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Facing Fears and Controlling Anxiety

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By David Tobey, MA Licensed Professional Counselor

fearsWhat’s in your closet? Were you afraid of the dark when you were a child?

I was. I remember the terror that accompanied my parents saying good night followed by the click of the light switch. My world was plunged into pure blackness, softened only by the lazy yellow light of a night light; my feeble defense against the creatures I was certain lurked in the hidden recesses of my room.

I remember hearing my blood pump through my ears, the sound blurring with the phantom wiles of my imagination to mask what I was certain was the shift of a claw on wood. The rattle of the janky knob on my slattern closet was the testing paw of some beast about to eat me. Had I the courage to open my eyes I was convinced lurid red eyes would glare back from behind those slats.

Our Monsters

That’s where I was convinced the monsters lived. Somewhere in the depths of the closet. Instinctual fear seized hold of limbs and compel me. Hide. Beneath thin shields of cotton, I would make my fortress. After all, if I buried myself deep enough, if I balled myself tight enough, and camouflaged myself masterfully enough in the ghillie suit of sheets, stuffed animals, and pillows perhaps they would search for easier prey.

But as I settled behind the walls of my sanctum, sieged by the creatures of the night, I found air difficult to come by. To compensate I would provide myself a miniscule air hole, a cylinder fashioned from the comforter that doubled as a periscope to keep tabs on any prowling intruder that was about to announce their reality by ripping the walls off.

Maybe I read too much Stephen King and you may ask – the very valid – question: what does this have to do with an article about mental health?  In classic therapist riposte, let me answer your question with a question: what monsters are in your closet?

How do our Monsters Control us?

We all have monsters, maybe yours is stalking you in the dead of night, like mine was. Maybe yours is lurking at the office, waiting with all the deadlines and stressors that shackle you to a desk to prove your worth. Perhaps it’s marauding in your marriage, the endless need to smooth out conflict before the real monster comes out.

Maybe it’s swimming in the bottom of an endless bottle, one that has drowned sorrows and slain dreams, or maybe it’s leering at you in the mirror, its claws pulling at the extra skin and flesh that hatefully clings to the skinny husk of a person the fat has devoured. Maybe it’s cackling at you, observing your struggle to summon the energy to roll out of bed to face the dull grey life has become.

Why must we concede to the fiendish demands of a terror that takes no prisoners and disregards our well-being, our hopes, and desires? What walls have you constructed to keep yourself safe from your behemoth that goes bump in the night? Our monsters don’t control us because we see them. Often, they are so terrifying that we cower and hide.

What we experience of our monster is the thudding heart. The sweaty covers. The suffocating heat. Perhaps you don’t know what your monster is because all you see are the inside of your walls. Until we stop hiding under the covers, huddling until we collapse into restless sleep, we will never be free of the cruel machinations of the beasts that subjugate our lives to a psychological game of survival.

What Can We Do?

Monsters thrive in darkness. Monsters thrive and grow when we cannot bear to look at them. The hardest thing for a child to do when they believe a monster lives in their closet is to roll out of bed, walk across the floor, open the closet door and turn on the light. When I took those steps as a child I found something. I found there was no monster in my closet after all.

What steps have you taken to face the fear that controls your life? Have you rolled out of the mire of your suffering and sought to understand what forces, internal and external, have commanded you stay hidden? Are you ready to take your first brave steps to confront your fear and discover your monsters and maybe realize they are smaller or more manageable?

It’s Time to Open the Closet and Turn on the Light

At Stenzel Clinical, we are here to help you face the things in life that are your monsters. Like any smart horror flick character: Don’t go it alone. Talk to your spouse, talk to your friend or talk to a therapist.

There isn’t a single action you can do that is braver than to turn on the light and face your monsters. We consider it our privilege to walk alongside you as you turn on the light and let truth and hope shine in your life. What’s in your closet?

 

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