Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics
About 99% of my meditations with my wife are about dealing with fear. Old fears. Fears that cause nightmares and keep me up at night. Fears that lurk deep in my subconscious, driving my perspective and making my choices in life despite what I think I want. Because these old fears have such an impact on my health and well being, affecting my relationships and my pocketbook, I give them my attention. As much as I can. I have always had a hard time writing about this because it is a topic few understand. The results take a long time to come to fruition and require an enormous amount of effort.
A good metaphor for this would be the hike my wife and I took in Point Reyes National Park a couple of days ago to celebrate our 22nd anniversary. We took a hike, about 5.5 miles one way to the tip of Tomales Point. It is a peninsula at the North end of the park and we were planning on hiking all the way to the tip. It is not the most hospitable trail. There are no bathroom facilities and no water. As we started out, there were quite a few people on the trail and it was wide and accommodating with a bit of fog. Think of this as the conscious awareness of fear. Most people, most of the time, are aware that they have some amount of fear. But the trail doesn’t end here. It seemed to never end. There was always another hill and as we walked, the trail began to narrow. Clearly, fewer people traveled this far. Think of this area, as people being aware that they have subconscious fears and being willing to explore them a bit. The trail didn’t end here either. Instead of being hard packed earth, it was sand and the walking was more difficult and weaved around.
And here is where people begin to face their fears, far away from the main crowd, where the trail narrows and becomes more challenging, where few people choose to continue. Still the trail continued, now no longer straight or even obvious, bushes crowding in from both sides with dead end trails leading nowhere occasionally slowing us down. Fewer people still, made it this far. This was for people willing to devote themselves to more strenuous effort. It was like the task of facing their fears with very focused intent. At this point, we knew we were getting close, but still had not reached our goal.
By now, the trail was hardly visible and we had to occasionally search for it. Brush dragged against our sides every step of the way as we slogged up and down hills winding our way slowly through the sand. We had left everyone behind, save for one other lone hiker who was ahead of us. In a popular and accessible National Park in the middle of summer, we were almost alone. We came up to the edge of a staggering beautiful cliff with the ocean spread out below. Not visible from a distance because of the fog, we had no idea it was there until we stood atop it. In the same way, we cannot know what benefits we receive from working out our fears until we are nearly there and the results start to show. We were getting close, but we were still not there. We climbed what turned out to be the last hill.
As we reached the top, we could see finally that we were almost to the end of our journey. All of our hard work was paying off in a spectacular view as we looked down at the tip of the peninsula. At the rocks beyond the point, seals and birds lounged about as numerous pelicans cruised just above the water below us. By steadily plodding along on this trail, it was like working on our fears, we made our way through them even though it was difficult at times, and now we were beginning to feel the uplifting of spirit that comes with achieving our goal. We headed down almost to the end where we met the other hiker who had also come this far. I noticed that it was possible to go a bit farther, but he said that the way was steep. I looked to my left and saw that he was right. We chatted for a moment, and then he left. We were very, very close to the end.
Just that last little bit. I hunted around and found another, less challenging trail down that the other hiker had missed. Down we went, just a little farther through the brush and the sand and there we were. We had come to the farthest possible point North that could be achieved. And we were quite alone. In this spot we were out of the wind. It was peaceful and we watched boats go by, birds fly and seals jostle around. We were there. The other hiker had given up and turned back at the last moment, missing the very special spot unobstructed by rock or brush with a clear view of . . . everything. It was a magical moment and worth the effort we had put into it.
The extra effort makes all the difference in the world. The final little bit that pushes us through our fears can give us just that much more of ourselves back. The reward is change. Change from unhappy patterns that have dominated our lives. And since we have purged that fear, it is not an area where we argue with people anymore. This is quite valuable to me and why I devote so much effort to it.
My experience in working on my fears and in trying to teach this to others is that it is very very hard. As I get closer to examining my fears, the level of distraction goes way up. Sometimes it is external. Things start to happen around me that demand my attention. Other times it is internal and I can’t remember what I was trying to think about. Either way, there is nothing to do but get back up on the horse and keep going when it’s possible again. It does no good to chide myself for failing because ultimately, this is a distraction as well.
The best technique I have found for dealing with fears is something psychologists use. I hold the unpleasant thought in my mind and then I focus my attention on my upright index finger, tracking it with both of my eyes as I move it from left to right and back again. This apparently desensitizes the fear. I can honestly say that after a few moments of doing this I am exhausted from the effort. It seems to work though.
Beyond that advice, it is a personal journey. It involves memories, ancient hurts, anger and pain and it seems as if there is always another hill to climb and it never seems to be finished. The payoff of a less stressful life though, makes it all worth it.