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I’m sitting here in my study looking at my reference library on dealing with fear and anxiety.  It is a pretty impressive collection of thoughts and tools for dealing with fear.  I have authors like Susan Jeffers, Albert Ellis, David Burns, Melody Beattie, Scott Peck, T.I. Rubin, Martin Seligman and Robert Sapolsky in that collection.  These lucid thinkers on fear, depression and anxiety have, in their various ways, come up with an equally lucid assembly of tools to help folks like you and I combat those life-draining issues.  It would seem that with any effort at all a person should be able to comb through that material and find what they need to get out of anxiety and fear in short order, given any effort and time to apply those tools.  At least, that’s what I used to think.  For a number of years I felt that I was somehow missing the boat, not getting something, or worse, that there was something fundamentally wrong with me.  What these authors wrote made sense – made a great deal of sense.  Why did I then seem to have such a hard time taking their tools and recommendations and running with them?

I believe now that the answer lies in the nature of the Chronic Anxiety Cycle that I’ve mapped in earlier blog posts here.  It is the nature of the vast majority of the tools developed to combat anxiety and fear that they are thinking tools – tools that require some thought, some effort and some time to see results.  These are really tools that could be called proactive tools.  Which is great, IF we’re in a place to process our fears and anxieties in that way.  And there’s no question that a number of people have taken up those tools and found help and usefulness in them!  The issue isn’t that the tools themselves are not useful – they are.  The issue is that the state we’re in can have an enormous impact on whether or not we’re able to use those tools.

If I’m in the Chronic Anxiety Cycle, doing my what ifs and worrying about the future – if I’m living in some degree of fear of some Indefinite Negative Future that I’ve conjured out of my what ifs, and dealing with the fear and anxiety of that future – if I’m terrified of walking into a Comfort Zone boundary and challenging my fears and anxieties –  then I’m going to have a heck of a time doing anything as lucid and calm as trying to feel my fear and do it anyway, or look clearly at what specific kind of dysfunctional thinking I’m doing, or even do much with meditation.  All of these tools (a sample of what the authors above recommend) could help me, really help me – but I’m trying to either solve my fear NOW, in the way that Flight or Fight would drive me to solve it, or I’m avoiding it, running away from it, just like Flight or Fight would drive me to run away from it. 

In a very real sense it is crucial, if not central, to first make some move away from my reactive spin in the Chronic Anxiety Cycle before I have much hope of then using the tools that these brilliant authors have listed out for my use.  The various treatments for panic attacks often attempt this with activities like deep breathing and distraction, all good steps in calming down from our most anxious moments.  But just getting some distance often isn’t enough.  Distance is the first step.  But what is needed next is the capacity to then face our fears and anxieties, whatever they are, dealing with the surge of feelings and physical sensations that usually accompany those fears and anxieties, and then work to unpack what it is that’s scaring us, translating it back from a crisis into a problem.  Almost ANY effort in that direction will begin to move us into a proactive state – and that’s where the collection of tools from these gifted thinkers and researchers can really begin to help us.

Of course you’ll probably need more than one try at the triad of Fear Mastery to see movement – but that’s to be expected.  As I’ve said in other posts here this is a small collection of skills, and will take a bit of time and practice.  But again, even a little work can go a long ways, and the bottom line is that we who battle fear and anxiety need to get a sense that we can survive that rush of feelings and sensations, that we’re really not in immediate danger, and that we can begin to access a problem-solving, lucid frame of mind to address what is scaring us.  I believe this practice by itself can go an enormous ways in getting us a great deal of freedom to think and problem-solve.

Next up in this blog – some more discussion about some basic distance-gaining practices to help you do the triad effectively and get more comfortable facing into fear and anxiety.

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