Caution vs Fear

If you have been following the blog you already know that words matter. Whether we call something caution or fear is of great significance. Most people I talk to can’t readily verbalize the difference. Accurate description leads to better actions and responses.

caution sign

“You are only afraid if you are not in harmony with yourself. People are afraid because they have never owned up to themselves.” – Hermann Hesse


Fear can be defined as an unpleasant feeling triggered by the perception of danger, real or imagined. It causes physiological changes and behavior changes. It is unrealistic to think that we will never feel fear. Fear is a natural thing, even instinctual at times. In other instances it can be learned. It is not uncommon for a child to develop a fear of something that the parent is afraid of.

Caution can be defined as care taken to avoid danger or mistakes. Interestingly, it comes from the Latin cavere, meaning take heed. Synonyms include watchfulness, discretion, and circumspection. Caution acknowledges the fact there there is risk. It is based on our knowledge of the world. But caution does not imply the need for continual vigilance. It is more contextual. We recognize that there is uncertainty or risk in a certain time or situation, but the recognition doesn’t cause the physiological change.

“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” – Rosa Parks

What I have observed is that caution is generally the appraisal of a situation whereas fear is the appraisal of one’s ability to handle the situation. Fear implies that you have convinced yourself that you are not capable of handling a negative outcome or emotion.

Although I’m sure not everyone would agree with me, I think caution and fear are appropriate emotional reactions, but only when contextually warranted and time-limited. They are both important sources of information as we try to navigate this complex world.

“Prudence is not the same thing as caution. Caution is a helpful strategy when you’re crossing a minefield; its a disaster when you’re in a goldrush.” – John Ortberg

So what’s the purpose of all of this? The purpose is to make sure that we are making correct interpretations and responding with effective actions. It is also to encourage seeing the contextual/environmental nature of caution and fear rather than defining them as permanent personality characteristics.

“Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

The more you tell yourself that you are afraid, the more you will believe it. Eventually you will begin to act out being afraid and limiting your life and the pursuit of your values. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy of sorts. Fear can be present in some situations, but only for the necessity of survival. Remember, the real difference is in the attitude toward ourselves. Do we believe we can handle it or not?

“Thinking will not overcome fear but action will.” – W. Clement Stone

“If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.” – Sun Tzu

Anxiety – A Misleading Word

I have written about this before, but I believe anxiety is a misleading word. Anxiety has turned into a catch-all label for emotions and often interferes with finding solutions. If I say I am anxious for my sister’s wedding, what does that mean? Does it suggest that I am experiencing chest pain and shortness of breath, that my sister is probably marrying a serial killer, that I am nervous about finding the right words for the toast, or perhaps that I am anticipating feeling embarrassed because I don’t know how to dance and there could be dancing at the reception? When someone labels all of these things as anxiety it tells them that a) something is wrong with them and b) that they can stop trying to be more specific about their thoughts emotions, and behaviors.

image showing the ripple effect for the word anxiety.

Professionally I have found it a very difficult pattern to break. People actually seem comforted by having a label for what they are feeling that allows them to avoid going deeper. If you read my previous article, Practice Makes Perfect, you can see why this might be a problem. Continually labeling physical, emotional, and cognitive symptoms as anxiety creates a brain superhighway called anxiety that then includes any indigestion, frustration, or anger that wants to hitch a ride. If instead a person who was able to engage in the introspection to determine that they feel a fluttery feeling in their chest when faced with unclear work expectations, fearing a high likelihood of guessing wrong and getting reprimanded, the situation is limited in scope and more easily treated.

I don’t want to appear to be blaming the emotionally upset person for their plight. This is a much broader societal issue that includes lazy communication skills, a preference for labels over individuality, and a victim role that is present in our society. Examples are everywhere in electronic social media.

So what can you do?

  1. Choose your words carefully. The words we use DO make a difference in how you and others think and feel. Are you eager for something? Say so. Don’t put in the word anxious. Are you feeling jittery? Say so. Are you terrified? Say so. How many words can you identify that would accurately substitude for the word anxious?
  2. Try to avoid saying “I am” anxious. Instead, try to say “I feel” or “I notice.” I feel suggests something that is time limited whereas I am suggests that it is permanent and unchangeable. These messages you are sending to yourself via thoughts and words are important.
  3. Step out of helplessness and victimization. Except in the rare circumstance, the emotions and thoughts are not happening TO YOU. You are not required to just accept whatever thought or feeling comes into your head. I want to be clear — your feelings are not wrong, but they also are not permanent. You can actively change your thoughts and engage in activities that will change your situation.

