We all operate out of both fear and love. Polar opposites, living in love may be the greatest determinant of health, while fear opens the door to illness. And if you spend much time in fight-or-flight mode, chances are, you’ll have a harder time digging your way out of the ditch of chronic illness.
Well, Duh. You might say. What Lyme disease sufferer doesn’t know that it isn’t healthy to live in fear?
But Fear often works its treacherous magic upon the body in subtle ways, so that its victim disregards its mechanisms.
And perhaps the danger to the immune system isn’t found as much in the huge cascades of tears, nor in the fireworks displays of rage, as it is in the barely discernable tremors of the soul caused by Fear.
Fear is wily, fear is subtle, often quiet, and yet powerful. It hides in the little irritations, in the way we offer plastic smiles to Aunt Sally, in the way we rush through our breakfast in order to make it to work on time. It is found in the way we check our watches every fifteen minutes to make sure we’re still on schedule. It rises up while driving, when we nearly miss the exit, it makes an appearance when we show up at a party, wondering if we’ll impress in our little black dress, and vocalizes itself in the sighs and snippy remarks of the day. It causes us to knit our brows in concern when we look at our bank accounts, when we get a new Lyme symptom, and when we think of our kids playing in the street.
Fear thrives on secrets, suppression, and manipulation. It teaches us that it’s not okay to say “no” to others, it admonishes us to hide our sadness and pain, it drives us to attend church when we don’t really believe in God, and compels us to desperately search for answers to the question of illness.
It wears a multitude of faces and is a master of disguise, tricking its servant into believing that pride, shame, guilt and the need for approval aren’t really manifestations of its mighty personality.
However it operates, the results of Fear upon the nervous system and the body are the same; fight-or-flight becomes operative, energy runs amock, and biological processes become skewed. Over the long haul, this weakens the immune system and keeps a person rooted in illness.
I once read that healing from chronic illness cannot happen without a profound shift in a person’s worldview. I suppose the person who wrote that was basing this statement upon the assumption that there is something wrong with the sick person’s worldview to begin with.
My interpretation of this statement is that Fear lives too large in the most symptomatic of us, and until we learn to recognize its many faces and facets, and attack it head-on, then we’ll remain prisoners of illness.
It is written in the Bible that, “Perfect love casts out fear.” Perhaps by starting from this premise, and learning how to love God, ourselves and others, we can learn to operate more out of love instead of fear. Some of us, due to the uncertainties and hardship which Lyme disease brings, or because of the ghosts of our past, have a hard time kicking Fear to the ditch, where it belongs.
Yet by laboring to do so, through prayer, affirmations, and a decision to slow down and surrender one’s life to God, we can reduce its influence in our lives, which in turn can have positive effects upon our health.