Overcoming Anxiety and Fear
By Jon Terrell, M.A.

Man Running with clocks

Anxiety and Fear can be extremely uncomfortable. There are a variety of approaches to healing that can help.

What Your Anxiety And Fear Are  Saying To You

The thoughts, feelings and body sensations of anxiety and fear call us to pay attention and grow out of old worn patterns.

They're telling us that we are out of balance and need to change our direction.  It's our body and mind's way of communicating that we have work to do!

Viewed this way, anxiety and fear are a call to action.

Sometimes the action we need to take is to change our mindset, our way of viewing ourselves and the world.  

When we experience anxiety and fear the uncomfortableness of it is so that we don't ignore or try to suppress the discomfort, or take it away with medication or distraction or avoidance. Otherwise we are at risk of setting up an addictive pattern to rescue us, such as turning to food or alcohol or another substance.

As a body-oriented psychotherapist, I often look to what is going on in the body to help find the meaning of feelings and thoughts and sensations.

Anxiety and fear are warning signs about your situation and life:

Do you live in a friendly, peaceful, welcoming world or a scary, uncomfortable place? If your anxiety and fear arises when you are making an important life change....such as getting married or moving to a new location, pay close attention to what your body is saying.

It may be that you've learned that change is uncomfortable in the past, and you just need to take it slow and support yourself. 

While anxiety and fear make us want to run away and hide, if we deeply listen to these feelings, we can learn what they are saying, pause and move towards the feelings instead of running and hiding. But that can be difficult to do because these feelings push us to avoid and run and hide!

And sometimes it is a call for outward change. Usually, it involves both.

A comprehensive, holistic approach to transforming anxiety and fear includes learning how to pay attention to our thoughts, feelings, and body sensations. 

Conquering fear and anxiety happens when our motivation to change is stronger than our fear and anxiety.

The typical approach is much more limited. The disease-oriented medical model sees anxious feelings as being caused by a bio-chemical imbalance in the brain.

From this perspective, an anti-anxiety medication would be the primary way to treat it. While medication can help us feel better, at least for the short term, we could miss hearing the vital call to action message within our discomfort. 

Medications can be helpful, especially when we look further into why these feelings arise, and take action towards overcoming anxiety and fear.

What Is The Message In Your Anxiety?

Conquering Fear and Anxiety

Anxiety is a call to come alive. It is a "wake up call" to pay attention inside ourselves and around us. It's a call for us to tap into your creative wisdom, find your inner strength, and take an appropriate action.

"Anxiety is the gap between the now and the later" Fritz Perls 

Anxiety and fear are about the future...we become worried or apprehensive about a perceived threat, of something happening or not happening. Often we are not even clear about what it is we are upset about, as opposed to fear.

Fear generally has a clear object...we are afraid, for example, of a big bear attacking us while we are out hiking. For more on working with fear, especially fear of change, go to Fear and Change. 

Anxiety helps us be aware of potentially dangerous situations, although not necessarily physical dangers. The cause is more vague than fear and can be less than totally rational...such as anxiety about heights or spiders or enclosed spaces.

What it is telling us may need some exploration. We may need to "dig in the dirt" to find out what we are afraid of... where in our past we lost control or felt helpless. 

Psychotherapy (especially those that include the body) and the emotional healing retreats we offer can get us to the core of our anxiety so we move beyond being stuck in it.

In that exploration we can often find inspiration and healing, especially if we connect with and experience those hidden feelings along the way.

Working With Uncomfortable Emotions


Our feelings are essential messengers calling us to awaken and grow. They are the most overlooked factor in personal growth and total wellness.

We tend to want to avoid uncomfortable feelings that make us anxious and fearful, but avoidance or repressing emotions just makes matters worse.

Avoidance makes our world smaller as we shrink to avoid life. Running away just postpones the work we need to do.

As we learn to lean into our feelings, they transform and become our teachers. But it's hard to do this alone.