My older son, at a very early age, was able to tell his grandfather, “I not bad, it’s my ‘havior.” We all can take a lesson from this and say, “I’m not anxious, it’s just my thoughts or feelings.”

Not In Control

Have you ever become stuck because you were imagining all of the terrible things that could happen when you are faced with a pretty big challenge? While I think we all know that it is wasted energy, it is a natural freeze response that occurs, particularly when we are not in charge and not in control of the outcome. This tapping is intended to help you move on from fear/panic to confident/calm.

It Takes Too Long – Resistance to Meditation Part 1.

I promised you a tapping exercise to address resistance to meditation and I’m a girl who keeps her promises, except those made to herself when I promise I’m going to meditate. Guess how many times I meditated since I posted the article about the benefits of meditation. That’s right! Zero! I had better get started tapping to discover what the problem(s) actually might be.

The first excuse that popped into my head was “It takes too long.” I’m going to use that as my problem statement or MPI (most pressing issue) and I would rate that as an 8 on my 10-point SUD scale. (Very true)

illustration for karate chop point

Setup (karate chop point) – Even though I can’t meditate because it takes too long, I deeply and completely love and accept myself right now. Even though I can’t meditate because it takes to long and I already feel like there are not enough hours in the day, I deeply and completely love and accept myself right now and am open to new wisdom. Even though I can’t meditate because it takes too long, I love myself and accept myself, even with my excuses, and am open to seeing this in a different way.

diagram of the tapping points

Eyebrow…I can’t meditate

Side of Eye…It takes too long

Under the Eye…I don’t have enough time

Under the Nose…For all of the things I need to do

Chin…Or the things I want to do

Collarbone…This resistance to meditation

Under the Arm…It takes too long

Top of Head…I can’t meditate

Eyebrow…I can’t quit going to work

Side of Eye…And I really can’t go without my sleep

Under the Eye…My exercising is important too

Under the Nose…Nobody would tell me to quit exercising

Chin…I guess I can’t meditate

Collarbone…I wonder if there is a different way to look at this?

Under the Arm…I don’t think so

Top of Head…But what if there is?

Eyebrow…The article in Science Daily said that the benefits show up after just one meditation session

Side of Eye…If that is true it could make everything else I do easier

Under the Eye…And more effective

Under the Nose…Creating even more time for meditation

Chin…But it feels like I will have to give something up

Collarbone…And probably something I enjoy

Under the Arm…Or can already see the benefit of doing

Top of Head…I DO NOT want to give anything up

Eyebrow…If time is really my issue

Side of Eye…I wonder if there is some other way

Under the Eye…I really do believe that meditation is beneficial

Under the Nose…And I feel like a hypocrite

Chin…I’ve been recommending meditation to other people for years

Collarbone…I ususally tell them that they don’t have to do it for a long time

Under the Arm…And that they can start with just 5 minutes if that is all the time they can spare

Top of Head…If I’m really honest, I probably could find 5 minutes

Eyebrow…I could probably dedicate 5 minutes at work

Side of Eye…Which is my least favorite portion of my day

Under the Eye…And when I need it most

Under the Nose…I’d probably have to set a reminder on my phone

Chin…Because there is always work to fill that time

Collarbone…If I don’t set a high priority reminder.

Under the Arm..I don’t have time to meditate

Top of Head…Truthfully, yes I do.

Taking a deep breath and letting it out gently. When I say that problem statement again the intensity is down to about a 3 or 4. That’s a lot better but I know I haven’t cleared the whole issue because my certainty that I will meditate tomorrow at work is still pretty low. That means that my resistance to meditation must have several different aspects (factors) that create the problem. If I were to take a wild guess, some of the aspects that still need work are my belief that I’m not very good at it (from past experience), my anxiety that I will not be able to put all of my other stressors aside for even 5 minutes without more stress building up, and some internal dialogue that somehow I must be inadequate because I need meditation. Those thoughts came up in the background while doing the previous tapping and should keep me busy for a while.

