions rather than long-term which is where we err the most. When a person is starving, they think of eating right now, not making sure they never go without again. Of course if you have ever been without food, you would know how much this makes sense in the moment. You will also know that once you eat, you are able to think more clearly.
When it comes to trauma, we want to feel safe. Sometimes safe is relative to the situation at hand. If your only way to be safe is to merge with the perpetrator as in “The Patty Hearst Syndrome,” or “Stockholm Syndrome,” this is no different from stealing a loaf of bread so that you can eat now. There are moments when safety appears to be a concept that will not occur and your only option is deal with the present rather than thinking of the future.
People who do not share your fear, blame. “Why didn’t she just run when she had the chance?” This is spoken by people who are trying to relieve themselves of the fear they feel when they hear about a horrific situation. Stories that they can’t fathom in their consciousness and instead try to sort out a safety plan so that they can rationalize the pain it gives them. When we hear about dangerous events that happen to someone else, the first thing we conclude is “If I were there, I would have done this…”
“You hear about this sort of thing happening at American schools and you think that’s a long way away,” said Rob Kuipers, 50, a project manager. “Now it’s happened here in the Netherlands.” Just today a killing spree took place in a Dutch mall and this was the response of an employee or customer (not sure).
Roman Polanski believed that if he had been at home when Charlie Manson arrived, he would have prevented his wife and unborn child from being murdered. Of course this sounds absolutely unrealistic and egotistic but it has helped to soothe his mind of all the pain he must bear.
I spoke the other day of walking up and down the plane to see if there were any Middle Easterners on board before accepting my seat after 9/11. This is equally ridiculous because there is NO look of a Middle Easterner. There is probably at least one on every single flight in our melting pot of a country and with the mixed races we have in this world. Yet I was not the only one who did this. Many people have told stories of scoping out the plane.
Fear immobilizes our rational consciousness so that our ego takes over and gives us a plan that seems to defeat the odds. The moment our mind begins to create the scenario of safety, our ability to breathe becomes more relaxed, until the fear is represented again. We believe we have protected ourself from the danger and that we are now in control. This is not a bad thing necessarily if at the time you do feel better. Over time though, it is important to work through this fear and come to grips with what is the reality. There was absolutely nothing you could have done. It was not your fault.
I cannot solve world problems, only write about them. What I can do though is work with people individually who have experienced trauma and feel immobilized by the events in some way. The only way to feel safer is to not let it have the power to control your mind anymore. So many people in this world are in denial or have built up a wall around their body to keep the story of the event trapped within. Some fear that if they say what happened out loud they will no longer have control of the situation. In fact, it is just the opposite. Letting out the trauma in a safe place makes you feel freer as a human being. When has a lock ever really protected anyone?
Letting go of fear is a process that takes time, but I can say that it takes less time than it would take if you kept yourself locked up forever. I can also say that the person you will become as you begin to let go, will be someone you can be proud of. Don’t we all want happiness in life? Isn’t this what everyone strives for every single moment of their life?
Happiness does not exist within the confines of a safe box. Trapped in isolation of perceived safety only creates a prison. You continue to be segregated from reality and in essence your fear continues to grow. Your perspective of the world now takes on the meaning of what only you can see inside your compound. The body becomes more and more rigid to where it is difficult to move much as you must stay within your limits.
Fear does protect us for the moment. It gives us a rationale solution that we can live with. At some point though it is best to not have this fear so that we can move forward and let go of the trauma that was there once, long ago.