Managing our own and our client’s fear and anxiety is the number one concern for counsellors and therapists such as myself. Fear is a fact. Fear is the little child that comes out of bed and wakes you up crying that there is an elephant under the bed.
The adult in you knows there probably isn’t an elephant under the bed and you may respond by telling the child to stop worrying and go back to bed. Or you may hug them close and together imagine another ten elephants running around the house, stoking the fear even higher.
Few of us will get out of bed and take the child by the hand to check what’s really under the bed. I call that walking towards the fear.
In these transformative times, the fear of what might happen is like this inner child making us fear, stoke up or try to deny the things that are happening around us. Yes, there are people getting sick and there are people dying, but until you or your loved ones are sick, until it touches your life and demands your attention, it is like the elephant under the bed. Now that may sound exactly like me saying ‘don’t be so silly’, and it would be, if I stopped there. But no, I try and take my clients by the hand and lead them back towards the bed so that we can lie on the floor side by side to check out what’s there and what’s not.
Because fear, like anger, is far more dangerous roaming around inside your head creating catastrophe scenarios, than expressed through the heart, held, comforted, and then gently tucked in again.
Of course you’re scared. Of course your survival instinct is on overdrive. These are extraordinary times and we’re getting a big dose of anxiety training! But it is the mind that turns it into needless, unproductive and exhausting anxiety. The kind of anxiety that weakens your immune system, that weakens you defences at a time when you need it most.
I soothe my fearful heart by embracing her fear but I also discipline my mind by asking it to intelligently plan for the things we can plan for and to surrender to what we can’t control. It’s not a problem until it’s a problem. And even when grief, loss and death do cross your path, they are part of being human and you are perfectly equipped to deal with it. Almost everyone that I have ever worked with has found resources in a crisis that they didn’t know they had. But there is no point in using up these resources for battles that you might not be asked to fight.
Stay strong, stay mentally healthy, focus on what you can do, and let go of what you can’t control. And use these times to train yourself to see the difference. Just as the wisdom of the Serenity prayer teaches us:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
If this topic strikes a note for you, or if there is anything else you want to share with others who may be experiencing similar issues, then I warmly invite you to join my open weekly community call on Zoom held every Wednesday evening at 19:00 Amsterdam time. Just click on the link below and join me.
Weekly Wednesday night open call, starts at 19:00 Amsterdam time: https://zoom.us/j/180915667