The Creativity Cure

A do-it-yourself prescription for happiness

Monsters to Fairies, Panic to Peace

With a prepared mind, logic serves as solace

One can move from panicky to peaceful by training the mind to respond differently to fear-charged triggers.  As my friend Stephanie Joyce, an artist and yoga instructor says, “You can change your relationship to your thoughts.”

Clinically speaking, throwing logic at a panicky person in the moment usually does not console them. It might in fact, infuriate them or inflate the fear. This is linked to the Psych 101 rule to never argue with a delusion (fixed false belief) because the sufferer can become staunch in trying to prove that the problem exists and that you are clueless. While you do not have to concur that the delusion is real, you can convey that the conundrum plagues the person. Mirror/validate/empathize communicates that you comprehend and care, though you are not similarly swept up.

Once when my daughter was five she feared there was a monster in the closet. I told her that the colored butterflies clipped to her bed netting would turn into fairies, fly around, douse the monster with fairy dust, and make him disappear. This comment, to my surprise, nipped the problem in the bud. It made me realize that fighting fantasy with fantasy can be effective. If someone is convinced there is a monster, assurance that there is no monster may make the imaginer feel more alone with the problem and desperate to find a way to deal with it. They have to know that you can enter their world before they trust you to help them out of it. Empathy is useful as well as comforting.

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That said, there’s a time, a place and a way to prepare the person for logic. The mind must be readied so that rational thought is experienced as solace. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy minimizes fears by habituating the sufferer to the dreaded stimulus. Repeated exposure, a bit more each time, builds tolerance and pushback in the panicky person’s mind. He or she finds a tailor-made way to refute, live with and de-claw his or her brand of beast. Re-experiencing the trigger with an informed person close by, professional or trusted, trains the person to incorporate logic as a remedy.

Through a practice of thinking alternatively, breathing through and having the supporter in mind, you can ultimately manage alone. This mind, body, re-imagination process can become a self-soothing mechanism.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing everyday that scares you.” Facing fears helps you get better at dealing with being scared. The bolstered psychological muscle can be applied to many things. Vitality that was once hijacked by avoidance is now available. Libido, or the psychic energy once used for self-preservation now sublimates into more satisfying endeavors.

Thus, with support and a prepared mind, panicky can become peaceful. Logic is received much more easily with an empathic process. If an informed person has explored the fear with you, finding the strength is easier. Re-aligned, your mind is free to pursue what it was meant to do, needs to do or wants to do. With contained fears, capacities can soar.  

 

Carrie Barron, M.D., is a psychiatrist and co-author of The Creativity Cure: A Do-It Yourself Prescription for Happiness, which she wrote with her husband, Alton Barron.

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