So, why does fear get such a bad rap?
The physical sensations are purposely unpleasant and often downright tormenting, all consuming and distressful. Fear gets your attention. Breathing, heart rate and blood pressure ramp up and muscles are energized as hormones and neurotransmitters race through the body. Most of your brain is on hyper-alert while your rational brain, the cerebral cortex, is bypassed. Your brain automatically retrieves its database of sensory and feeling aspects of similar past experiences and beliefs about the situation or people involved. These memories are the story of the past. They do not include rational assessment or discernment about the present situation. Confusion, befuddlement, knee-jerk reactions, and even paralysis are not uncommon stress reactions. Deep thinking is not as important as fight, flight, or freeze for immediate survival.
It is not really the warning flash of fear that is problematic; it is the aftermath of anxiety from not feeling safe that puts you into a state of hyper-vigilance and stress engendering ongoing fear. The threat may be gone but the thoughts of uncertainty about your safety keep pumping those hormones and neurotransmitters throughout your body energizing the fear. A delicate balance exists between the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin to regulate the fear response. Vasopressin increases anxiety as a precursor to fear activating a defensive response, while oxytocin increases the processing of social information with attachment and bonding to those one feels safe with. Conversely, oxytocin acts to distance one from those felt as a threat and actually increases anxiety to unpredictable threat. An example of oxytocin in action is the proverbial “Mother Bear” protecting her young. She is attached and nurturing to her cub and ferociously defends it; you don’t want to get in her way.
An Inner Sense of Safety is Essential to Calm the Fear Response
The nurturing and feel good bonding that arises from the “cuddle hormone” oxytocin are activated when one “Feels Safe.” Feeling Safe reduces the alarm system of fear releasing oxytocin, which then eases stress and creates a sense of harmony and connection. The “social” hormone promotes attachment and relationship in turn improving your social skills, and fosters a sense of belonging, trust, generosity, optimism and tranquility. If you no longer feel threatened, then naturally your body balances and reduces the stress response. It is the Inner Sense of Safety that is essential. Only when you feel safe will increased levels of oxytocin reduce anxiety.
Living in a World of Change and Uncertainty
These days, many people are experiencing an increasing sense of anxiety and stress. Our world has become a global community with challenging issues as differing beliefs and needs intersect. With instant access to news around the world, there is heightened awareness of violence, disruption, conflict and uncertainty. Every day, we are bombarded with terrifying news of war, hatred, death, environmental degradation, health risks and economic collapse. Not exactly themes that promote a sense of safety and security. Viewing and hearing about events that you have no control over and seemingly occur anywhere and at any time can induce tremendous anxiety and fear. Your body reacts as if it is in present danger, always alert to what might occur.
Life is not static nor is it “safe.” The challenges of globalization and interdependence are not going away. All of life grows and evolves. Your relationships with people change through time; loss is inevitable. You will experience ups and downs, pain and anguish, insecurity and vulnerability as well as joy and laughter. Fear will arise. Change is certain. You know that living in a state of constant anxiety is unhealthy, so how do you adapt to uncertainty and the unknown? How do you calm your mind, regain balance and attain a sense of safety?
Perception is Powerful
A sense of safety or vulnerability is an inner perception. From the perspective of the body, feeling safe is being free from harm or injury; you do not anticipate being hurt or threatened emotionally or physically. Being vulnerable is the sense of your susceptibility to being physically or emotionally harmed, damaged or attacked. Your body’s initial reaction to threat is the sense of being vulnerable setting off a cascade of biological stress and defense responses. In other words, when you feel vulnerable your body automatically begins a process producing anxiety and stress.
Because the reaction in your body is so powerful and automatic, you often feel powerless to calm the fear. It seems that fear overtakes and overwhelms you, which is why it gets a bad rap and why there is resistance to fear. Are you really Powerless? What if you possessed an inner force capable of responding to and befriending the fear instead of succumbing to pure reaction?
The most potent and powerful force at your command is your Conscious Awareness. Using awareness you have the ability to be in tune with your body’s natural ability to harmonize, balance and feel safe.
Inside of you there is a place of Stillness and Calm that can only be Touched through
If you are in imminent danger, fear will do its best to protect you in the outer world. Even so, you cannot control all of the outer circumstances of life. Your inner world is your private sanctuary and dominion where you have the greatest opportunity to create a deep sense of safety and security. Inside of you there is a place of stillness and calm that can only be touched through Conscious Awareness.
Touch communicates through a highly sensitive and often subtle language. It conveys beliefs about whom or what is perceived as safe or not. When you touch the inner realm of sensation, feeling and beliefs with awareness, you open to a deeper sense of self and your relationship to vulnerability, safety and security. Most of the beliefs you hold generate conditioned habitual responses. You are not your thoughts, beliefs or emotions. Yet, when sensations or emotions arise, you may find yourself so enveloped in them that you believe they are you; you identify with them. “I am an anxious person…it is impossible for me to feel completely safe…I will always be afraid of____(fill in the blank)…it is part of my nature, I cannot change nor do anything about it.” Bound and tied to this limited persona of yourself, how could you ever feel safe? From this view, there is no way out. You become powerless to fear, anxiety and any emotion or belief you identify as being you. The true reality is that you do not feel safe inside of your own body.
Finding a Safe Haven in the Inner World of Your Body
Your consciousness has the ability to step outside of identification with thoughts, feelings and sensations, which allows you to observe them without judgment. As you touch the inner realm through conscious awareness, you develop an intimate relationship with the mysterious world of your body. You become aware of how sensations and emotions rise and fall, you observe the never-ending rambling of thoughts and how your body expands or contracts in response to people and outer circumstances. Without judgment, you touch the sensations of fear and anxiety. Just as safe physical touch promotes the flow of the nurturing qualities of oxytocin, so does touching the inner realm of your body with the safety of non-judgmental awareness. Magically, the power of touch softens your preconceptions and offers a soothing balm. You discover you no longer fear sensations or emotions and experience them as divine messengers guiding you towards well-being. You get in touch with your beliefs and the power to choose. Empowered with awareness, you find comfort in the rhythms of your body. This feeling of safety and benevolence deepens your trust in life connecting you to the wellspring of wisdom.
In the sacred temple of your body, there is an inner sanctum sheltering the gateway to the magnificent essence of your soul. In this place, you are free from all fear. Within you is a place of refuge greeting you with a safe haven of tranquility. When you meet this pearl of your essence, you find a peace that surpasses all. Grounded and centered in your being and having tasted this realm, you will return again and again as nothing can keep you away. As all travelers know, the first step on any journey is the desire to discover the unknown and the willingness to begin. Are you ready?
Developing an Internal Sense of Safety (Part 2)