The difference between fear and anxiety

Rocky smilingJust yesterday, I posted a long update about my strategies for working through the anxieties that trailering has stirred up for me.  Today, Parelli posted some video snippets from sports psychologist Dr. Jenny Susser’s talk at the Summit that address this exact topic.

“Confidence comes from preparation and focus…. Fear is a response to an actual threat…. Anxiety is a response to a perceived threat.” ~ Dr. Jenny Susser, speaking at the Parelli Summit 2014

One life lesson that I’m learning from this trailering journey is that I already know how to help myself through the scary stuff, and it’s exactly that: preparation and focus. I can use my information-saturation method, my “pick up the dish and do it” technique, and the deep breathing and all those other strategies to get myself through it. Thus, I’m not afraid of the anxiety itself. (With me it’s mostly anxiety; I cope pretty well with things that are actually happening and only melt down later when I’m swamped by the what-could-have-happened.)

What I call “doing the dishes” is the practice of loving the task in front of you. – Byron Katie, There Is Just One Thing To Do

I do admit to working on the patience part. I mean really, I know I’m going to get through the anxiety and come out the other side a conscientious, able, and calm trailer-er, so why can’t I just skip all the process and get right to that point? Heh. But I am practicing being as patient with myself as I would be with everyone else in the world, so that’s also a good life lesson. “Skipping the process” works when you need to get somewhere fast so you take the car instead of walk, but some things can only be walked to, whether it’s the top of Yosemite Falls or the other side of anxiety.

This very process is about learning a process — I’m about 80% of the way from anxious to calm, and my destination is to learn a process that will get us 100% of the way from home to the clinic and back again. Believe me, if I could skip the trailering and simply teleport Rocky to the clinic, I would! (Now watch me discover unexpected deep-rooted anxiety about teleportation.)

g-qJason: What? What was that?
Alex: Uh, nothing.
Jason: I heard some squealing or something.
Gwen: Oh, no. Everything’s fine.
Teb: But the animal is inside out.
(all humans in the Conveyor room glare at Teb)
Jason: I heard that! It turned inside out?
Teb: (not moving despite being covered in Ludicrous Gibs) And it exploded.

Last night I did a little art therapy with my digital drawing-and-painting app (Paper by FiftyThree) and had a wonderful time festooning Rocky’s trailer with fall colors.

Rocky in festooned trailer

I used all six tools — pencil, fountain pen, marker, pen, watercolor, and eraser — and custom-mixed all of my colors. While I’m sure the product would be better if I had a more advanced iPad so I could get the more advanced stylus and thus more precision in my work, I do not think the process would be improved upon no matter how whizzbang the tech. Real-life art supplies are too messy to use casually in bed, but my finger, a 10-cent stylus from China, and the touch screen made for a wonderfully tactile and soothing couple of hours. At the end of which I was actually looking forward to my next chance to haul Rocky somewhere.

Like Anne of Green Gables, I learned long ago that with great imaginative power comes great responsibility. You must manage yourself so that you don’t react negatively to your imagination (paralysis) but rather respond in positive ways (creativity, delight, interest). Otherwise you’ll drive yourself and all of your loved ones crazy, which doesn’t leave you much time for horses.

Anne never forgot that walk. Bitterly did she repent the license she had given to her imagination. The goblins of her fancy lurked in every shadow about her, reaching out their cold, fleshless hands to grasp the terrified small girl who had called them into being. A white strip of birch bark blowing up from the hollow over the brown floor of the grove made her heart stand still. The long-drawn wail of two old boughs rubbing against each other brought out the perspiration in beads on her forehead. The swoop of bats in the darkness over her was as the wings of unearthly creatures. When she reached Mr. William Bell’s field she fled across it as if pursued by an army of white things, and arrived at the Barry kitchen door so out of breath that she could hardly gasp out her request for the apron pattern. Diana was away so that she had no excuse to linger. The dreadful return journey had to be faced. Anne went back over it with shut eyes, preferring to take the risk of dashing her brains out among the boughs to that of seeing a white thing. When she finally stumbled over the log bridge she drew one long shivering breath of relief.

“Well, so nothing caught you?” said Marilla unsympathetically.

“Oh, Mar–Marilla,” chattered Anne, “I’ll b-b-be contt-tented with c-c-commonplace places after this.”

~ L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Categories: Clinic Countdown, Reflections | 1 Comment

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One thought on “The difference between fear and anxiety

  1. Barbara

    Love it!

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