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Monday, 23 April 2012

How to Survive: Sheer Unadulterated Terror

Terror comes from loss of control. Fear of the unknown, fear of something bigger, stronger, scarier, it all comes from having the thing there and not being able to do anything about it.
If you could only DO something, then the danger might still be there whatever you do, but with a little more control, the terror might diminish. And let you think properly and see a way out. If something in your life is causing you to suffer from pure, blind terror then there are several things you can do about it.
The first thing to do is to recognise and accept it for what it is.
It is large, it is looming, it is causing your bodily organs to turn to jelly and do strange things that bodily organs are not supposed to do - at least not in public!
Luckily or unluckily, we humans are designed to cope with a lot more than we realise. Maybe thousands of times more stress and pressure than we ever thought ourselves capable of. This is how we survive. Before the concrete jungle, maybe our ancestors were roaming around the real jungle with the threat of being killed and eaten around every corner.
Wait, there are no corners in the jungle!
... the threat of being killed and eaten around every tree-trunk and vine. We are built for survival, we have great resources at our disposal, both mental and physical.
What is this big thing? 
Unfortunately, the other major thing that we humans are very good at is avoidance. My blog post about procrastination STILL hasn't been written! Our brains are perfectly capable of shutting our eyes and wandering around as if there is nothing worrying us. We can do this for ages. If the big terrifying thing gets in our way, then we just do a quick side step shuffle and niftily bypass whatever it is.
But, luckily or unluckily, our bodies are not that great at this kind of avoidance. Even though we don't open our bank statements for months, or don't go into the boss's office, or go the long way home, or go to the doctor about our fears, this is all cerebral stuff - it is all in our heads. 
Physically, we are suffering from aches and pains, our hair quits, we feel unwell. The blood pressure rises, toothaches start, hundreds of other little niggles plague us. Our bodies let us know in no uncertain terms that there is a big scary terror following us around wherever we go. This is not good!
Now, this is not an airy fairy blog about making you feel good. - OK, sometimes it is. But today, this is a hard-talking take-no-prisoners blog about facing our fears. 
Take that fear firmly by the shoulders (not if it is the boss!) and look it squarely in the eye. Face it head-on!
The sooner you can do this, the better. You might find that the problem is much smaller than you thought, you might find that it is much bigger, truly gigantic proportions. But at least you have started to take back some control.
The next thing to do is nothing.
Got you! That's right, the next thing to do for a few days, now that you have seen it, is let it run around in your brain. The worst thing you can do is to get worked up and react straightaway. Do not cancel all your credit cards, or walk into your supervisor's office and pull the wig right off his head or go and punch the neighbours. Sit down calmly and think about the problem. Let's face it, you may have lived with it for weeks, so two days now are not going to make so much difference.
But, sometimes, when you do this bit, you realise that there is a great release of stress. Just knowing what your fear is and knowing that you are going to gain control of it, can go a long way towards letting you deal with it better. It can let you see ways to cut it down into smaller bits. It can let you see that you can share your fear with someone and face it together. 
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.
Mark Twain
Face your fear. Chop it down to size and send it packing, but don't let it stalk you! 

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