The Toxicity of Fear

The other day I banged my shin. I was getting into my car, and I carelessly yanked the heavy driver’s side door closed on its bony self. I was running late, and my hasty actions had consequences. As the car door connected with my shin, pain rang out which radiated into the whole leg. “OWWWWUUUCHHHH!” I whispered loudly to myself, then I said a couple things I won’t repeat here. The pain took my breath away.

But, there were places to go and people to see, so I tucked my leg into the well below the steering wheel, buckled my seatbelt, and threw the car into reverse. During the entire ride to my next meeting, my leg was screaming. I mean, physically it really hurt. What happened in my consciousness, however, was interesting. Enlightening, actually. I found myself smack in the middle of a moment of pain without fear. I was suffering, pretty acutely, with no real meaning attached. It had been an honest mistake, no one else was involved or to blame, it felt clear that I hadn’t broken anything, and I had no marathon to run the next day that I might miss. I was just in pain, plain and simple. It wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t overwhelming. I think that was because it was just happening, and I knew at some point it would cease to be happening. Later that day when I became engaged in other activities, I stopped noticing the ache. By the next day it was simply a black and blue mark which smarted at the touch. That’s all.

The epidemic of chronic pain in our society is not actually about pain, it’s about fear. When we hurt, no doubt it is brutal, unbearable, life-altering — for the moment. Yet, without fear pain can only be temporary. Pain becomes chronic when it is attached to meaning: How might this affect me tomorrow, the next day? How will this change my life? What does this mean about my overall health? How does this make me feel compared to other people in my life? Do I feel less than? Jealous? Inadequate? 

Whether we know it or not, when we suffer in pain these questions and many more like them are swirling around in our heads, creating and sustaining a building wave of fear. We heap meaning on our fear, and fear on our meaning, until we are suffocating underneath a mountain of projection, victimization, imagined catastrophe and self-doubt. These feelings take residence in our minds, and we are launched into a sustained “fight or flight” reaction which in itself feeds the pain cycle.

Fear is necessary for human beings. Without it, we would not be alive. Fear alerts us to danger, and allows our nervous systems to do their jobs and protect us. Unfortunately however, our primitive defense mechanisms do not discern between the fear of missing your son’s graduation and the fear of a predator in your peripheral view. Our bodies, in a state of prolonged fear, respond in the same fashion they always have. They keep us aroused and ready for survival behaviors. Unfortunately, this natural order which serves so well in times of desperation, is failing us in 21st century reality. We are paralyzed with fear, and so with pain.

Happily, there is a solution; a way to inform our well-meaning brains and nervous systems that we are safe, and need no protection from the tsunami of meaning and fear that seems to be crashing on us endlessly. That way is JournalSpeak. Put simply, JournalSpeak is a language we must learn in order to give our very natural human fear and emotions a voice. No one needs to hear this voice but you in order to put your system at ease. There is no confrontation necessary, or change of situation imperative to heal.  Since the pain is necessitated by the repression of fear and emotions, failure to repress disempowers the pain response completely. This is precisely what happens when we awaken to the possibility that we are far more scared than we might have known, and have the tools to give that fear a voice and allow it to take leave.

If you are suffering in chronic pain, take a moment to consider that thousands of people just like you are no longer in the jail of daily misery which symptoms create. I know that Fibromyalgia is real, and so are migraines, back neck and shoulder pain, and so many other afflictions attached to chronic illness. Real, for the purposes of this discussion, means that you are suffering and you are hurting, just like the pain which made me sick to my stomach when I slammed my poor bony shin. The genesis of my shin pain was a car door. What if, perhaps, the genesis of your suffering (no matter how absolutely real) comes from your emotional life, not a malfunction in your physical body? Same pain, different starting point. 

You have a chance to change your life in ways you can’t yet quite imagine. In my private practice, for years and years, I have watched people formerly stuck and resigned after medication, procedures and surgery have failed them, open their minds to the emotional genesis of their pain and heal completely. Might this be the day for you? I can only speak for myself, but I hope so. 

Take the first step, here, today. I’m with you, and I know you can do it. XOOX Nicole.