We are wired to run from fear. When we see or feel something frightening, our brain sends adrenaline shooting around the body to prepare us to run in the opposite direction. This adrenaline reaction ensured the survival of early humans. It is an excellent system to protect us from physical and external threats, but when the fear is generated from within us, we cannot run. The overwhelming need to run stops us from dealing with the issue at hand, and we end up fighting ourselves. We’re locked in to going round and round in an ever-worsening inner turmoil that will get us nowhere.
Claire Weekes recognised that the first step in reducing anxiety is to simply face it, to stop avoiding, stop running, and just take time to really look at the anxiety itself. Freedom from anxiety can really only come from you. There will be help and guidance, but cure requires you to stop the internal cycle of fighting it, and see it for what it is. The peace that comes from facing your fears with a clear eyes, honesty and openness, unlocks your ability to see things for what they are, and begin the process of release.
If you want to reduce your anxiety, you first need to accept it, and stop fighting it. It may sound counter-intuitive, because we’re built to avoid danger. After facing our anxiety in step one of Claire’s method, moving on to acceptance is key. Acceptance allows us to stop resisting the things that cause us fear, to loosen ourselves, emotionally and physically. Claire describes acceptance as being like a willow. The willow cannot stop the wind, but by bending, the wind rolls by, leaving the tree standing.
When we go into panic, our body secretes adrenaline. This is the hormone that causes our blood pressure to rise and our oxygen intake to increase. It’s the adrenaline that causes shaking, clammy hands, a raging heartbeat, stomach cramps and dizziness. It feels as if your body is being wound up by some force outside you, like some sort of whirring toy with a pull string mechanism. Acceptance of this panic actually works on the physical symptoms of anxiety. Your body starts to release hormones to counteract the adrenaline coursing through your brain, and your breathing will soften, your heart rate will slow and you’ll be able to start to move through your anxiety. Then you can move on to the next step: floating.
Have you ever felt such overwhelming anxiety that you become rigid with fear? In panic, we often feel that we simply cannot move. It’s as if some external force is holding us down, so great is our paralysis. Claire Weekes describes this state as “fear-of-fear”. So primed are we to avoid panic, that we begin to fear not what makes us anxious, but of the anxiety itself. We will do all we can to avoid anxiety and the effect it has on us. We fight our feelings of paralysis with all our might, and in doing so, we increase tension. We clench our teeth; our stomach tightens, because we are determined not to feel fear. And we find that all the effort this takes, in the end, gets us nowhere. It’s like fighting against a riptide – we soon find that our energy is sapped, that we can’t keep going, and there we are, going under. What if we tried something else? What if, instead of resistance, we floated through our fear? If we simply say to ourselves that this is where we are, in this fear, and there is no point fighting it, we’ll find a much greater sense of peace than if we continue to battle.
Anxiety is painful to live with, and it’s quite natural to feel that we simply can’t endure it any longer. When we have suffered with anxiety and we can’t see an end in sight, we can become impatient. But the Claire Weekes Method stresses that time is important. There are no shortcuts in learning to live without anxiety, and learning to accept that is part of the journey. Do not be impatient with time.
“Where fighting is exhausting, floating – by removing the tension of forcing – makes repeated effort less daunting.”