First of all, fear is the mind's way of trying to protect you. The mind has good intentions, but fear isn't always a true sign of danger. For example, if you see a curved stick in the path, you may immediately fear that it is a snake--until you realize that it is just a stick. But if it was a snake, you would be mentally and physically prepared--adrenaline would already be dumping into your bloodstream, constricting of various vessels and muscles will take place, and a number of processes that happen unconsciously when we feel fear. Fear can be our friend, so we don't want to take it away altogether from our consciousness.
The problem is, that the physical processes that go with fear inhibit labor, progression, expansion, etc. The big issue then is how to help women move let go of fear, especially if they have had a traumatic birth experience where there worst fears were realized. My collaborators and I have been discussing this issue for several months now and there are very few resources out there that are built into the medical model to help women with this. The midwifery model has more of this, but it varies greatly by care-giver.
As I have explained in detail in this post, in order to change what is an unconscious behavior, you must change it on an unconscious level--will power won't work.
There are several ways to change unconscious scripting including hypnotherapy, meditation, guided imagery and more. I am going to outline two that will help anyone dealing with fear or anxiety.
Meditation For Mental Balance.
I have taken this meditation from Gurmukh's book Beautiful, Bountiful, Blissful, but the technology came to her through Yogi Bhajan.
- Sit cross-legged in Easy Pose.
- You can play some mantra music or something meditative in the background. Set a timer for three minutes.
- Extend your arms out like wings, parallel to the ground.
- Begin flapping your hands rapidly as though flying furiously through the air. The action is from the wrists.
- Breath deeply and evenly. If you want you can close your eyes and roll them up the third eye point and use a silent mantra. A mantra really helps when it gets hard. I use Sat on the inhale and Nam on the exhale. Sat Nam means: I am truth. Truth is my identity.
- It looks like this:
About this meditation, Gurmukh says, "As yoginis we learn to create a neutral mind. Every negative thought is met with a positive thought."
As you are doing this your mind might tell you that your arms are going to fall off. When you think-- "I can't do this, it's too hard"--thank your negative mind for that protective thought, then replace it with a positive thought: "Yes I can. I am stronger than I have ever been in my whole life."
"That is the teeter-totter of the positive and negative mind.....Meditation takes us back to the neutral mind, the balance point on that teeter-totter, which is the mind we will birth from, and the mind we must operate from as mothers." (p. 54)This meditation is also a keep-up exercise. We do this in yoga for three minutes to train the mind for power through an intense feeling. The lesson being that if you can do this for 3 minutes a 1-minute uterine wave is a piece of cake.
If you do this meditation for three minutes a day you will find your mental dialog subtly or dramatically changing. Every time I think a negative thought now, my mind automatically pops in a positive one without my even thinking about it. I.e. I'm so stupid--no I'm not, I'm actually really smart. This is so hard to do alone--but I'm not alone, I have tons of people supporting me. It's going to hurt--I can feel comfortable. I'm scared--I look forward to this challenge with joy.
Using Script to Change Our Unconscious Script
Did you know that handwriting is like a fingerprint--no two people have the same handwriting. Handwriting is also an ideomotor response, which means that by writing something out in your normal handwriting, you access the unconscious mind. This exercise is similar to the one above, but you will use handwriting.
Write out any fears and negative thoughts, and then immediately write out a positive thought to balance the negative. But don't spend too much time thinking. Write fast.
As a writer I have practiced what we call "freewriting" for years. This is where one sits down with a notebook and keeps writing for at least 10-15 minutes. By not allowing the pen to stop, you can get deeper into your creativity and turn off your critical mind. This produces a lot of nonsense, but also some brilliant stuff that otherwise wouldn't have surfaced. I would encourage you to do the same with this exercise. Just start writing. Don't let the pen stop. When you write a negative thought, follow it immediately with a positive.
If you do either of these exercises in the 30 minutes before bed you get an added benefit. The unconscious mind does a cool thing when you sleep. It is the reason we often don't change, but if we understand it, we can use it for change. Basically what happens every night is the mind tries to predict what will happen tomorrow. It does this based on what has happened today and yesterday and the day before. If fear has been the pattern, fear will continue. If you add an ounce of positivity for one night, you won't dilute the fear that much, but if you add an ounce every night for many nights, pretty soon, the balance tips. The muddy water becomes clear. By doing this right before sleep, the new messages have less time to get distorted.