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Overcoming Anxiety: Moving from Fear to Presence
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” ~Nelson Mandela
When I was a trainee teacher at a Cambridge University, I attended one of the oldest, most sought-after colleges, where most of the other graduate students were astrophysicists and economists, and 90% male.
They also seemed to come from families that were in some way related to the Queen of England. Whereas I was a young, pregnant, trainee high school teacher whose nearest connection to Queens was owning a Freddie Mercury single, and I was a little shy.
Formal college dinners were a regular occurrence, and you were expected make small talk, as you sipped your cream sherry in the medieval banquet hall in your black robes before dinner.
When I tried to talk honestly about what I was studying or what I was interested in, it tended to lead to embarrassed mumblings and a quick escape.
So, one day when someone asked me what I did, I said I was a lion tamer.
Their eyes lit up. “Really?” they asked, intrigued. “Oh yes!” I replied, “Each day I have to have nerves of steel as I enter a room of caged brutes and try to get them to perform tricks!”
I am no longer a teacher. But I am still a lion tamer.
In fact, it was the lions that stopped me teaching, the same lions who were hiding under the table at those grand banquets, when I couldn’t think of anything to say.
Yes, you heard me right, I live in close proximity to a caged lion. Wild, unpredictable, untamable, he longs to roam the plains. But instead, it’s just him and me, locked in my head together. His name? Anxiety!
I have learned what makes him roar, what feeds him. He smells blood and out he comes, lured by deadlines, taxes, financial issues, illness, death, or medical professionals. So far, so normal.
But he’s a strange type. He doesn’t like parties and social occasions, talking on the phone, images of me, swim suits, nudity, heights, or criticism.