Fear is not this magical thing your brain invents. No, it happens in our bodies. It’s the tightening of your stomach, the tensing of your muscles, the release of adrenaline, the overwhelming desire for space and emptiness around your body. While the Thinking Brain exists solely within the synaptic arrangements inside your skull, the Feeling Brain is the wisdom and stupidity of the entire body. Anger pushes your body to move. Anxiety pulls it into retreat. Joy lights up the facial muscles, while sadness attempts to shade your existence from view. Emotion inspires action, and action inspires emotion. The two are inseparable. This leads to the simplest and most obvious answer to the timeless question, why don’t we do things we know we should do? Because we don’t feel like it. Every problem of self-control is not a problem of information or discipline or reason but, rather, of emotion. Self-control is an emotional problem; laziness is an emotional problem; procrastination is an emotional problem; underachievement is an emotional problem; impulsiveness is an emotional problem.“Everything Is F*cked” by Mark Manson
I guess it’s both naive and typical of me, but often I think of fear as a thought process rather than an emotional one. Because while there is a thought associated with a fear, it’s the emotional aspect that defines it as fear. But I guess my habit of ignoring my emotions leads me to overlook that fact.
I recently blogged about (probably multiple times) how when I’m not acting on anything, my mood tends to crash. Sometimes I’m in touch with the connection between those two things than other times. But other times, especially when I’m in a low, I’m not aware that my inaction is keeping me feeling stuck.
For instance, when I’m anxious about something, I retreat into my head. Rather than being in communication–sharing my experience or getting clarity on things–I shut down. This just further fuels my anxiety, and the cycle continues. I’m stuck in my anxiety.
Or when I’m sad about something, I try to disappear and be invisible to the people around me. I avoid talking to people, I don’t hang out, and I do whatever I can to avoid drawing attention to myself. This makes me feel alone, disconnected, and unwanted which further contributes to my sadness, and the cycle continues. I’m stuck in my sadness.
I was on a call this morning that got me thinking about the paradox of emotions–the wisdom and stupidity of the entire body.
I very rarely think about this duality. I’m pretty problem-focused, so I tend to focus on the stupidity of the body. Emotions in my experience are often irrational and thus I don’t usually trust them.
Because I mean, my insecurities, fears, and anxieties are just stories that my mind makes up. Sometimes those insecurities, fears, and anxieties turn out to be real. But I don’t know that those things are strongly correlated, because sometimes I have unwarranted feelings, and sometimes I’m blindsided by things I didn’t even know to fear.
So mentally, I don’t trust my fears. But emotionally, I’m afraid that the fear will be warranted. That this time, my body knows something that my mind is ignoring.
I’ve heard stories before about people who have seen red flags or had intuitions about things, and then ignored those things thinking they were false. But later they discovered those things to be true. And then they felt like a fool because they should have paid attention to that innate wisdom of their body.
So part of me is always afraid that I’ll subconsciously be aware of something and then I’ll ignore that. That I’ll make a mistake of judging which information I should have paid attention to and have that mistake come back to bite me. That I’ll play the fool when I find out the red flags I chose to ignore come back to bite me.
That there is a wisdom to the body, and that I chose to ignore it.
But I think what I realized this morning is that the wisdom of the body has nothing to do with any truth about the external world. The wisdom of the body is that there are things that I do or don’t like; things that I want or don’t want; things that I’m comfortable with–or not.
We all overestimate our skills and intentions and underestimate the skills and intentions of others.“Everything Is F*cked” by Mark Manson
So in choosing to acknowledge that wisdom of the body, perhaps that’s just an indicator that there’s something I need to be in communication about. An area where I’m retreating into my head. An area where I’m trying to be invisible. An area where I’m being inauthentic about my experience.
I’m not saying that it would be beneficial to be in communication about things for the purpose of changing anything. Maybe it won’t. Maybe it won’t lead to change at all. Or maybe it will lead to some sort of middle ground.
But to be in communication means I’m being honest, open, and authentic about how I’m experiencing something.
It means I’m not retreating into my head.
It means I’m not trying to be invisible.
It means I’m being taking actions to get out of my normal cycles of anxiety and depression.