Why Ignoring Fear Doesn't Work
Yesterday was a powerful day for me. I was officially diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, and told that I’m doing all the right things to bring it under control. “Remission” is an interesting word. It is both, “A temporary or permanent decrease or subsidence of manifestations of a disease,” and, “Pardon; forgiveness, as of sins or offences.” Today I am absolutely clear that this auto-immune disorder holds the potential of both - like a kind of auto-corrector for my life. A means by which to heal my bodily transgressions, and an opportunity to true myself up to my values and strengthen my core integrity. To forgive my so-called sins and accept more of who I am.
In case you’re unfamiliar with it, Hashimoto’s is a condition whereby the immune system creates anti-bodies that attack the body’s own thyroid. And isn’t internal battle what I’ve done for most of my life? As a survival mechanism developed at a young age, I spurned the negative and sided with the positive, spending most of my life fighting to do the right thing and avoid feeling anything bad. As an adult, I came to understand that that which is dark has a place in our humanity. But the patterns established in childhood are well worn, and it was a long time before I learned to embrace all of it. In shunning my body’s expression of fear and other undesirable emotions, I unknowingly waged war with myself. I inadvertently disengaged my mind from my body. And as Dr. John E. Sarno, called “America’s Best Doctor” by Forbes Magazine, so brilliantly distinguished, there is no separation between mind and body. Recognizing this inner assault and false division is the gift of my illness.
It may sound like saccharine positivity, or perhaps like I’m in denial, but I’m not upset by my illness anymore. I did go through those stages, along with anger and despair at being stopped in my tracks in the prime of life, but I no longer think that being sick for 7 years has been tragic or pointless or even a shame. I think it’s quite wonderful, actually. I am no longer in a race or a fight. I am in awe of the mindbody and its ability to completely change my life. This glorious, powerful, brilliant creation that provides us with our own occurrence here on earth. How little we actually know of its complexity. How often we live in ignorance of our whole experience, cutting off parts of ourselves as if they are superfluous. We figuratively chop off our own heads, denying the body’s cues and limiting our range of “thinking” to only that which occurs above the neck. We are then detached from our physical selves and so much of our innate intelligence.
The body often “knows” before we do. Throbbing temples, racing heart, butterflies in the stomach, sweaty palms, weak knees. Even just tiredness. We ignore these non-verbal voices and push through. We think we can hit an override button, and attempt to dominate the body with the mind. But at what cost? How many times have I felt the fear and done it any way? We celebrate this act of mind over matter, and yet all we’ve done is waged war on ourselves. I always believed it was good to face my fears. But dismissing fear, pushing it aside and acting as if it doesn’t exist is not the same as confronting it. What’s needed is to look it in the eye and allow it to be - until it allows us to be. Disregarding its existence is a lie. I pretended I didn’t have fear, presenting myself as poised and confident. But it was an act. It is true that I could sometimes “fake it till I made it” but, again, at what price? I did not honour my fear, I rejected it. And in doing so, I disrespected myself. My “dis-ease” has shined a light on a self-knowledge I already had, but had denied. The body doesn’t lie, but the mind is a natural trickster.
I have lived most of my adult life behind a shield of sophistication, strength, and the appearance of surety. But that is not who I am. To a degree, or from one paradigm, it’s true that I am who I say I am. So says the mind. But I am also what comes naturally. What my body inherently knows. And unless I listen to my body and deal with and honour it, my mind will only ever produce a disguise. A mask over my authentic self. The lure is that our masks, our outward appearances, are so revered in our culture. The appearance of success and happiness fills the pages of Facebook and other social media, and fuels the effectiveness of advertising that illuminates the truth of what we are missing and chasing. I’ve been forced from my mind into my body through this literal attack - the literal creation of “anti-bodies”. I have had to actually face the physical. To confront and bow down in deference to my fears and pain and exhaustion. And in doing so, in facing the truth of these experiences, I am being liberated from them, and freed from the domination of my mind. It’s a difficult phenomenon to describe, because there are no words from the place in us where there are no words.