Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Paralyzing fear

Is it always a lie if we tell ourselves we can't handle something?

This morning I caught myself overwhelmed with a sense of dread, wishing I could crawl back under the covers and pull them over my head for a while (a month sounds about right).  I looked at it more closely, and I realized that it isn't that I'm unable to handle what is happening at the moment, but rather that I'm scared I'll soon get to the point where it's beyond what I can handle.

I have this conversation with birthing women, about the nature of fear.  My tentative theory is that, most of the time, women who want an unmedicated birth will opt for an epidural not when the pain becomes unbearable, but long before that time, because they are scared that it will reach that point...eventually.  Maybe soon.  It's a protective coping mechanism, not the result of handling what is strictly in the present.  The fear of what might happen, not what is happening.

And I wondered if all fear is the same way.  How much of my fear response is due to what I'm worried is around the next corner, rather than dealing solely with reality?  How much does that reaction limit me?

(Also, how far can we take birth analogies?)

I wonder if it's wiser to tell myself, "Well, the things I'm afraid of haven't happened yet!" and keep plunging ahead blindly into whatever circumstances unfold.  Admittedly that sounds like a terrible idea, but then I tend towards protection, caution, taking few unmeasured risks.

I can't advise others to do what I myself am unable to do.  I can't genuinely encourage someone else when I don't believe what I'm saying.  And "Always stay where you're comfortable" sounds like pretty bad advice, too.

But then, how much of our fear response is helpful, keeping us out of danger and harm, and how much of it is just needless limiting, being scared by the shadows in a dark room?