Outlive Fear: 3 Steps to Free Ourselves

outlive fear, minneapolis acupunctureFree Yourself From Fear in 3 Steps

Recently we’ve all been subjected to a fair amount of Fear, and the stress that comes with it, following the events in Paris, the shooting in California, the coverage of these and other attacks in the media. This year was especially stressful. Regardless of political affiliation and personal outlook on these issues, the over-riding feeling of it all for many people is Fear. It could be Fear for one’s life, fear of the uncertainty of the situation, fear of hurting someone you know, fear of becoming hyper-alert and so on….

In all these cases Fear affects us on a deep level, and while it may not always stop us in our tracks, it’s going with us wherever we go, and creates a kind of veil that colors our thinking and feeling.

To address this Fear, we can identify it in 2 ways:

  • What is the biological/Functional need and effect of Fear and what does it feel like?
  • How can I release it?

First, let’s look at what Fear is from a Biological/Functional standpoint.

Every sentient being experiences Fear. It’s the main component of our survival mechanism, and it has developed over a long period of time to give us the exact push that we need to survive in a potentially life threatening situation, like: extreme weather, hunger/ thirst/famine, being attacked by a predator or another person, serious injury and so on…. It’s purpose is to give us the most strength possible in order to overcome this life threatening situation.

It’s biological pathway, and the main driver of the reaction, starts in the Nervous system, and is supported by the Hormonal glands, that go hand in hand with the Nervous system’s directions.

The part of the Nervous system that we’re touching on here is the Autonomic Nervous system, which means that it doesn’t need our thoughts to guide it through it’s action, it does so by itself. This Autonomic nervous system can be divided into 2 functional parts: the Sympathetic and the Para-sympathetic systems.

The Para-sympathetic part is the one that’s responsible for all our regular functions, like a regular heartbeat, regular breathing, food and water absorption, the supply of all the needed nutrients to the different tissues and organs, maintenance and repair and so on, and when we are mostly affected by this part of our Nervous system we have a general feeling of wellbeing and satisfaction, and we are able to learn and develop.

The Sympathetic part is the one that recognizes danger, and reacts to it with Fear or Fright in 3 possible ways, known as the FFF response- Fight- Flight- Freeze.

In all 3 I respond through feeling Fear, however briefly it might be felt. The first 2 are mainly Fear driven, Fight moving from Fear to Anger/Aggression, Flight using this Fear to get away from danger as quickly as possible, while Freeze is one step beyond and can be described as Fright, in which the body can’t function beyond staying put (which also has it’s evolutionary basis).

In all 3 the first thing that happens is a tightening of the body. In this situation I need that tightening to spring into action, or as a means of ‘playing’ dead when frozen. The nervous system redirects it’s attention and the flow of blood to the parts that are going to save me: the heart, the lungs and the muscles. All the rest of the organs take a back seat, and are getting only the minimal supply that’s going to keep them from dying.

This tightening signals that my nerves (and hormones) have kicked into high gear, and I can feel my heart beat faster, my breathing become shallower and faster as well, and my muscles tighten up. The most central part of this tightening is the diaphragm, which is a muscle, and it’s tightening allows air to come in faster when we run or fight, and signals to the nervous system to keep up the tempo. This is what Fear feels like when we notice it.

After the danger has passed I no longer feel Fear and my nervous system starts to redirect attention to the parts that where ‘pushed aside’.

So what exactly is the problem here? Everything seems to be working well, and there’s a reason for everything.

The problem is that often we don’t feel the Fear pass, and it stays with us for a very long time. So we stay in the FFF mode of the Sympathetic side, and can’t seem to shake it off. This mode of reaction becomes a habit even when we don’t immediately need it for our survival. We stop feeling Fear, which is an immediate feeling, and we feel it as Apprehension, Worry, Anxiety, Stress, Anger and so on, and it’s a HUGE drain on our emotions, energy and physical condition.

What can we do about it? How can we free ourselves of this habit, and return to a better state of being?

Step no.1– I need to recognize that I’m in this reaction now. Remember the signs: shallow breathing, tightening of the muscles anywhere in the body (usually of a chronic nature, unrelated to a workout or physical work) and a fast heartbeat. While you might have only 1 or 2 of the 3, it’s still a telling sign of tension surrounding fear.      

Step no.2– Breath out as deeply as you can. Really squeeze out all the air that you can. It sounds counter-intuitive, but when my breathing is shallow it’s very hard to force in a deep breath. By squeezing the air out my body will sense the depletion of oxygen and will take a deep breath, relaxing and expanding the diaphragm.

This is exactly what we’ve been waiting for.

Step no.3– After enjoying this deep breath, take a few more relaxed breaths and then repeat the same breathing pattern. Usually after 2 or 3 breaths like this you’ll start feeling the tension leave your body. You might experience a tingling sensation, a sigh wanting to escape or an urge to move or rotate your body and limbs. Just go with it for a few seconds, it will release even more tension. If you feel lightheaded, take a break while your body adjusts to higher levels of oxygen and relaxation.

At this point turn your attention to the feeling in your diaphragm, and note it’s more relaxed state. Make a mental note (it’s an important component of the change) that you are alive and well!

Congratulations! You’ve just succeeded in training your nervous system to unblock fear. This part of you is now ALIVE!

Now you can do the same thing over and over again in ANY situation in your life that involves fear, and allow yourself to really breath and be alive.

While other tools, like bodywork, acupuncture, herbal medicine and other healing systems, are very helpful and are often needed in supporting the healing process, the basis of it all is my ability to be free of the control of fear on my life, and fear’s energy-depleting effects.