We live in Dallas, Texas. Some 400 miles north of the Hurricane Harvey aftermath and flooding currently overwhelming our southern most neighbors in greater Houston and southern Louisiana. Our hearts go out to them as they work to recover from the sheer magnitude of this event.
As a Medical Qigong Therapist, I have the opportunity to see first hand what fear can do to the body in every patient I see. As a volunteer emergency responder, I have also seen, first hand, what people who are terrified will do in a given moment.
Short, medium and long term levels of fear
Short term fear triggers an elevated state of sympathetic nervous system response which promotes tunnel vision, a deeply driven need to move away from the perceived danger and strong motivation for self preservation. These are programmed so deeply into our human nature that it is almost impossible to avoid some level of fear response under intense, sudden circumstances.
With medium term exposure to fear, we find ourselves able to "manage" the prolonged fear response in a way that allows us to function more "freely" in our day to day. Sure we are anxious, our blood pressure may be elevated, we may even be quick to overreact to additional stimuli, (usually inappropriately) but we are functioning none the less.
With long term fear response, (as is common in police, first responders and our military) our nervous system has been in a state of sympathetic overdrive for so long that it is now the only place we "feel safe". We are on constant alert, usually have heart palpitations or arrhythmia, trouble sleeping, frequent headaches, a short fuse, reacting either with anger or retreat to even the slightest stimuli, and proper digestion is a distant memory. Pain levels are elevated and unrelenting with personal and professional relationships deteriorating and now vulnerable to collapse. At first, this state of fear response feels "hot" and uncomfortable but over time, we acclimate and become "comfortable" with these more intense feelings. Or maybe "familiar" is a better word. We now feel that if we are not in this heightened state, we will somehow lose the edge necessary to feel safe, not consciously realizing that we truly do not feel safe, ever, and this is what keeps the viscous cycle going. 24/7.
In The News
The news media exploits this part of our human psyche, as a way to stimulate viewership, which then allows them to charge more for advertising and make more money. Not unlike the more readership a newspaper has, the more they can charge for advertising. So when a "big event" like Hurricane Harvey happens, they know that the most reliable response to generate viewership is fear. Sensationalist imagery, promises of more detail to come, and the threat of impending doom are hallmarks of our current model of news media.
In Dallas, this week, we are experiencing a panic around a media outlets FALSE PREDICTION that we have a MAJOR GAS SHORTAGE looming large. This has caused people to line up around the block, start fist fights for cutting in line, fill extra containers and scramble on social media to find a tank of gasoline. The fuel companies have been hard at work to calm people down after this report with little to no success. Remember the tunnel vision I mentioned? The ball is rolling are we are chasing it down the hill. Cant stop now!
The same theory applies to the people we see on the news who have driven into too deep water and now need to be rescued. While there may be some arrogant people who think they can make it, the vast majority are operating with a fear in their minds that is greater than the fear of driving through the high water. Of course, hind sight is 20/20 and we, from our comfy couches, can see that this is a bad idea however, for them, in that moment, in their minds, they see no other reasonable choice.
You Can Regain Control
We can not control the news media except by turning them off, and we certainly can not control mother nature, but we do have the ability to control our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) and its response to external stimuli. Depending on the level of intensity you personally experience, it will take training, deeper awareness and maybe professional guidance but you can train yourself to strengthen your connection to your innate fight or flight response mechanism (ANS).
Medical Qigong Therapy combines physical, mental and emotional awareness and training to help guide your path to wellbeing. This is a path of personal empowerment, not a quick fix, with truly amazing results. Fear is not an enemy to be conquered but a friend to be understood. Are you ready?