In a quiet moment a few days ago, I noticed a feeling. Just something vague in the background. I think some people refer to it as existential angst. So I brought it forward to the front of my mind, in order to examine it more closely. I realised that what it actually was, was fear. As simple as that really,

There’s a lot of it about just now; right the way through our society. It seems to be making a lot of people act rather irrationally. Including me when I’m not aware of it. So I’ve made a decision to bring it forward to my conscious mind whenever I can.

It’s strange really; holding it up to be examined. Because it seems to be in the nature of fear, that it doesn’t want to be scrutinised. Which shouldn’t be surprising really. Who in their right mind wants to confront fear.

I learned a long time ago that feelings are triggered by a combination of present and past events. The trick is separating out the two. The current situation may be a very real threat, triggering our fight or flight response. The problem is, that a lot of the time, what also gets triggered is a considerable amount of feeling from past fearful events. It’s often referred to as post traumatic stress. For some people this can cause a full on panic attack; even in a situation that to some onlookers seems insignificant.

People tend to associate PTSD with some major distressing event in someone’s life. Just something one off and dramatic, like a car crash or a natural disaster. And that often is the case. However, I think that it’s a bit more complicated, longer term and more deep rooted in all of us. You have to add together all the apparently minor incidents in life, right from one’s birth experience. Ok, we may not remember the event, but our mind records the feelings all too easily and well. So that each time we are confronted with another event in our lives that we experience as threatening to our existence in some way, another bit of fear is glued onto the pile.

I’ve counselled people through fear and, like grief, it seems to have it’s own physical manifestations. As they tell their story what seems to manifest first is shaking, sometimes quite vigorously. Although mostly it seems to happen in short bursts. Their hands can also feel cold and clammy to the touch. On repeated telling of the story the trembling seems to die down and then shifts to laughter. Which seems odd until you think what happens when someone is given a sudden mild fright. They usually begin to laugh a few seconds after.

Repeated telling of the story seems to be quite important. Which can be hard, since one understandably would rather be doing anything else but confront our fears. This repeated telling of the story of the event, often brings up other thoughts and feelings. It’s equally important to allow these to be expressed too. So shaking may turn into crying or raging or even laughter. These feelings may seem inappropriate to the counsellor, but they may have some relevance to the client, and that’s all that matters.

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