A Conversation with Fear.
18 de January de 2021
18 de January de 2021
2021 is surely going to be a year full of uncertainty. We don’t really know if the industry will manage to recover after the pandemic, whether our company will be forced to close or not, or even if our business will be able to adjust to future restrictions… We all experience fear at some point —that is a fact— but we can turn it into a strength if we learn to accept it and come to terms with it.
For this reason, at EAE, we have created Fear Away: a space for you to have a conversation with your fear and then let it go, where you can finally face it instead of running away from it. And all you will need to do is put on your headphones and listen to it through the voices of our teachers. That’s right! Fear Away is a podcast that will help you learn to live with your fear.
I know that I’ve been on your mind a lot this year, but that doesn’t mean that I can determine your future. You can’t keep putting your decisions on hold because of me — for it’s been a long time since you’ve made one with confidence. I can’t keep watching how you continue to move through your days with your eyes shut so as not to look at the world that is waiting for you out there. Yes, you heard me right. Out there. I understand that you were between four walls for too long , but that doesn’t mean you can’t tear them down.
During the confinement, we got way too far.
I am an innate universal emotion — the most common and powerful among all beings. But I am also essential and, most of all, inevitable. You know very well that this was not the deal. We agreed that I would always be by your side to protect you, like an alarm designed to help you adapt to any environment while avoiding danger. A sophisticated survival system that was never meant for destruction.
Throughout all these years I’ve been your companion, your ally. Even those times in which you tried to dodge me or avoid me, I’ve persisted and made sure you left your recklessness aside, showing you the boundaries and each of your limitations.
But now… how could it have come to this? Each time you surrendered to your irrational beliefs, you were granting me too much power — and I was not able to make it better. I can see now how you’ve become a slave to your deepest worries, that are as imaginary as they are harmless.
I promised you that I would always be your Fear and, now, you’ve managed to make me afraid of myself.
That's right. It’s called phobophobia — that feeling that paralyses you completely and twists your stomach into a knot every time you relive your most dreaded memories of the past, projecting them into a future that is still unknown but that you put so much into imagining.
In case you didn’t know, this reaction has a name as well. It’s called anxiety and it's when you obsessively think about an upcoming situation and how scared it makes you feel; and you keep feeding the idea that you will experience that fear again until you end up feeling completely wrapped up inside that premonition, even when you know that it’s all a construct of your mind.
Does this ring a bell? You’re afraid of being afraid because, throughout your life, you’ve learned that fear is suffering — it means pain and it means feeling bad. That’s why you try to escape from it, without realising that the door through which you chose to exit is actually the entrance to a vicious cycle from which there is no escape.
Fear is a basic emotion, common to every individual — it’s not just you. But that doesn’t mean that everyone experiences it in the same way or with the same intensity. That’s why it is so hard to learn to accept it and confront it — because it feeds on itself and takes different names depending on the way it is processed and the symptoms it brings about.
It’s called anxiety when associated with tension, worry, nervousness or stress — even when the term and all the concepts it covers have a high degree of ambiguity.
It’s known as panic disorder when it causes an acute state of anxiety that materialises in frequent episodes of a sudden feeling of intense fear when remembering traumatic past events. You lose control and experience a constant feeling of danger, even when there is no real danger around you.
And it becomes agoraphobia when you feel as if everything around you is a threat, developing a fear of spaces or situations in which something could go wrong and leave you with no easy escape options.
Intense fear is so powerful that you even become afraid of your body’s physiological response to it. In such a way that, the more horrifying you imagine the consequences to be, the more serious they become and the more they end up affecting you, even to the point of making you think that you’re having a heart attack.
It all depends on the authority you give me and the power I am able to exert on you.
Panic disorder is just one example of how I can control your whole body at any time and place and without prior warning. In an instant, I can cause your heart rate to increase or make you feel an intense pain in your chest and abdomen or I can make you suffer from dizziness, sweats, angst and shortness of breath.
