It is amazing how many people come in and check off “Fear” under the Emotions category of my health history form and then when I start to ask questions correct themselves and say it is worry.
It might be helpful in addressing fear to return to my Worry post or my post on a recent skiing trip, Outside the Comfort Zone, which was a full examination of fear. Today’s post is about the diagnostic components of fear.
Our society is very familiar with the names of fears, check them out in alphabetical order at Phobias List. But as with most issues if it isn’t terrible, it goes unnoticed. When was the last time one of your doctors asked you if you had any fears that inhibited your quality of life?
One of the main characteristics of my depression and anxiety is fear. It flashes up when I’m coming down with something, right before my period and when I’m overtired from travel or excessive work. It is a very routine response to fatigue. It took going to acupuncture school and studying the organ systems in depth to start to notice these patterns.
Some fears are temporary and controllable. If you are afraid of flying you don’t fly. Afraid of spiders, have someone else scoop it up and throw it out the window. Other fears are harder to control and wax and wane due to wellness.
If you’ve ever experienced a significant trauma you can attest to being uncomfortable in dangerous circumstances for a long time after the trauma; ie driving after a car accident, walking on ice after a fall, playing a sport after a game-related injury, exercising after throwing out your back. Our bodies are not just designed to be cautious, or Kidney Qi has been depleted and we are more fearful.
Kidneys and Fear
The Kidneys according to Chinese Medicine are similar to the adrenal system in Western Medicine. When the adrenals are taxed we exist in “fight or flight” too much of the time and end up feeling “tired and wired,” instead of being able to quiet the body. In Chinese Medicine we call similar symptoms Kidney Qi deficiency and associate it with low back pain, knee pain, sexual dysfunction, depression, fatigue, sensation of coldness, infertility, urinary issues, poor memory and increased levels of fear.
The Western world is starting to see the link between excessive adrenaline use in one’s everyday lifestyle and the taxation of the adrenal gland. Eventually we lose the ability to “rest and digest” and basic functioning like sleeping, weight control, and metabolism are compromised.
Fear versus Worry
This is one of those moments when severity is important. Worry is less serious than fear. Worry is back of the mind, spinning and ruminating that doesn’t alter your course of action. Fear is immediate panic. It can make the heart race, stop the breath, tighten the muscles of the body and throw the body into an adrenalized state of awareness. Fear is also worry about basic needs being altered or taken away; safety, health, community, financial stability, shelter. Worry is being concerned that you might say something silly in front of your new boyfriend, fear is dreading you might die in a car crash. It is important to have perspective when naming.
Though the Heart, Lungs, Liver and Spleen are all associated with stress in the body, the Kidneys govern fear. It is important to remember that when the body has reached the level of fear, it has also reached the level of the Kidney and recovery will not be quick. Stress and frustration are very easy emotions to smooth out. Fear is very hard and requires significant building, rest and recovery.
Questions For When Fear Starts)
- What is triggering you?
- Can you remove yourself from the situation?
- Is this fear worth facing right now given the current state of your body?
- Do you have the support you need to face this fear?
- Are you facing it in a safe way that takes into consideration that it may significantly tax the body and mind?
- How long have you had this fear?
- When did it start?
- In what ways does this fear benefit you?
- In what ways is this fear a detriment to your life?
- When does your fear flare up?
- How can you prepare or rest up for those circumstances?
- What would you need to do to handle the fear gracefully and productively?
Quieting the Noise
Patients always use the same language to describe the symptoms of strong emotions abating. They always say that if a bad thought comes into their mind they can make it go away. That is the sign of adequate amounts of strong qi in the body. If you can’t make the thoughts go away and are falling powerless to them, the qi is weak and needs strengthening.
This concludes our Emotions Blog Series. Remember that acupuncture, herbs and a regular yoga practice are amazing additions to a wellness regime. However I encourage all patients to utilize talk therapy for strong emotional issues. Any medicine that moves the qi has the capacity to stir up old emotions. Have someone familiar to discuss changes during the treatment process!
Other posts from this series:
The Things We Don’t Talk About
Image credit: Novic / 123RF Stock Photo
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