si dawson

experiments in self-improvement

Category: health

Dealing To Fear

Fear is very simple.

Our usual reaction to fear, anxiety, in fact any “negative” or “unpleasant” emotion is to avoid it. To either push it down or try to escape it (booze, sex, TV etc).

And this works!

Well, kinda.

All it really does is push that emotion back down again, but, like an unkillable hydra, it will in time rear itself up to bite us on our proverbial asses.

So, what’s a better way to deal with fear?

Well, there’s a super easy way, but you’ve gotta be willing to try something different.

In fact, you’ve got to be willing to do the exact opposite (If what you’re doing isn’t working for you, why the hell not give it a shot? Worst case and it doesn’t work, you’re exactly where you are already)

Here’s what you do: Rather than push it down, welcome it up.

Of course, this goes against our natural instincts (“Our hand hurts, we take it off the stove”). But maybe something unobvious is what’s needed here.

It’s actually very simple (aren’t most Truths?)

Rather than saying “No” to the fear or other negative emotion, say “Yes” to it. Literally.

  1. Address the fear and say “Yes” to it, out loud.
  2. Welcome that feeling up
  3. Feel it (in your stomach or chest)
  4. Then, open a door or window (whatever works for you) right over that feeling, and just let the emotion leave.

It’s the funny thing with emotions, the only reason they appear in the first place is because they want to leave.

All emotions want to leave.

Our instinct-to-avoid thus prevents this.

You can send the feeling love “I love you, and it’s time for you to leave.” You can just allow it to leave “I allow you to leave.” You can ask it if it wants to leave “Fear, do you want to leave?” Tap along with it. All of these work.

The key is just that you stop resisting the feeling. Stop saying “No” to it and say “Yes” instead. Send the feeling love instead of hate.

Much like learning to drive – when we see oncoming lights, our instinct is to swerve towards the lights – which is why we need to be taught to steer towards the side of the road. Sometimes our instincts do steer us wrong.

The answer is so incredibly simple. The opposite of our instincts, not always easy, but simple.

Say yes to all non-loving feelings, and just let them go.

What do you have to lose. You’re already in pain anyway*, right?

Just say yes.

* You’re not in pain? You have no fear? Awesome. Then keep saying yes. Say yes to love, to happiness, to joy! Say yes to being The Most Amazing You Ever!


    Stop Bashing Your Head Against The Wall!

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It enables us to look back & say “Oh wow, that was a complete waste of a day.. or 10 years.”

    Wouldn’t it be useful to know in advance if something was going to be pointless? Or how about just at the time? Even cutting that wasted 6 months back to a day or two would be a huge win.

    How the hell would we go about that?

    Well, an obvious way is to get more present (eg this excellent video tutorial on ‘Falling Still’ by my good friend @Dhrumil). The more aware we are, the more attention we’ll pay to warning signs that perhaps we’re wasting our time (aka, not being in the flow of the universe).

    Getting more present is well covered territory, so how about just ensuring we’re not massively out of sync with the world in some huge way?

    How do we spot when we are really, really nowhere the hell near what’s best for us? Or when we’re exhibiting akrasia, and actively going against our own best judgement?

    In other words, how do we identify (so we can correct) when we’re  making life unbearably difficult for ourselves?

    Turns out, this is easier to spot than it might seem. The bad news is, it’s usually easiest to see about ten years after we’ve stopped doing it. It’s also typically accompanied by enlightened self-observations such as “dipshit” & other such beating ourselves up.

    pic by rob, rich & tim

    So what are typical head-bashing symptoms?

    Very simply: pouring massive amounts of time, energy & effort into a situation (or person).. and getting disproportionately little in return.

    What are the warning signs?

    • Are you always the one to initiate contact?
    • Is it always a massive effort to cheer them up (or them you)?
    • Do you put way more effort into communication than they do (as I discussed recently, asymmetrical communication)?
    • Does it feel like you have to “chase” them, but they’re never chasing you in return?
    • Do you come away from them feeling drained?
    • Is there a mis-match between your communication tones? (eg, you’re generally positive towards them; they’re generally negative towards you)
    • Do you compromise way more often than them?
    • Do you feel you need to ‘convince’ them of things that are obvious & reasonable in every other similar relationship you have?
    • Do you dread seeing them?

    Seeing these signs isn’t enough by themselves, of course, you need to allow for context. Everyone goes through difficulties, & every relationship in your life will show some of these at some point or other.  One symptom by itself may tell you nothing more than that person desperately needs your support.

    If you’re seeing a large number of them though? That’s a pretty good sign you’re just wasting a ton of time & energy for no good reason.

    One obvious solution is just to remove those people from your life – or at the very least minimize contact as much as possible.

    pic by eventhestreets

    Of course, people always change, & in time they may well end up being your closest friend ever. Right now though? They’re not.

    However it’s always a mistake (& one I’ve learned the hard way, repeatedly) to fall in love, or spend time & energy on someone based on who they might become – instead of who they actually are right now.

