Sunday, November 14, 2010

Airplanes and spaceships: They're all outer environment

So much of our fear is driven by the outer environment. It seems like a simple concept, but it was quite a wake-up call once I joined Recovery. During the past week I’ve had multiple opportunities to recognize the importance of not letting my outer environment affect my inner environment.

For example, I was flying for a business trip. A pilot could not have asked for more ideal weather—clear blue skies between destinations. Of course, there were some bumps along the way. I’m not afraid to fly, but turbulence typically makes me very anxious. My hands clench, body sweats, eyes blur; I fear the plane will crash—average symptoms for me (and probably many people).

On my return flight home, though, I realized that I have absolutely no control over the airplane, my outer environment, and I had a responsibility to make my mental health a business and practice my Recovery training. I focused on secure thoughts (“Flying is one of the safest ways to travel”) and practiced objectivity by burying myself in a book. Soon my symptoms disappeared and even when there was an occasional bump I didn’t develop a panic. Before Recovery I would not have been able to practice this self-control and would have been miserable the entire flight. I endorsed myself.

The book I was reading was the sci-fi novel Dune. Some of the characters in the book have a saying they recite when faced with an anxious situation:

“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.” (1)

Although this is not a Recovery tool, I do like how this “Litany against Fear” emphasizes that fear can overwhelm someone but if he lets it pass, all will be well. The book takes place thousands of years in the future, but humans still succumb to fear from their outer environment in the universe. Thankfully we have the tools to make our everyday, present existence less dominated by anxiety.

1. Herbert F. Dune. 40th anniversary ed. New York: Penguin; 2005: 8.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As I worked through my fear of flying (twice), I would use the flight attendants as objectivity - if they looked nervous (which I think they are trained not to exhibit) then I would worry. Eventually, over time, I rarely looked at them and became relaxed on planes. Excellent posting to even those not afflicted with long term nervous symptoms.