As a means of clarification, I want to say that this blog refers only to fear that does not come from a situation in which personal safety is at stake.
I could write a clinical article about fears and phobias, including the definition of phobias, how fear works in the brain and in the body, describing the physical sensations that accompany fear, informing that people can fear anything, almost anything you can think of, and elaborating on the things that people do to avoid the feared situation. I could explain that fear is, originally, associated with the survival mechanism that helps us to stay alive. In this blog, though, I want to address you: the person who suffers from a phobia or a persistent kind of fear, and I want to tell you (risking disbelief) that your fear could be, in fact, one of your most amazing blessings…
In my clinical experience, I have successfully worked with people who experience fears and phobias. I have noticed, in these clients, a tendency to self blame (for the fear) and to equate having a phobia with being weak. (please see my upcoming blog The Most Helpful Thing) I also know that normally, the person feels really, really alone with the fear, specially when experiencing it.
If that is your case, I will agree that there is a moment in which, when you experience fear, you are alone with the sensations, alone with the pain, often with the self loathing and probably wishing you where X or Y who, in your mind are (unlike you) really courageous people. Also, there is a decision that only you can make: to face your fear, but I hope it will serve you to know that there is support and effective tools to help you do it and to manage and decrease the uncomfortable physical sensations.
According Lao Tzu, the philosopher from ancient China: “fear is the greater illusion” and it is truth that fear creates something like a thick fog that seems, for moments, impossible to traverse. The illusion that fear is a solid wall and that you are your fear or that the fear defines you as a person. A fog composed partly by extremely uncomfortable physical sensations that may appear unbearable.
Know, that on the other side of the fog is freedom and undiscovered, wonderful parts of yourself. It is there where you find your power and the well being you don’t know you may be missing, because of the constrains and limitations fear has built around your life. There, you will realize your own true power and self confidence. You will clearly see how, even if you thought that fear was not greatly affecting you, since you have been able to function and maybe have a “normal” life by avoiding sources of fear, the fear was still in the back of your mind, dragging you down and disabling many of your possibilities and your confidence.
Whether you know or you don’t the origin of the fear, whether fear is affecting a huge or a “small” part of your daily life, and whether you are, at this point ready to face it directly, there is much that can be done towards personal empowerment and freedom. If you take that route, respecting your own timing, with love and patience for yourself, the moment will come in which you will be able to walk across the fog and be free from fear. You will find your own personal blessings behind the barrier. That day you will know, that real courage is not really not having fear, it is to have it and to face it, and you will finally understand that you are NOT your fear and that fear is an illusion.
When I turned 44, one of my mother’s friends said to me, “This is the time in your life in which you really start loving yourself.” Though this life period is not frequently portrayed with glamour, it has wonderful aspects and also very specific challenges that are faced by each individual in a very personal way.
Things change often and sometimes drastically for women during this period of life. The PEW Research Center found that more children are being born to women over age 35 than to teenagers. Gone is the age when our great grandmothers would get married and say, “’til death do us part,” since few lived past what we now consider middle age. For a woman, menopause and peri-menopause (which can start up to 15 years prior to menopause) bring profound emotional and physical change. Due to life expectancy, not all women in our great grandmother’s generation experienced these changes.
Currently, as a result from the economic crisis, a great number of middle-aged parents are supporting both teenage children still living at home and caring for aging parents. Some studies found that middle-aged women experience the highest stress levels of any other population. According to Dr. Christian Northrup in her book, The Wisdom of Menopause, the three major illnesses for this group are heart problems, breast cancer and depression.
An increasing number of middle-aged women are actively participating in different spiritual paths and writing about issues from an emotional, spiritual and physical point of view. Some authors write about finding oneself and enjoying time alone without experiencing self-pity or of enjoying friends and relationships. Cathleen Roudtree mentions that a lot of women start enjoying their sexuality after fifty, ironically when they are no longer socially considered as a sexual object.
Some women make drastic changes in their careers or start new enterprises at this stage. For many, the awareness of death becomes poignant, and little deaths occur such as losses and separations. Things that wouldn’t impact us as much when we were younger (a break up, for example, the end of a friendship or even the death of someone we knew) can affect us more now that we are more aware of the finality of everything and have accumulated more losses.
During midlife years, women either experience the aging or death of their parents, friends or other relatives. The musicians, bands, actresses and actors of our youth grow older, and those who don’t have children are shocked when they see friend’s children become teenagers. We fully realize that we will also leave one day. This is, of course, a painful realization for most of us, but it can also be a great push to make important changes and start new adventures.
I have friends who tell me that they want to leave a marriage of more than twenty years because it’s no longer working. They see that there is still time to fall in love again or to be single and have more fulfilling lives. Divorce is common in this period, especially after the children leave home for college.
So too can the “empty nest syndrome” be a difficult transition for women, especially if their identities gravitated around being a mother. Women find themselves with more free time to explore new activities or new identities.
In this period, many women start loving and accepting themselves more, are less concerned with image and less self-conscious. Middle age is a perfect time to become our own best friends, cultivate well-being and develop self esteem.
Psychotherapy can help cultivate this well-being and self acceptance as well as dealing with the challenges of this stage of life. Therapy can assist in potentiating the wonderful benefits and changes of this intense period.
I have facilitated support groups and have witnessed the power and benefits for group members experiencing similar issues. I offer a psycho-education and support group for women in midlife in which participants will have an opportunity to learn about issues such as peri-menopause, menopause and its emotional implications, empty nest syndrome, aging parents, relationships and self esteem; and to share their experiences and discoveries.
I’ve acquired a depth of knowledge about psychotherapy after years spent studying the deeper motivations of human behavior and the complex workings of the mind. I’d like to share some of my inspiration, musings and knowledge with you through the Clara Wood Therapy blog. Posts will be posted on at least a monthly basis, so please check back periodically. Topics will include psychotherapy, interpersonal relationships, women’s issues and other information to assist in the quest for positive self-esteem, emotional wellbeing and satisfying relationships. Please let me know what you think of my blog via the comments section or contact me.