    I’ve had relationships I’ve bailed out of because I eventually realised I’d been hanging on (for years in some cases), solely in the hope they might one day become the person I could see they were capable of being.

    If you abstract this conversation up a level, you’ll also see you have relationships with companies – those who give you money (your employer, your customers), and those you give money to (your utilities, local cafe). The same rules apply.

    Why waste your time, your energy, your life on any relationship that is non-reciprocal & not adding value to your existence?

    Similarly, & in the interests of balance, it’s worth reassessing how you are to those around you. Are you “take take take”? Could you enrich the lives of those who love you by putting just a little more effort in?

    Trust me, it is always going to be worth your time to do so. Really it’s simply a case of showing them the love & respect that they are showing you.

    These small (though occasionally scary) observations & steps can help save years of your life, untold misery, & free you up to truly get in the flow of the universe.

    Life is supposed to be easy. Not without effort, but certainly not a perpetual struggle. Believing otherwise simply leads us to create these walls & spend years, as I’ve done, bashing our heads against them.


      No Soap: The Verdict

      For January I tried an experiment. No soap when washing myself.

      Here are my results & thoughts:

      1. The first week or so is the worst. My body was obviously flushing something out. I don’t know what, but it smelt pretty bad. I had a lot of showers per day.
      2. The first couple of weeks I also got quite a few blocked pores, but they went away too.
      3. Even with a very active lifestyle, it’s actually quite manageable. I started by using no deoderant (I wanted to know what was going on), but ended up using an eau de toilette under my arms. There wasn’t a strong negative smell, I just preferred it to myself. Oh, I hate my body smell, quelle horror. Not really, just a minor preference.
      4. Interestingly, my (very slight) eczema flared up a bit when my body was detoxing, initially, then calmed right down, went away & hasn’t come back at all.
      5. When I get out of the shower I’m actually drier. As with the toxin flushing, I suspect that even using a very light soap & rinsing well leaves enough of a film that a) toxins can’t naturally flush & b) water gets trapped on the surface rather than naturally being absorbed
      6. I’ve also stopped using shampoo. Hair feels fine. There’s a little grease when I run my hand through my hair, but I figure that’s just healthy natural oils. It’s certainly never been too oily, not like when I was using shampoo. My scalp is great.
      7. It’s really easy to be lazy & just stand under the shower, but it’s important to rub your hands over your body, same as if you’re using soap – particularly on high sweat areas – thighs, chest, armpits, back.
      8. Ears. Ears are weird. In ears & behind ears? Couldn’t keep those clean without soap. I don’t think I have particularly dirty ears (unless they’re running off while I’m asleep), I suspect it’s just a function of the way ears are (you know, waxy & all)

      pic by jciv

      By the end of the month, I’d settled on using soap in the following circumstances:

      1. Before preparing food (duh)
      2. After bathroom (see? not a complete philistine)
      3. To wash extreme amounts of grease/grime/etc off my hands, or, for example, after vigorously rubbing my scalp to keep my hair/scalp clean
      4. In high sweat areas if there was strong smell or I felt compelled to (after super heavy exercise) – so, that’d be arse, groin, armpits, oh, & the ever magical ear. Even then, I’m using the lightest amounts possible, and very rarely, maybe once a week

      Given that my skin is my largest organ (ooerr), & obviously there was something unhealthy being blocked by using soap, I’m very happy to continue with the above plan. That pretty much works for me.

      Oh, & for bubble baths? All rules are off :)

      [earlier post: The No Soap Experiment]


        The No Soap Experiment

        I’m not really a fan of New Year’s resolutions. How many do you end up keeping?

        However, a new year’s experiment – where you try something new, just for January? Ahh, that’s awesome.

        So, a few years back I read a book a day for all of Jan. That was.. entertaining, although I didn’t do much else with my time.

        Then I tried eating no meat for January a couple of years later. That lasted about 3 days, until I realised I’d have to learn how to cook tofu (Eww! No thanks!) whereupon I discovered the raw food diet – no cooking, no tofu? I’m sold! Which was great, and extended out more or less continuously from there.

        This year, based on reading this, & this, I thought I’d try washing with no soap or shampoo for all of January.

        To paraphrase the theory, one reason we smell is because of bacteria on our skin, which is amped up when we strip natural oils etc out using soaps (which also leave a thin film of chemicals on our skin). Skin is something which is vastly underrated, but given that it’s our largest organ, we should probably consider a little more than we tend to.

        There’s also a theory that you should never put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t eat. Since our skin is absorbent, I’ve gotta say, that holds a lot of water for me.

        People that have done the “no soap” thing before say it takes a couple of weeks for your body to adjust. There’s a lot of flushing of toxins, plus your body getting used to not having to constantly replace the oils. After that, things hum along – clean shiny hair, glowing skin, etc etc.

