Weekly Reading Topic for February 8, 2020: Gripping Fear
Well, good morning, love! I just opened a Reading for you, my newsletter subscribers and here’s what I heard in answer to the following:
What do my readers most need to hear this weekend? What is the most important message to send to my beloved readers?
The answer was: “gripping fear.”
Oh, dear. I was afraid that this was going to be a tough message, and I’m so glad it’s actually rather sweet in the end.
What follows is your weekly reading, dear one.
Weekly Reading │ Gripping Fear
Q: What do we need to know about “gripping fear?”
A: When the human body is afraid, it kicks into the famous “fight or flight” mode. It’s a cute name and easy to remember — but it’s incomplete. If we’re going to boil the fear response down into just a handful of words, they should be “fight or flight or freeze.”
Too bad freeze doesn’t rhyme — it is nearly always left out, and almost universally forgotten.
But that’s what fear does: it causes you to stand your ground and fight, run away to escape, or freeze in place.
And that’s gripping fear. Think of a deer mesmerized by the headlights of your car, standing there like a statue as you barrel down on it. Think of a possum, playing dead.
Think of a child, hunched over and silent while a rain of harsh words pours over his head.
It’s the inability to think, to feel, to do or say anything. You are gripped by fear, and until the fear passes, you do not — cannot — move.
A gripping fear tells all of your muscles to lock up. Your breathing slows or even stops completely. You don’t think, your mind is blank, just sheltering in place while the storm passes.
No action is possible in this state. Your mind has to loosen up its grip on your muscles before they can relax, unlock, resume their flexibility. Until then you are stiff and silent.
Many of us are gripped by fear right now as so much happens around us. We are wild inside, of course. We are feeling the flutter of a thousand wings against the cage of our ribs. We are holding a boulder in our throat, trying to keep from throwing up, or swallowing. The world is changing around us, and that kicks in our fear response. Since most of us cannot fight the fear directly, and there is nowhere to run that feels safe (because so much change! everywhere!!) we are in the final state, freeze.
Prey animals understand this state quite well, and they are grateful for it, because being frozen can literally save lives. When a cheetah chases an antelope, the antelope first attempts flight. Both are fast, right? The antelope has a chance. But the cheetah, oh, the cheetah. So strong and lithe, he just slips through the air molecules, stretches and lands so close … the antelope feels the warmth of his breath and the pounce of his feet and so gives up, freezes, drops to the ground, stops breathing, hoping that this will surprise the cheetah, that the cat will recoil like a rope, afraid his prey is already dead, disappointed that the chase was for nothing.
And sometimes it works, and the cheetah wanders off to find something more sporting to do, and the antelope can unfreeze, and start breathing again and spring to its feet, and shake itself and find its family.
And this is what we want to tell you, dear human: shake. That’s how you release the fear response from your tissues. Think of the ruffle of nose-to-tail shivers in the herd of deer. Think of the dog shaking itself, every limb, every appendage, all at once. Think of your cat stretching, of the bird fluffing its feathers.
Think of yourself, even, shaking your head as you walk away from an irritating conversation.
If only you shook more than just your head! We humans get stuck in our frozen fear response, mainly because we have forgotten what all the other animals have not: you must reset your nervous system in order to continue with your life.
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We have our reasons for doing this. We are so mind-bound. When we are scared, we look for deeper whys. We wonder about the source of our fear, particularly when we have old fear patterns from un-remembered experiences. We sit there and judge ourselves for being afraid, for being frozen. We think we are exempt, somehow, from fear, that we can control it, and ourselves, and the world. We go to therapy to fight with our fear, or we flee from our frozen fear into drink, or work, or food.
We’ve forgotten that we can WORK WITH ourselves, and the world. Control? Nope. But joining with, engaging, managing? Yes.
So if you are in a gripping fear, do as the antelope does: shake. Possibly best in private, yes?
Do this gently, gently, gently. This is not something to start doing forcefully if you have aches and pains and stiffness from long hours, days, months, years of holding yourself in frozen gripping fear.
Instead, try this little experiment.
Lie on the floor (or a bed if it’s large enough for you to move about a little). Lay as if dead, as if you are an antelope avoiding a cheetah’s teeth. And then allow your body to pick a little body part to move. Feel your body, pay close attention, and follow any urge that comes.
A pinkie finger. Your tongue. A little shrug of your shoulder. A tilt of your hips. A stretch of a toe. Whatever the motion is, let it do itself. This motion will feel as if it is being done TO you, not as if you are doing IT.
And now follow that motion. Allow your body to unwind itself from that not-dead-antelope state. You may find yourself repeating the same motion, over and over. You may find yourself rolling around, or sitting up, or standing. I find myself on my tiptoes as I write this as if I am being lifted off the ground.
Allow the motion to move you, and do not resist it. Also, do not lead it. Allow it to unwind and unfold and reveal itself.
There may be emotions with this, but probably not very intense ones. When we are in gripping fear, it’s the FEAR that has locked up motion. And when we allow the motion to reveal our movements to us, there is almost never much emotional content. Instead, we are just weird gyrating animals, slow-motion shaking ourselves off.
At some point, I promise, the motion will stop. You will be laying down, or sitting, or standing, and you will come to rest. You will likely feel much, much better. And if you also allow yourself to make sounds while doing this? Any sound that comes, I mean? You will almost certainly feel great.
It’s amazing what a good shake and a little vocalization (whine, grunt, sing, moan, hiss, whatever) will do for the mind and the body.
If you continue to do this on a regular basis, you may find the motions take less time and are more … quick. And eventually, you may be able to do as my dogs do, on a walk, after they have met a dog they are skeptical about: take a few steps and pause for only two to shake from tail to head before stepping again on the third beat. Done. All through that encounter, no lingering fear.
The sources of your fear(s) may not be wiped away yet, or ever. The changes we are undergoing are certainly going to continue. But if we stay in our locked, gripping, fearful non-corpse poses we will not be able to handle our responsibilities.
And believe me, we all have responsibilities right now. If you are alive, you are responsible. And you must unlock yourself. You must remove the cold grip of fear, let your heart beat and your tongue form words and your feet move. It’s time to live, not time to play dead. It’s time to make decisions. This is The Big Game, the one we’ve been practicing for. We’re out of dress rehearsal — it’s opening night.
And no good decisions come from a place of fear. All good decisions come from a place of determination and clarity. Even split-second decisions, like deciding to grab the child before he’s hit by the car, or to swerve before hitting a tree, come from a place of internal emptiness. Good decisions come from “this is the right thing to do now.” Many don’t come from the mind at all, but from the instincts, the reflexes.
And if your reflexes are locked down, if your muscles are hard and unyielding, good decisions cannot move through you.
So gently, gently, gently, ungrip yourself. Unwind yourself. Shake, ever so little, and let that frozen feeling dissipate. Think gentle spring rains, a whisper of a breeze, a nuzzling of a puppy’s nose. This is not a scary process, it’s not a storm.
It’s a cozy, loving, warm gesture to yourself. And as you find yourself twisted up and cranked around in odd positions, it might even be (very gently, of course) hilarious.
I am always here to serve in any way I can.
Much Love to You!
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