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Posts Tagged ‘fear’

  1. The Anxiety Monster Feeds on Second Fear

    September 7, 2015 by Diane

    Retro and Vintage Frightened and Scared Girl Screaming

    In Hope and Help for your Nerves, Dr. Claire Weekes describes first fear and second fear.

    First fear is our reaction to a trigger, flooding the body with adrenaline. A white-hot flame of panic spreads from our middle to our chest, up the spine, down the arms and legs to the tips of our toes. It signals the fight-or-flight response.

    Second fear is caused by the thoughts we tell ourselves, adding more adrenaline to the mix; thoughts that start with “what if” and “oh my goodness!” They feed our anxiety, leading to “nervous illness.”

    The good news is that adrenaline is short-lived. We can nip our anxiety symptoms in the bud if we take deep breaths, face the fear, tell ourselves this too will pass, and don’t add second fear.

    A case in point…

    I was answering the phone on the tenth floor of a law firm, my first afternoon on the job as a temporary receptionist, when Mother Nature decided to give the high-rise a good firm shake. The massive jolt and rolling waves dislodged the lawyers from their offices. They scrambled for the hallway.

    “Earthquake! RUN,” one of them yelled in passing.

    I shot to my feet, told the person on the phone we were having an earthquake, ditched the receiver and lurched down the hall, cramming myself into the elevator with everyone else. The building swayed from side to side like some out-of-control carnival ride, and our flight instincts sent us straight into an upright coffin for twelve. Clearly, we were not thinking clearly.

    First fear.

    Someone pushed the button. The doors whizzed shut. The elevator stayed put. We were trapped. A woman dropped to her knees and screamed, “WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!” and sobbed hysterically.

    Second fear.

    The monster had arrived. It was ready to consume us all.

    One of the lawyers punched the buttons like a crazy person. He tried to pry the doors open. I clenched my jaw, my bowels, my toes, refusing to be hijacked by my rising panic, told myself, “I’m not going to die in an elevator with a bunch of strangers,” and hung onto that belief until the doors, miraculously, slid open.

    We stumbled out, pushed our way to the stairwell, pounded down the steps—bam bam bam bam bam—nine flights to the lobby, spilled out onto the sidewalk, wobbled around in circles, stunned, until we found our land legs, and then scattered in all directions.

    The earthquake lasted three and a half minutes.

    The shaking hung around in my nerves a lot longer.

    I never went back to that job. It would be years before I went back into that building.

    Walt, a friend of mine who wore loafers without socks, who had sultry eyes and wore white shirts open at the throat, loved earthquakes. He would flatten himself to the ground, pressing every inch of himself to the earth so he could feel the undulations. He would ride that puppy like a bucking bronco. I don’t know how he managed it. I think it was his way of thumbing his nose at fear.

    Not all of our fears are as big as earthquakes. They can be as small as a premature heartbeat.

    First fear tells us to jump out of the way of an oncoming car, or run from a spider. It reminds us to “duck and cover” when the earth shakes, or punch those elevator buttons to open the door. Sometimes it gets confused, and tells us we’re having a heart attack when it’s really just panic.

    Second fear screams, “you’re going to die” when panic hits. It warns of the dangers outside our homes and keeps us trapped inside. It convinces us that we can’t handle first fear, so we’d better not try.

    The purpose of first fear is to keep us alive.

    The purpose of second fear is to keep us from living.

    Dr. Weekes advises this: watch the fear go up and down. Ride it like a roller coaster. As long as you don’t prolong it by adding second fear, you’ll be reining it in within five minutes–the length of time it takes for adrenaline to fade–give or take.

    I try to remember that whenever the monster starts to feed.

  2. If I Have to Go On Tour (Gulp!)

    February 7, 2014 by Diane

    writing a novel

    I decide it might be a good idea to run the whole “what happens if I have to go on tour” thing by my Wise Self. Get her take on the situation. So I dial in.

    You know that book I’m writing?

    The novel.

    When it comes out…if it comes out…I’ll have to go on tour.

    Is it published now?


    Is it finished yet?


    So you’re still writing it, she says.


    Do you have fun writing?

    Fun? I repeat.

    Do you enjoy the writing process?

    Mostly. When it’s going well. When it’s not, I want to burn the pages and give up writing forever.

    That’s a long time.

    Well, maybe not forever. Maybe just as long as it takes to walk around the neighborhood and clear my head.

    So you enjoy writing.

    I’m driven, I say.

    Then write because you are driven to do so.

    But when it comes out…if it comes out…I’ll have to get on a plane.

    Are you on a plane now?

    Nope. Well…part of me is. My Inner Protector. He’s off in a possible future scoping things out.

    Good. Let him fly to Hawaii. Maybe he’ll relax.

    You don’t like him much, do you.

    It’s the job of the Inner Protector to worry. It’s the job of your creative self to create.

    I feel a lecture coming on.

    Finish the novel.

    Short, I say, but to the point.

  3. If the Book Gets Published (Gulp!)

    February 3, 2014 by Diane

    writing a novel

    I’m taking a break from writing, shooting the breeze with my Inner Protector, when he says, When the book comes out, what then?

    I tour.



    Don’t want to tour.


    Don’t like to fly.


    How about if you phoned it in? He suggests. Skyped the whole thing.

    Not a bad idea.

    Do you think the publicist would go for that?

    Probably not.

    You could hope, tho.

    There’s always hope.

    How about this… how about you send the book out to do its own tour. People can read, can’t they?


    So let them read the damn thing.

    Could work. It just might work, I say.

    The publicist probably won’t go for that, either.

    Probably not.

    So you’re stuck.

    Looks that way.

    You’re going on tour whether you like it or not.

    Probably so.

    Unless the book never gets published.

    There’s that.