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By PATRICE JOY MASTERSON
Trimble Banner columnist
I had the opportunity to work with a young woman named Anita. She had been a victim of theft, and the trauma left her immobilized by fear of impending disaster.
Anita secluded herself, seldom going out anywhere. Her mother contacted me because she believed her daughter was sinking deeper and deeper into depression, losing track of reality. Anita seemed frightened much of the time.
The mother said Anita seldom answered the phone and was having trouble following conversations. When I started seeing Anita, she was resistant at first, and said it was just too much to cope with her fears. She confided that she had shut down all emotions because she feared she would be swept away by a tidal wave of feelings.
Anita had allowed fear to dominate her life, just as much of our world lives in a state of generalized fear. The tendency to handle this overload can be to wall off one’s self from these threats, which can be on personal and global levels.
Anita was afraid of going to public places, and admitted she didn’t respond when people tried to contact her. I explained to Anita that rather than critically deny what she was experiencing, or shut down as she had, she must work with her emotions by recognizing and letting harmful feelings flow away.
Negative events such as what she had endured can be opportunities to respond in new ways; she did not have to be the victim of her own reactions.
Reasonable doses of caution act as a safeguard to keep us from ignoring danger. A healthy mental framework includes informed awareness of real risks. which keeps the individual from entering into a destructive act or lifestyle.
Without any fearful emotional response, we would have no barometer to decipher potential harm.
On the other hand, paranoia takes over when fear is out of balance to reality, as it was in Anita’s case.
This can lead to debilitating irrational or unrealistic anxiety, and can become one’s prominent mood. When a person is locked into avoidance, repression and anxiety can create health problems and can lead to chronic stress disorder.
After our first few sessions, Anita acknowledged that she had a growing obsession with fear, and she wanted to be free of it. She agreed to participate in this self-hypnosis program.
Step One. Get in a quiet place and practice this process. Close your eyes and relax, counting backward from 10 to one; visualize going deeper within yourself and away from disturbing fears.
Step Two. Use auto-suggestion in this relaxed state, such as: “I respond in only healthy ways to concerns that are warning signals of true risks. I let go of all illusionary fears.”
Step Three. In this step, Anita imagined all illusionary fears wrapped neatly in a bundle and, in her mind, tied this closed. She put this bundle of false fears inside the basket of a hot air balloon and watched it lift into the air. As it rose out of sight, she affirmed, “I let all illusionary fears go into the wind.”
Step Four. Use another auto-suggestion: “At the count of five, I will be filled with courage and prepared to cope with a truth-based reality. At the count of five, I will be alert, awake, aware to begin new opportunities and adventures.”
Eventually, Anita became internally directed by truth, not by fear. Over the next few weeks, she began to find a center of peace, along with the courage and self-confidence to venture out again.
Patrice Joy Masterson, MA, is a life coach, a certified holistic stress-management instructor, Reiki master and herbalist who lives in Bedford, Ky.