I hope you tapped along and found it useful. I’d love to hear about your experiences with the tapping. Let me know what happened for you or how you motivate yourself to meditate.

Happy Tapping!

No Thanks, I Want to Keep My Anxiety

“No thanks, I want to keep my anxiety.” Can you imagine saying that? Or perhaps you might say, I’m too busy to take the time to meditate. Unfortunately those two statements are the same. Researchers in Michigan have found that anxiety (and cardiovascular disease) can be decreased with only ONE mindfulness meditation session.

Confession time: Although meditation is on my daily to-do list EVERY SINGLE DAY, I rarely do it. I always think I’m either too busy, too tired, or will get to it tomorrow. Reading about the study in Science Daily was a fantastic reminder.

It sure is a good thing I know tapping. Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to do a series of tapping exercises to help clarify my resistance to meditating regularly. At this point I have no idea what the problem is, but I’m sure that I don’t want to keep my anxiety! Don’t worry I intent to share my tapping.

Experimental Biology 2018. “Even a single mindfulness meditation session can reduce anxiety: People with anxiety show reduced stress on the arteries after 1-hour introductory session.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 April 2018.

Pre-Performance Jitters

MicrophoneI love music.  I have always enjoyed singing.  I have usually also suffered from pre-performance jitters.  Sometimes the excitement can improve my performance, but other times it really interferes.  This tapping demonstrates using tapping to not only reduce the immediate jitters, but also to reinforce visualizations of optimal performance.

 

I Am Uptight, Anxious, and Overwhelmed

girl on log relaxingThe words uptight, anxious, and overwhelmed describe me all too often.  Life can be going well most of the time, but when something happens that is unexpected (good or bad) it can throw me off my game.  Tapping helps me to recover.

Say that statement out loud, “I am uptight, anxious, and overwhelmed.”  Rate the intensity or truth of that statement on a 0-10 scale (10=very intense or very true). Write down your rating.

illustration for karate chop pointBegin tapping on the karate chop point.  Even though I am uptight, anxious, and overwhelmed, I deeply and completely love and accept myself. Even though I can do uptight, anxious, and overwhelmed better than almost anybody I know, I choose to substitute calm and confidence whenever possible.  Even though uptight, anxious, and overwhelmed come very easily to me, I choose to manifest other feelings that are more comfortable and will help me to reach my goals.

diagram of the tapping pointsEyebrow…I am uptight

Side of Eye…And I choose to release it now

Under the Eye…Bit by bit

Under the Nose…Until I am no longer feeling uptight

Chin…I am anxious

Collarbone…And I choose to release it now

Under the Arm…Bit by bit

Top of Head…Until I am no longer feeling anxious

Eyebrow…I am overwhelmed

Side of Eye…And I choose to release it now

Under the Eye…Bit by bit

Under the Nose…Until I am no longer overwhelmed

Chin…Even though I was feeling uptight before

Collarbone…I released it

Under the Arm…Bit by bit

Top of Head…And I choose to feel calm instead

Eyebrow…Even though I was feeling anxious before

Side of Eye…I released it

Under the Eye…Bit by bit

Nose…And I choose to feel confident instead

Chin…Even though I was feeling overwhelmed before

Collarbone…I released it

Under the Arm…Bit by bit

Top of Head…And I choose to feel calm and confident instead

Eyebrow…I used to feel uptight, anxious, and overwhelmed

Side of Eye…I choose to feel calm and confident instead

Under the Eye…I relase the uptight, anxious, and overwhelmed feeling from every cell in my body

Under the Nose…I release the uptight, anxious, and overwhelmed feeling from every muscle in my body

Chin…I release the uptight, anxious, and overwhelmed feeling from every fluid in my body

Collarbone…I choose to accept calmness

Under the Arm…I choose to acknowledge confidence

Top of Head…I choose to accept health and wellness into my body

Take a deep breath and let it out slowly.  Say the original statement again,  “I am uptight, anxious, and overwhelmed.”  Rate the intensity or truth of that statement now on the 0-10 scale.  Continue tapping with these or other more personal statements until your rating is very low.  If other thoughts popped up, or specific circumstances came to mind, be sure to tap on those at some point to help you maintain the calm and confident feeling.

Nothing Calms Me Down Better Than Food

picture of burger and fries to illustrate unhealthy eatingHow true is this statement for you?

