Fear Vs. Anger – Tranquil Thursday #13

A black and white photo of a solitary boat on a lake

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Are you ready for a little time travel trip back to science class? Do you remember learning about the fight-or-flight response? In lay terms it is considered a means of survival. When the amygdala senses a threat, signals are relayed through the hypothalamus which kicks in the sympathetic nerve system to send nerve signals through the autonomic nerve system to the adrenal glands. This produces adrenaline and emotional responses follow. Pretty amazing I must say.

The problem is that with evolution, we have conditioned our fight-or-flight response to activate in less than life-threatening events. Living in this heightened state for long periods of time could be unhealthy because during this complex physiological response, the body also does something else. It shuts down any bodily functions not necessary to fight or flee the threat.

For example. I excelled at public speaking. I always classified it as an out of body experience which in a way it was. My palms got sweaty, my heart raced, and it felt like my brain shut down. I couldn’t feel my body and I hardly saw the audience. I was almost unaware of everything until the speaking concluded – the threat was over. Pretty cool.

Nervous bladder, sweaty palms, increased blood pressure, tensed muscles, and reacting without thinking can all be part of the response.

Now back to fear and anger. It is believed that fear and anxiety are flight responses and anger is a fight response. Is it any wonder politicians use this knowledge to amp people up? It is a powerful response. Think back to the divisions we experienced during Covid. The fear and anger were real.

Today the question is simple.

How have fear, anxiety and anger played a role in your life and how have you managed those responses?

I do recognize and feel anxiety and fear, especially in the constant onslaught of news around us. So many mental health professionals tell us to turn off the news and control what gets in to our protected circle.

I have experienced bad relationships when I experienced fear. Thankfully they are gone from my life now.

Once my brain is loaded, I replay it over and over which creates anxiety. Learning how to shut my brain off has been challenging. A few nights ago, my brain was on fire preventing me from falling asleep. I decided to slowly count backward from 100. This would require intentional thinking which I hoped would block the other thoughts. At the same time I practiced intentional breathing. The last number I remembered was 85 then I fell fast asleep.

Health concerns can trigger fear and anxiety. Worrying about my children or grandchildren can also. I worry about the danger of guns in their lives but never want them to live in that heightened state of constant fear. I try to counter these thoughts by flooding myself with good news and heartfelt videos of people and pets reflecting the happiness and good in this world.

The anger I feel is for the hatred and the violence that seems to be the norm in America. Our most powerful tool against this is our vote and our voice. Our extended voting periods allow ineffective lawmakers to remain in power and effect a lot of damage in the interim. This means we must fight even harder for change.


Kid Fears

I had a realization this morning and it is complicated. I will try to work my way around to it. Possible triggers ahead.

Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls wrote the song Kid Fears and it is a gut-wrenching favorite of mine. I saw in several places online (but could not find a direct source of the information to adequately credit) that the song was written about the fears of young girls that suffered some type of abuse, sexually, physically, emotionally or simply fears of the unknown. It is a powerful song.

There are a number of contemporary music artists who have written about childhood fears. Perhaps those songs come from the hearts of a generation of children raised in fear. We only know what they share.

I have someone (a young someone) in my life who has expressed fears to me. It is heartbreaking to hear. Young people seem to carry so much fear. Fear of hate, fear of evil, fear of being shot in school, fear of Satan…you name it. We are raising a generation of children who spend a majority of their life isolated searching for a place they feel safe.

In a conversation with my daughter this morning, I realized the only fear I felt as a child came from what I thought I heard in church. Sin was preached from the beginning and I grew up thinking I could never be good enough. Even though I knew there was forgiveness, thinking about trying to live a perfect life set expectations for a standard I could never achieve.

When my first marriage started to break down, I remember going to my minister for advice. My husband had abandoned me and our daughter. He was gone, out of state, with no way to reach him. I was told that marriage was made in heaven and I should just wait until he grew up and he would come back to me. I discussed with my father afterward. He paused, looked me in the eye and asked, “What if your marriage was made in hell?” It was at that moment I decided my daughter and I deserved better. I never looked back.

I do not like to discuss religion or politics on my blog. I consider myself a Christian, although I do not subscribe to many of organized religion’s doctrines. I was taught of a “jealous God and an angry God” and now, reflecting on my life, I choose to believe in a “loving God”.

I grew up in the mountains. We had rattlesnakes and copperheads and bears but none of those made me fearful. It was the underlying fear of making mistakes that established the early path for my life. There is one particular Bible verse that I wrestled with as a child and here I am 65 years old and my emotional child memory still has fear around it.

There are so many valid fears for children and as parents, grandparents, and trusted advisors, I hope we are doing our best to provide a safe place for children to express those fears and hope we provide comfort and reassurance as much as we possibly can.

How do we find a way to raise children in a space of joy while teaching the reality of life without imposing fear? The worst heartbreak for me, are those children who live in fear in their own homes. Many of my adult friends lived that life and I can only imagine what that must have been like.

I always appreciate thoughtful comments and sharing on my blog. I value your experiences and dialogue but I will not discuss the right or wrong of anyone’s personal religious convictions. We are powerful in our differences.


From Fearless to Fearful and Back

Day 255

I was a fearless child. Growing up in the country and having the freedom to roam helped me be rather fearless. I do remember two points in time where I first felt fear as a child. One, I have written about one here on my blog, where my own thoughts were overwhelming and made me fearful.

The second memory has to do when I went with my siblings to ‘jump rocks’. Jumping rocks was what we did to move across or up and down the creek. We jumped from one exposed rock to another. I was the youngest of four children, and I am sure often the most annoying of the lot.

On this particular day, the creek was up, which made the available surface to jump to and from smaller. My siblings told me to wait on a very large rock because the jumps were too long for me to make. All was well until I looked down to see a snake and what looked like 20 babies swimming along beside the rock.

I started to scream bloody murder. All I wanted was my grandfather to rescue me, but unfortunately he was away visiting his brother. I screamed so loud, the entire community came running. No one could get me off that rock. I wanted my Grandpa.

I am not sure who finally got me off the rock, but I remember this as if it were yesterday. I know now the snakes were harmless water snakes, but at the time, they seemed deadly.

When my granddaughter was here, she started to say “scared” and the most benign things. It seems she has picked up fear of bugs at daycare. Being afraid of bugs in the mountains will not serve you well. We were able to show her bees and bugs and talk about where they lived, but I cannot help but wonder what goes on in her little mind.

Looking back, I think society influences our fear. The news, the guns, the crime, the hatred — all of it bombards us. I have made an intentional effort to limit the amount of time I read the news, spend time on Facebook, or watch too much tv. As a result, I live more peacefully and enjoy life much more.

I also think being knocked down through jobs we held, can make us fearful and believe we are not capable of all the magic that each of us possess. But the magic never dies. Sometimes we just need to unearth it.

The other day I walked by a huge grape vine wound around a tree. I remembered back to the little girl that would hike the woods with her brother, cut free the grape vine and swing like Tarzan. We drank water from the springs using leaves as our cups. That was a fearless girl. I’m glad she’s finding her way home.