Fear is life force. We are made to believe it’s toxic in spiritual circles but it is intrinsic to biological survival. We are biological.
— Monica Cassani (@BeyondMeds) August 20, 2014
“You have nothing to fear but fear itself.” That too is true..sit with it long enough & it transforms — it can be the gateway to everything — Monica Cassani (@BeyondMeds) August 20, 2014
Of course, it’s not just in spiritual circles but also in psychiatric and mental health circles that fear and anxiety are too often medicated away instead of worked with. It’s not easy to work with it and a lot of professionals don’t know how to hold such space for such courageous facing of the dark parts of psyche and so many people don’t learn that it’s actually possible. For those of us who’ve come off psych drugs and faced severe psychiatric drug withdrawal syndrome it becomes a necessary and often heinously difficult initiation since one of the worst parts of that sort of iatrogenic injury is a terror so grave and total and complete it keeps some of us sleeping no more than one or two hours a night for up to a couple of years. It’s also accompanied by a multiplicity of other horrendous symptoms. Yes. Let me tell you that is one hell of an initiation. And while that sort of “fear” is often correctly referred to as a “neuro-emotion” in withdrawal circles because of it’s exaggerated intensity caused by the injury to the autonomic nervous system, I found that working with it as a universal receptacle of the nature of fear and terror in the human being helped me be with it and heal it in time. This exploration continues for me, but wow, has it taught me volumes. Learning to embrace my experience and surrender to it was the way through for me.
This information may not resonate or be appropriate for everyone, but it’s information that should be shared with people in mental health settings so that they might choose to delve into (or not) these body/mind mysteries if they feel so inclined. That would also entail creating safe (residential) places where people could delve deeply into these realms and perhaps not appear functional to the world for some time. That is what deep healing sometimes demands. Our culture doesn’t create such deep healing places right now. Without such deep healing places people will continue to be harmed by psych meds when perhaps, if they knew there were other ways of delving into and healing the body/mind complex they might choose those ways. The choice needs to be created. For now far too many have no choice.
I am, now, grateful that I was forced onto that heinous path that psych drug withdrawal created because in the end, it was the only way for me to truly and deeply heal. The drugs weren’t just a dead end for me, they were slowly driving me downhill to my spiritual death. Getting off that ugly merry-go-round involved facing far worse in the short term but on the other side now, I see a freedom that simply wouldn’t have been possible if I’d stayed on those drugs. My experience is shared by many others. Again, if it’s not resonant for someone, that too is okay. I do not write assuming that all I say will have meaning for everyone. We are all on different paths.
The thing is if we provide such choice and also spaces to heal for people before they get injured, it wouldn’t have to be as heinous as it is for those of us who’ve dealt with severe and disabling protracted psychiatric drug withdrawal syndromes. And in fact many folks don’t even have these issues with fear and terror at all before taking these meds. The drugs are often simply agents of trauma. Let us change the way we conceive of healing issues with the body/mind/psyche. Please.
Below I’m cutting and pasting a collection of posts on fear and anxiety with additional commentary:
Fear and Anxiety: Coping, Reframing, Transforming…
In case it’s not clear to anyone, I often write and share about that which I am learning or struggling with myself. This is how this blog is as helpful and vital to me as it is to anyone else. Today I needed to visit this page while I confront some fear that seems lodged deep in my body. Trauma becomes embodied. The way that psych drug withdrawal manifests for many of us in the long run is that the autonomic nervous system is seriously out of whack.That is often experienced (in part) as physiological terror. It’s iatrogenic in nature,but I’ve learned that it also can be dealt with as though it were very real FEAR. Because basically there is no separation. This is how our psyche understands it so it’s helpful for us to handle it that way as well. Physical and emotional become blurry once we embrace things from a holistic space allowing for body/mind/spirit involvement. And so I’m going to share this page here on the blog again as well. That we might all learn to approach our fear with compassionate mindful attention. This was first shared a year ago.