These episodes of intense fear are so traumatic that it doesn’t surprise me that you would develop a fear of them, of having to face them one more time. So much so, that even the faintest symptom can be interpreted as a sign of an upcoming episode, producing an overwhelming sensation of fear that will ultimately trigger the episode that you were so afraid to experience.
This is known as the panic spiral: a chain reaction that is as paradoxical as the fear itself.
And so, it doesn’t matter how much you resist or how many times you tell yourself that, if you face me, you will be able to defeat me and accept me for what I am… in the end, the effect I have on your body is so unpleasant that you’d rather avoid the challenge of facing me than paying the emotional cost of doing so. But, I am sorry to inform you that this is the only way out of the spiral, before the imaginary fear sets in your mind and, at last, becomes a reality.
It is possible that you think you have control over me — but the truth is, I’m not at your feet, I am in your head. I know you more than you think and I can assure you, a series of panic episodes bring about important behavioural changes of which you may not be aware of.
The fear of suffering from a panic attack increases and evolves until it settles as a powerful incentive capable of pushing you away from situations in which it could manifest — even to the point of making you not want to leave the house or relate to people that you don’t know very well or that don’t make you feel safe.
Little by little, you go down a dangerous path that leads to agoraphobia, a type of anxiety disorder that makes you afraid of places or situations that could trigger panic attacks. Since you feel like there is no way out or no way to defend yourself, you experience a kind of shame that leads you to avoid places or situations as basic as using public transport, being in open or confined spaces, standing in line, or being in a crowd, for fear —whether real or anticipated— of having a panic attack.
Anxiety comes from the fear of not having any means of escape or help at hand. Most people who suffer from agoraphobia get to that point after having one or more panic attacks. This makes them worry about having another one, so they stay away from places where it could happen again.
Until your reality becomes a prison where you instinctively lock yourself up, as if you were a robot and were programmed to do so.
Do you remember the feeling of vertigo you felt when the confinement was over? After having worked for two months from that formidable fortress that your home turned into... it’s all over now! And now you have to go back out again. You have to walk familiar roads, even though they all suddenly seem like unwalkable paths.
You feel like each step you take puts you in danger, since they're taking you to a place in which you won’t be able to receive help should you suffer from one of your panic attacks. You’re afraid of remembering the physical sensation they bring about, so you run away from any and all situations that have the potential to provoke that anxiety which you feel you have no strength to face.
What you don’t realise is that you are giving up the most important thing that you have — your freedom.
The first thing I need you to understand is that this is not an escape. It’s a journey towards acceptance. I don’t expect you to elaborate the perfect map to escape from a certain place — all you need to do is stay where you are and breathe. Inhale and fill your lungs with air, without thinking that this action could ever hurt you. Open your eyes and look beyond me — be aware that, for a long time, you’ve been seeing reality through the blindfolded eyes of your fear.
I want you to remember the words of the greek philosopher, Epictetus: “we are not afraid of things, but rather of the idea we have of them”, and I want you to repeat them every time I come visit you without an invitation. Because nothing around you has the ability to make you afraid — only you have that power, and that’s why you need to keep an eye on it, so that no one takes it from you.
I need you to understand me and accept that I am inevitable, because I am part of your essence — that being afraid of me does not prepare you for danger, because living means taking risks and learning from them.
You can’t let me make decisions for you. You must challenge me, knowing that you will leave from our encounters unharmed. You have to look at me with curiosity, even if you know how uncomfortable I can make you feel. Get used to the adrenaline I send through your body, knowing that you are reducing your hypersensitivity while your sensory threshold is increasing.
I just want you to have conversations with me, ask me what I want, show real interest in knowing more about me, without obsessing or worrying too much. I want you to take my hand and keep doing all that you were doing, but with me — understanding that the brave are not those who have no fear, but those who keep on going in spite of me.
Because I will always be by your side taking care of you.