The Home Pool
To better understand fear, it's important to understand emotions and self protection.
What is "self?" A simple definition is "personal consciousness." Another is "A thought form with a physical body and knowledge of its own existence." It's also the realization that we are ourselves and not someone else. Consequently, we have a strong desire to protect our conscious minds (ego.) and our physical bodies. As noted in Chapters Two and Three, there are numerous reasons why some people become overly protective of themselves.
Our emotions have much to do with how we live and our self perceptions. We let our emotions decide how confident we are in our abilities, the amount of self esteem we have and how we appear to others.
Our normal state is to be happy, but we let unpleasant events make us feel inferior. Negative emotions, anger, fear, jealousy, etc., make us unhappy because they are assaults on our self confidence. Our actions and reactions toward unpleasant events are determined by how we perceive ourselves.
Sometimes a negative event is so overpowering, or so many such events occur over a short period, that we cannot handle them. Our egos may "protect" us by utilizing one or all three of these reactions: Rationalization; Belligerency; and Passivity. Some folks rationalize by giving "logical" reasons why an unpleasant event occurred. Others may react with belligerence, becoming overly defensive or angry when experiencing a similar event. Those who are passive are unable to face unpleasant situations so they avoid thinking about them by giving up or feeling sorry for themselves.
It's so much more pleasant to be without negative baggage, why do we allow ourselves to indulge in it? Excluding a chemical imbalance, it's probably because of the need to protect ourselves from admitting to what we deem as weakness.
Those who RATIONALIZE, believe that reasoning helps them save face, for there's always an "if only" clause in it which puts the blame on someone or something else. It takes courage to rid ourselves of such feelings because we no longer feel "protected" if we admit to a "weakness."
Those who become BELLIGERENT when faced with unpleasant situations think that striking out or getting even will make them feel better. Though not aware of it, they actually believe they must have failed or the event would not have occurred. They attempt to lose this guilt through retaliation which doesn't make them happier and seldom reverses the harmful event.
PASSIVITY is also common, but potentially can be the most harmful reaction to unpleasant events. Inability or unwilling to face painful experiences may cause depression. It could also lead to drug or alcohol abuse--even suicide.
All of the above reactions to painful experiences are attempts to prove self worth. By attempting to impress others, we are actually trying to impress or convince ourselves that we are better than we think. When we are unable to attain our goals we find a good excuse to explain our failure to others, but we seldom, if ever, convince ourselves.
Overcoming trauma is all about self esteem. If you have self confidence you can accomplish almost anything. There are many so-called rules for obtaining it and multitudes of self help books but I've found that plain old stick-to-it-tiveness and experience are the best paths leading to self confidence. Those who are DETERMINED to overcome an unreasonable fear and TAKE ACTION to conquer that fear, will eventually overcome it.
Experience builds self esteem. It proves that a task can be taught and gives us the confidence to go beyond it and to continue with even more difficult tasks until the trauma has vanished.
Not only is it important to be rid of phobias in order to be happier, but also to improve one's health. Scientific evidence shows that when the body is stressed, glands secrete more than normal amounts of hormones; blood pressure rises and wastes (lactic acid) produced by tensed muscles increases.This puts strain on our internal organs such as the heart and kidneys. As we've all been told, continuous stress over many years may result in serious illnesses.
SUGGESTIONS FOR REMOVING STRESS
RELAXATION: Many people don't realize this, but it's impossible to have a negative emotion if the diaphragm, stomach muscles and abdominal muscles are relaxed. Try being angry when those muscles are not tense. My mother often told me to sing or whistle when upset and the anger will vanish. Singing and whistling give CONTROL of the diaphragm rather than tension. Practice relaxing the frontal muscles while in the water or under ANY stress to minimize fear.
MENTAL RELAXATION: To be completely relaxed physically, it's necessary to be mentally relaxed. After un-tensing the frontal muscles, envision a pleasant scene--perhaps a sunny beach with blue-green waves gently lapping against warm sand. Blot out any unpleasant thoughts. This is not repressing the stress but simply a way of coping with it. Repression occurs when people PRETEND to be relaxed and happy but are still angry or fearful inside. Holding onto negative thoughts while pretending the trauma never occurred may cause the event to be forgotten at the conscious level but emerge later as an unreasonable fear, setting off a traumatic reaction.
THE PUNCHING BAG THEORY: Years ago, we were advised to hit a punching bag to vent negative feelings. That's certainly better than hurting someone, but it was found that hitting a bag often INCREASED negative emotions. It could even work folks up into a frenzy, strengthening the emotion rather than dispersing it. Punching a bag is good only if it makes you feel BETTER, not angrier or more stressed.
SPORTS: Sports such as running, walking and lap swimming are meditative for most people. The mind is often free of thought while engaging in them. Competitive sports are good if we are competing to see how fast and far we can go or if we're capable of winning over someone whose abilities we admire. Competition can be fun, challenging--even inspirational. But competition is wrong if it's used for the sole purpose of self aggrandizement. "if I win I must be great!" Having the wrong motives can be devastating to us "if I lose."
REVERSE EMOTION: Sometimes it's necessary for people to let others know that they are not happy about a situation, but at the same time do not wish to experience an unpleasant emotion. It's possible to SOUND fearful or angry and still keep the frontal muscles relaxed. It takes practice but most school teachers do this every day. Many are masters at conveying anger while remaining totally at ease inside. Inability to learn this practice may account for some "teacher burnout."
SUMMARY: Self improvement is a learning experience. If there's trauma, it takes courage, determination and experience to build confidence. It's important to relax when faced with stressful situations. Self improvement to show superiority is fruitless for there are always those who are better and those who are worse than one's self. A shallow person is devastated by a loss, but has nothing to boast about by winning over a weaker opponent. To obtain self confidence, everyone must improve for their OWN sakes, not for anyone else's.