Culture of Fear
(10/2015) "This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear
itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." No, this is not a recent speech, although, it may seem true for today’s society given that we are under a siege of fear. It was President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inaugural speech in 1933.
Watch any form of media and what are you bombarded with? There is apprehension about "dramatic weather" coming your way, contagious rare diseases, serious crimes, and turmoil in the world (I didn’t want to list too many things – didn’t want to make you more fearful). Our 24/7 news programs will spend hours, days, and weeks discussing the
latest traumatic events – playing them over and over again, making it seem like the events are continuing to happen. All of these media messages continue to perpetuate the message: Watch out! Be fearful! Don’t trust! There is much to be afraid of!
First, it is important to note that fear is an appropriate and necessary emotion. It does occur naturally, and can help you survive a threat. For example, if while walking in the woods, you saw a bear, fear would cause you to seek safety. The Chinese character for fear is drawn as a hand carrying a tool poised above the heart. This
character conveys the image of something repeatedly beating on one’s heart. It shows that fear could cause one to feel heart palpitations, therefore, be frozen and unable to move forward.
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, the emotion of fear is associated with the natural element of Water. Think about the darkness and the depths of the ocean. Don’t you experience a level of uncertainty and fear about "what is out there" in the dark or "what could be lurking" at the deepest depths of the ocean? Since the
Water element deals with your innate resources and how wisely you use them, your potential, and your ability for self – assurance, can you see how having a healthy level of fear can facilitate your thinking and preparing for the future and your ability to be resilient no matter what happens?
Abnormal State of Fear
However, when fear becomes the emotional state from which you function, it can have negative consequences. Our endocrine system releases adrenaline and other hormones, which help protect us in the short term, but they are detrimental if the stressors (whether real or imagined) persist. From a western perspective, psychoneuroimmunological
(psycho-neuro-immuno-logical) testing in laboratory animals and a range of human epidemiological findings associate exposure to prolonged stress with a weakened immune system, increased cardiovascular damage. Also, associated with this are gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome, decreased fertility, impaired formation of long-term
memories. Other symptoms include fatigue, an increased likelihood of osteoporosis and type 2 diabetes, and aggravated clinical depression, accelerated ageing and even premature death (found in the article: The Consequences of Fear by David Ropeik, 2004).
From a TCM perspective, chronic fear and nervousness has the ability to "freeze" or "paralyze" someone. It may even become difficult for them to take a "step forward" (both figuratively and literally). A person’s mind may even become "stuck and fixed," and result in them feeling overwhelmed or being unable to contain their thoughts. A
person experiencing fear may also act in an opposite way, babbling uncontrollably. Here again you can see the analogies to water, whether it is "frozen" or "flowing out of control".
The organs that correspond with the Water element and the emotion of Fear are the Kidneys and Bladder. In TCM, the Kidneys and Bladder have many functions on a body, mind, and spirit level.
The Kidneys are the source of our potential (they are considered to be our "battery pack"). The energy from our "battery pack" activates our metabolism and motivates us to live (think about surviving through the winter). On an emotional and mental level, the Kidneys are responsible for mental strength (adaptable thinking), long term memory,
concentration, cleverness, and the ability to be "still." On a spirit level, the Kidneys are responsible for our inherent constitution, resiliency (which includes inner power and courage in times of difficulty), the ability to fulfill our potential and manifest ourselves in the world, and having the faith for a "future harvest."
The Bladder has the vital function of storing and regulating the water and flow of energy for the entire body. On a physical level it is responsible for storing excess water and excreting the urine (waste water) that has been filtered by the kidneys. On an emotional and mental level, the Bladder is responsible for the ability of our
thoughts to flow easily, to offer support and reassurance to ourselves and others, and to be able to listen well to others. On a spirit level, the Bladder gives us a sense of ambition and confidence, and a sense of comfort and ease at a deep level within our core.
Support Your Kidneys and Bladder
So, do you find yourself like most Americans, "frozen" with fear because you thing the world is more dangerous than ever before? There is plenty of evidence that refutes this misperception. I recommend that you read the book The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things by Barry Glassner. In this book, you will find the
much-needed antidote to the prevalent dis-ease that the media plagues us with on a daily basis. And, while you are reading this book, support your Kidneys and Bladder by doing some of the following:
- Balance the amount of activity and rest (work, rest, & play). This is a great example of using your resources wisely.
- Exercise wisely (do energy building exercises like yoga, qi gong, and tai chi), versus performing exercises that use up a lot of your energy and run your "batteries" down.
- Take time to meditate or have time for quiet contemplation. Plus, stop watching the news 24/7! This will help keep you from depleting your resources.
- March in place by slowly stomping each foot with a flat foot, for about 5 minutes a day. This stimulates your Kidney’s energy as the feet are associated with the Kidney and Bladder meridians, which run through the heel and to the sole of the foot.
- Rub your ears for several minutes a day. This simple massage strengthens Kidney function, as the ears are connected energetically to the Kidney organ and meridian.
- Stop energy drains! Conserve your energy by falling asleep before midnight, resting when you’re tired, and giving yourself permission to take a break and de-stress.
- Think about abundance instead of scarcity.
- Eat foods that come from saltwater (fish, seaweeds); seeds; salty-flavored foods (if you don’t have blood pressure problems); and dark colored foods (red/black beans). These types of foods support your Kidneys (think about how kidney beans look like a Kidney) and Bladder.
- Avoid too many stimulants or dehydrating drinks. These can affect your mood in a negative way.
Finally, here are some quotes about fear:
"There is no illusion greater than fear." - Lao Tzu
"Men are not afraid of things, but of how they view them." - Epictetus
"Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely." - Buddha
Renee Lehman is a licensed acupuncturist, physical therapist, and Reiki Master with over 20 years of health care experience. Her office is located at 249B York Street in Gettysburg, PA. She can be reached at 717-752-5728.