NOTHING CALMS ME DOWN BETTER THAN FOOD!

Most days it is a 10 for me.  Try this tapping exercise and see if it helps.

 

illustration for karate chop pointSetup: Nothing calms me down better than food. Whenever I get upset I turn to food. It always works for me. Even though nothing calms me down better than food, I don’t like what it does to my body. I am open to learning new ways of feeling calm. I’m also open to learning more about the things that upset me so that I don’t even need to use food to calm myself.

 

Eyebrow…when I get upset, nothing calms me down better than fooddiagram of the tapping points

Side of Eye…when I get upset, nothing calms me down faster than food

Under the Eye…when I get upset, nothing calms me down better than food

Nose…when I get upset, nothing calms me down faster than food

Chin…when I get upset, nothing calms me down better than food

Collarbone…when I get upset, nothing calms me down faster than food

Under the Arm…when I get upset, nothing calms me down better than food

Top of Head…when I get upset, nothing calms me down faster than food

Eyebrow…Food calms me down

Side of Eye…but it also makes me fat

Under the Eye…when I get upset, nothing calms me down better than food

Nose…And I often need to calm down

Chin…I get upset pretty often

Collarbone…And I use food to calm down

Under the Arm…It is quick, easy, and painless

Top of Head…Well, maybe not painless

Eyebrow…Being overweight is definitely painful

Side of Eye…It is painful both physically and emotionally

Under the Eye…I probably need to learn new ways to deal with my emotions

Nose…Food is quick, but the side effects are long

Chin…I choose to learn to manage my stress in other ways

Collarbone…I can learn to calm myself another way

Under the Arm…Even though I have used food to calm myself in the past

Top of Head…I am excited that there is a possibility of learning a new way.

Tapping Video- Anxiety Part I: Sometimes your brain lies

Anxiety is a complex subject.  This video addresses the form of anxiety that is under the surface, but there isn’t necessarily a clear reason for it. The focus of the tapping is focused on reducing anxiety by small amounts without compromising the need for safety that anxiety actually seems to provide.

Did anyone bring the marshmallows?

glowing campfireI tend to be an optimist, but sometimes I have a hard time seeing the silver lining right away.  Thursday morning started as any other day. I got up and showered, fed the dogs, made my breakfast, packed my lunch for work, then went into the laundry room to check the dogs’ water bowl.  I know many people walk through their mornings in a haze, but I literally walked into the haze during my morning. The room was filling with smoke.  In less that a minute the smoke detectors started blaring and smoke started filling the house.

Skipping to the end of the story – everyone is fine and the house is intact.  But a lot happened between the smoke and now.

Our boiler malfunctioned (another long story) and was burning a hole through the floor beneath it.  If this had happened after we had left for work we wold likely have lost everything.  I made it to work, although smelled like smoke) and Scott stayed home, assessed the damage, and went to work on the repairs.

At work I alternated between anxiety and gratitude that this happened while I was at home.  Fast forward to Friday – no hot water and the house smells like a campfire.  I decided I had a picture of marshmallows toasting to make s'moreschoice.  I could either focus on how inconvenient it was to not be able to take a hot shower and how smokey my house smelled or I could close my eyes and imagine cooking marshmallows for s’mores over the campfire.  I chose the latter.

kitchen sink with running waterSaturday – still no hot water.  My natural optimism was returning and by Saturday afternoon I could finally wash dishes again.  Wash dishes? I have never looked forward to washing dishes in my entire life.  Perhaps that is optimism taken too far.

Looking at everything that happened from this vantage point revealed a few lessons.

  1. I really am an optimist.  However, just because I am an optimist doesn’t mean I don’t feel unhappy or frustrated sometimes. Being an optimist just means that it is my default viewpoint.  Both tapping and conscious choice restored my balance.
  2. Looking for the blessings in your life is important. Unless you look for them you might miss out.  It would have been easy for me to focus on the inconveniences of the day but I know it would not have been a good thing for me or anyone else.
  3. I can tolerate more than I sometimes think I can.  I don’t usually like surprises or anything that disrupts my daily routine.  This event was a disruption but I actually bounced back rather quickly.

I hope I don’t have a fire again.  I hope you don’t either.  But if we do, think about marshmallows.