An initiatory journey through the realm of fear
Saturday, March 31st, 2018. I am thrilled to book my flight tickets that will take me in 7 months from now to the end of the world: New-Caledonia. 17,000 km away from Paris, 26 hours of transportation, 14 days of stay, a temperature of about 30 degrees Celsius, to swim 25 times at least, to meet again with a dear friend, to go on this journey with my loving sister. A dream come true, will you tell me? Well, things didn’t really just happen like this…
But let me reassure you and put a stop to this unbearable suspense, this trip happened to be not just wonderful but also rich of learning: a true journey of initiation.
The most difficult part was actually before the trip, that is, those 7 months between the time I booked my tickets and the date of departure. At this time, I experienced fear, the real type, the one that get you sick to your stomach, that makes you want to throw up, that paralyses you. Two years ago, I developed a phobia of flying while I was traveling on a short domestic flight, and since then, I could not stand even a picture of a plane. Two months before my trip to New-Caledonia, I got excessively obsessed with flying in the worst way possible...i was “eating” planes, “working” planes, dreaming of planes. At nightfall, i was overwhelmed with anxiety attacks, and every morning, I would wake up with the conviction that I needed to cancel this trip. One day, a dear friend told me in your capacity of fighting your fear, what’s your percentage of commitment today?” I told her “40%” (I had already read 3 times this book on “How to not be scared anymore to fly on planes”, that didn’t count for nothing), and she advised to “do whatever it takes to get to 90%, and then only you get to decide if you want to go or cancel”. So that’s what I did, and I am going to tell you how.
What is fear? It is a defence mechanism when facing a threat, whether the latter is real or not. Human beings, like animals, respond to fear in 3 ways: by tackling it, running away from it, or getting paralysed by it. At the beginning, i was mentally and physically paralized by just thinking of those long flight hours; then me wanting to cancel the trip was clearly a way to escape from it. Last, when I understood that taking action was a way to counterattack fear, i moved to this phase. Actually there is a positive aspect to fear, that of protecting us from harm; but the negative side appears when the feeling of fear is no longer connected to reality and thus becomes a subjective projection of who we are, our story, our emotional scars from childhood. To tackle one’s fear is to chase out those imaginary ghosts that our mind created.
The first thing I did is accepting my fear. I stopped thinking I was weak and I started talking about it with my family and close friends, who really supported me (thank you all!). Accepting one’s emotion is letting it be, and letting it go when it is time. The second step, and not the least of them, was to diagnose my fear, to search for its meaning, its origin, and bring some rationality to it. Through my fear of flying, I realised that i was fearing the thought of death. From this realisation, I drew out an action plan: meditation, EMDR, breathing exercises, sport practice, painting. I reconnected with what helped me to bear fear, and to live in the present. Eckart Tollé said “your life is now. There has never been a moment where your life did not take place “now” and there will never be another one either.” Fear is anchored in the future, in your projection. If one comes back to the here and now, there is no reason to fear.
1. To cultivate the present moment, i started practicing meditation. Meditating helped me reduce my ruminations, stress, anxiety, as well as headaches, nausea and insomnia.
2. Cardiac coherence is a breathing technique that immediately helps reduce the amount of cortisol, a stress-induced hormone, and increase the amount of oxytocyn, a neurotransmitter also called “the love hormone”, because it triggers positive emotions. The technique consists of breathing so as to reduce the cardiac and respiratory frequency, and to free the diaphragm. Breath in by the nose just a little bit, hold your breath for 4 to 6 seconds, breath out by the mouth and take as much time as possible while doing so. Then hold your breath again for 4 to 6 seconds. Repeat the exercise for 1 minute.
3. I processed my phobia and the negative memory of flying thanks to EMDR practice (Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). EMDR works on negative experiences via an alternate bilateral stimuli that reactivates the the processing of information and re-align the memory in a positive way.
4. Practicing sport and painting, which I had stopped for too long, have been * une soupape de décompression*. I got back to swimming, which reminded me of how much I would enjoy my trip to New-Caledonia and would be in crystal-clear waters there. But it also helped me reduce my stress, physical tensions, and get more self-confidence, trust in my abilities and ressources. Painting is a powerful tools to litterally shape emotions: a line, a curve that we didn’t know of. All this topped up with Guillaume Gallienne’s readings and a glass of wine (yes, it does help reduce stress too!).
Lastly, *rationnaliser* is reminding oneself of the way one has already gone across: I remembered that I had traveled on planes during my childhood, that I had moved to Australia all alone, that I had flown to Cambodia on a 15-hour flight too. All these past experiences matter, because if you did it once, you are able to do it again.
And during the flight to New-Caledonia, I had a mantra: “i am resourceful if something goes wrong”, this was a powerful thought to help me keep confident.
Ultimate piece of advice: reconnect with yourself in this journey against fear. I enjoyed every moment of this trip with my sister, I enjoyed discovering new lands, being adventurous, meeting again with my dear friend.
Today, after 1 journey to the end of the world, 12 planes, 72 hours on flights, the phobia is gone. Only joyful memories, stories worth telling, and the pride of achieving this trip remain.
I leave you with this quote that my step-father shared with me and that guided me
throughout this entire journey into the realm of fear:
"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."
- Camille Lamouille -
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Eckhart Tolle, « Le pouvoir du moment présent », J’ai lu, 1999
Jean-Louis Lamouille, http://psychologie-durable.fr/emdr/, praticien EMDR
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