Fear and Imagination
By Deyna Devi on April 21, 2020
I’ve seen many articles now about mental health and some great ways to manage anxiety and stress. But there is little mention of what is actually happening …. So here is my offering for understanding.
Be clear that anxiety is not pressure from the external environment that needs immediate action … it is a state that germinates and grows as a reaction within from some event or environment around us.
What happens if we consider anxiety as fear + imagination.
Fear is a natural human emotion and without acknowledgement it can build in the physical body as tight muscles and connective tissue (fascia fibres becoming dense), churning digestion (unsettled visceral fascia), racing heart and palpitations (agitated cardiac fascia), wired nervous system and racing hormones (chemical and electrical impulses disturbing the fascia). Yep, it’s all to do with disrupted or distorted fascia.
Let’s clarify - what is Fascia? It is the ‘glue’ and ‘string’ which holds us cobbled together in a rather miraculous moving structure of muscles, bones, organs and fat!
Fear rippling through the fascia, consciously or sub-consciously, creates all sorts of these energetic interactions. If we are being chased by a rogue elephant, our nervous and endocrine system gives messages to the heart to pump more oxygen to the muscles and propel us the hell out it’s path! Simple physics: energy transformed from emotional to physical in reaction to a very present fear. It is our natural fight, flight or freeze reaction (And personally I think flight is the most logical action when facing a rogue elephant!)
But what if there is no present fear? If that fear is generated by imagination: the emotion of fear is still real but there is no actual elephant running amok (to stay with this analogy) to get away from, only a story playing out in our mind. The same energetic reactions happen but the energy is not transformed into dynamic movement. So, it potentially stays within our being and threatens to destabilise our structure with aches, pains and discomfort in mind or body: it is energy moving round our physiological systems with nowhere to go.
Does that make sense? And how do we apply this knowledge?
The common recommendation for physical exercise is great – it replicates the running away from the rogue elephant to transform energy.
We can use mindfulness techniques and external distraction to manoeuvre us away from imagining the ‘worst’ so fear is lessened. Doing something creative with our energy (art, jigsaws, cooking etc) leads us away from the destructive energy of imagined fear.
On the more sensory side, we can cultivate helpful semantics, sounds and images to counter unhealthy thoughts and use them to imagine the ‘best’ scenario or outcome, or simply to stay present: activities like smelling a flower, playing our favourite music, relaxing in a bath all soothe our senses.
The breath is always an amazing friend – deep exhalations can expel held energy in muscles, slow heart rate, calm nervous and endocrine system and settle digestive organs. There is an ancient saying: ‘control the breath and you control the mind’ … over time, with commitment and dedication, this becomes increasingly possible.
There may be other ways that suit your subjective being … with understanding we can play with what works for us on any given day, in any situation.
Watch when anxiety arises and label it fear + imagination (no judgement, always compassion)
Feel if a fight, flight or freeze response begins to start in the body
Decide (perhaps from a pre-written list of suggestions) how to transform this energy
Act, interact and react … and feel anxiety dissipate.