        Personally? I’ve gotta say I’m skeptical. I have some unusual skin. It’s very moist (a dermatologist once showed it to me under a microscope, saying it was the moistest skin she’d ever seen). I also have a hyperactive lifestyle – working out until physical exhaustion (ie, mega sweat+dirt) four times a week, & do occasionally get very slight patches of eczema if I’m under a lot of stress or don’t clean super well. I also find that my pores clog up a little if I miss a patch on my leg, say, when I’m cleaning (particularly after hard exercise).

        These are all very minor things, but I suspect they’ll be exacerbated without soap.

        Up until now I’ve found the best solution is to use a very mild, non perfumed soap. I also do dry skin brushing (when I remember, I’m a bit lazy on that front, I’ll admit), which helps slough off dead skin cells.

        Of course, I’ll still use soap before food prep, after the bathroom, or if (like today) I get myself covered in oil up to the elbows. Best not to be a complete idiot & ignore all that science has discovered in the past 200 years.

        Also, this does NOT mean no washing. Hell no. Just not using soap. I’ll still be scrubbing my body as if I were using soap – so that friction will help clean off dirt etc. I already use a nail brush (without soap) to scrub real tough grime out – eg grass stains on the bottom of my feet after training.

        At present I’m a few days in, and definitely in that “argh” stage. I’m going to up the skin brushing a bit, & have more regular showers to help my skin flush away any crud that’s coming out.

        By the end of January I should have enough data to make a definitive conclusion – for my own body at least. Up to you to figure it out for yourself!


          Anger is Stupid

          Two interesting things happened to me this week.

          The first, let’s call “Event X”, was that someone made me very, very angry. There’s no value in getting into the specifics, but I’ve wracked my brain & been unable to come up with a worse thing that anyone has ever done to me. There probably is, I just can’t remember it, so let’s put it in the top three.

          The second, let’s call “Event Y”, was that I made someone else very, very angry. Again, little value in the specifics – except to say that it was very definitely not intentional on my part (but of course I’d say that! I’m the one telling this story!)

          So, Event X. How did I react? Well, firstly, I don’t get angry very often. Not really angry. Maybe once every few years. I can distinctly remember the last time it happened, & that was February 2002. I get aggrieved, frustrated, annoyed, miffed.. but not real, cold anger. All these things are happening less & less these days (thankfully), but I’m still human.

          To start with, I was in shock. Plain, simple shock that such a terrible thing could be done to me. I then transitioned into serious, hardcore anger. I had a very brief flirt with thoughts of revenge – for less than a second – but where’s the value? Then you just have two upset people. As Ghandhi put so eloquently put it “An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.”

          Then followed about 5 or 10 minutes of loud swearing (I was home alone), some surprise, disappointment, disbelief, & then, as I let more & more of it go, peace. And action, lots of action, to sort it all out.

          pic by urline

          So, not ideal, yet. But, over it in a day or so tops. Over the worst of it in about half an hour. For me, that’s a huge step forward. I’m happy with it. I’ll keep working on it. It will improve.

          Ok, let’s leave that for the moment & move on to Event Y. Me making someone else angry.

          I can’t explain how the other person felt, except that they were still bitter & spewing unrequested vitriol in my direction several hours later.

          Here’s the funny thing though. This wasn’t even anyone I know. I’d never met them before. Yes, a completely random internet stranger. Now, if I was going to be completely fair about it, I’d say I might have been a bit pushy. They might have been a bit careless – not paying as much attention as they could have been. Basically a very minor misunderstanding led to me doing something that they deemed utterly abhorrent. In my value system, it qualifies as “uhh, *shrug* so what?” but ok, everyone gets upset by different things.

          Anyway, I could see that this person was in pain. They were screaming furious (sound familiar?) All over what to me was a simple misunderstanding, fixed with one click of a button. Them being upset didn’t bother me particularly, I just thought, well, they should have paid more attention, & besides, it’s such a minor thing, really, who cares?

          But of course, different value systems – you can see where the misunderstanding might creep in.

          The practical upshot was this – that person poured a ton of negative energy (bile, acid, stress) into their body for an extended period of time. Net effect on me? Basically zero.

          Ok, so back to Event X.

          Here’s what I realised today.

          This person had been threatening to do what they actually ended up doing for weeks. I just figured they wouldn’t go through with it, so of course it was a huge shock when they did. However, if I’d actually listened to them, and taken action much earlier, I wouldn’t even have noticed what they’d done. The effect on me would have been absolutely nothing. Less than nothing. Actually the outcome has been very positive.


          So, hang on, I got that angry, for what? Not paying attention? Not acting on what I’d already been told. Basically, I got angry because they did what they said they would do. Because they were as good as their word.

          Uh, what?!?

          I know I got stressed. Probably shortened my lifespan in the process.

          What a complete & utter waste of energy.

          Carrie Fisher had a great quote about resentment – but the exact same thing applies to anger, so I’ll paraphrase (Thanks Carrie, love your work!):

          “Anger is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die”

          So true. So very, VERY true.