Anxiety is basically a clinical term for fear which everyone at one time or another experiences with or without a diagnosis of some sort of anxiety “disorder.” Psychiatry pathologizes much of the normal human experience and in opposing fashion fear and/or anxiety is often referred to in Buddhism and other alternative philosophies as normal. Which is why many techniques to cope with anxiety have been inspired by Buddhism. There are many methods to learn how to be with these normal feelings, whether they’re very intense or not. As individuals some of us may be more prone to more intensity than others. We can all work with whatever it is we experience.
In general this blog supports embracing and potentially transforming all our emotions. That is how we come to know who we are. The whole spectrum of our emotional lives are of value. It’s a shame that we learn to call many of our emotions negative and in keeping with that we try to numb them out in various ways, including with the use of both legal and illegal drugs. It is in resisting our shadow or difficult parts that those emotions we fear grow bigger! That is the sad paradox.
I’ve put together a page with some of the posts on fear and anxiety that have been posted on Beyond Meds in the last few years. I will add to it as is appropriate or when I remember other old pieces from the archives. This page will be part of the drop-down menus at the top of the page so that the archives might be accessed.
● You can’t heal what you don’t feel – by Nicole Urdang — There are many ways people try to avoid unpleasant feelings, and addictions top the list. Engaging in obsessive-compulsive or addictive behavior pushes unpleasant thoughts and feelings out of conscious awareness. Sometimes, that can seem like paradise; unfortunately, the long-term negative effects outweigh the short-term gains of numbness and forgetting, as once the drug or activity is over, all those painful feelings come back. Let’s face it, if addictions really worked, we would all be addicts. Who doesn’t want a bit of relief from life’s stresses? The problem is they are a short-term fix. It takes great courage to move through dark emotions but ignoring them, or sweeping them under the cognitive rug, just makes them less accessible for healing.
● Become aware of your anxiety/panic/fear and heal yourself – Why is it assumed that people need remain unaware of their physiological experience? This is exactly what meditation can attend to. It’s called “mindfulness” for a reason. It’s entirely possible to become aware of our bodies, minds and psyches.
● Don’t give fear a thought – By Robert Augustus Masters — “When fearfulness infects you, neither avoid it nor let it recruit your mind. Don’t give it a thought.
Approach the infected areas with care. No antibiotic heroics, no psychosurgical wizardry, just ordinary everyday caring.
Touch the infection with undivided attention, while letting the raw reality of it touch you, penetrate you, shake you more awake. Make contact, intimate contact, allowing it to breathe, allowing to it vibrate, sound off, even grieve. Stop treating it like an adversary or disease.
When approached with sufﬁcient care, fearfulness helps fuel our entry into a quality of openness wherein we cannot be threatened.”
● Yoga for your health and wellbeing, helps with your heart and anxiety and depression — with direction for some easy yoga postures
● The uses of anxiety and panic – By Al Galves
● Yoga: changing the brains stressful habits – “Yoga can supposedly improve depressive symptoms and immune function, as well as decrease chronic pain, reduce stress, and lower blood pressure. These claims have all been made by yogis over the years, and it sounds like a lot of new age foolishness. Surprisingly, however, everything in that list is supported by scientific research.
It may sound like magic that posing like a proud warrior or a crow could have such extensive effects, but it’s not magic. It’s neurobiology. This next statement may sound to you either profound or extremely obvious, but it comes down to this: the things you do and the thoughts you have change the firing patterns and chemical composition of your brain. Even actions as simple as changing your posture, relaxing the muscles on your face, or slowing your breathing rate, can affect the activity in your brain (beyond, of course, the required activity to make the action). These changes are often transient, but can be long-lasting, particularly if they entail changing a habit.”
And this is a collection of links and commentary that looks at embracing whatever comes.Whatever we are experiencing including fear and anxiety: the PRACTICE of embracing everything: The foundation of healing mental distress and of becoming a mature human adult.
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This post originally appeared on Monica Cassani’s website,
Beyond Meds. It is reprinted here with her permission.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.