Anxiety transformed is a great awakener (as is fear) calling us to live a bigger life, with far more awareness, courage and excitement than before.

Going through emotions (rather than repressing or suppressing them) allows us to receive their gifts of increased energy and awareness. Click on this psychotherapy link for more on this perspective.

Our Grief, Loss and Difficult Emotions Retreats are designed to help people conquer their fear and anxiety, to transform their stuck feelings. The power of the group eases our anxiety and fear and makes is stronger so we can face and overcome them.

Very often our anxiety and fear goes back to when we were young and ill equiped to deal with what we faced, especially if we received messages such as "don't be a scared-ee-cat!" If we were shamed to have fear, we suppressed it. Then it later on showed up as anxiety.

At our retreats participants work through deep anxieties and fears by learning how to lean into them. With the power of a loving, safe community, we can finally relax into the fear and anxiety that we've been running from. It may actually be our little, younger self that is afraid...of the dark, of the bully, of being alone without support, etcetera...that held the fear inside.)

We can let anxiety rise up into awareness while being held and supported by the group. Instead of avoiding anxious feelings, and being caught in our heads, we learn a healthier alternative.

We support overcoming anxiety and fear by helping participants express their emotional pain in different ways, through their bodies. This may include vocalizing sound and movement.

It is beautiful to watch the healing take place, as fear and anxiety shift.  It is always a very powerful experience of transformation, relief and expansion.

As my mentor in this work, Lawrence Stibbards, once said, "If we are bottled up by fear then our lives are bottled up." Once we release that fear our lives open up!

Overcoming anxiety and fear is possible, especially with the help of skilled facilitation and group support. In a short few days a lot can happen, and a life time of emotional pain can be transformed.


What are the components of an effective, holistic program for overcoming anxiety and fear?

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be effective for anxiety. It works with thoughts, beliefs and behaviors, helping clients change behaviors and thought patterns that reinforce their anxiousness.

Multimodal Therapy (developed by Arnold Lazarus)  can be even more effective because it also looks at the role interpersonal relations, perceptual stimuli and physical issues affect us. 

The approach we use is different as it is an intensive 3-4 day retreat. We use psychodrama, gestalt and other process therapy modalities as part of our program. Our retreats are for people dealing with difficult, uncomfortable emotions, such as grief, and anger, anxiety.

From our perspective, emotional healing is the key to healing. Talking about feelings doesn't help very much, but feeling feelings and working them through leads to lasting results. Conquering anxiety and fear is about facing into those emotions and discovering what they have to teach us.

We give more attention to helping clients become spacious and open in their bodies and minds to let the uncomfortable feelings reveal their gifts. These emotions need space to evolve and as we work them through we feel more spacious, present and fully alive.

I also encourage clients to make full use of the benefits of exercise, rest and a healthy diet. 

Nutrition can affect our levels of stress. People who are experiencing chronic stress, fatigue, and other symptoms can often benefit from the help of an excellent nutritionist. 

“Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity” Wayne Dyer 

Our feelings are not an enemy to eradicate. They're allies, sources of wisdom and creativity.

There are many things we should be concerned about, and use our resources to help change our lives and others. Especially the big issues outside of our self--the state of the world and humanity's inability to deal effectively with numerous problems. The world is out of balance and needs our help. But how can we help when our life energy is being stolen by worry, stress and anxious feelings? 

Many people are stuck in denial. Others feel trapped and paralyzed by them.

But we can move beyond those stuck places.

By working holistically, with all our relations (self and others), we can mobilize our vast internal resources to truly be a force for good in the world. 

As noted above, our approach is non-medical. Medications can be helpful by providing much needed relief when the problem is severe enough to make daily activities difficult to perform. And they can help some people be more able to take the action steps to truly master these feelings and discover the wisdom within them. 

A valuable website is Anxiety Unraveled. This site contains a lot of practical information including coping tips, natural remedies and yoga techniques that you can use to bring long lasting relief.


For more information about our retreats for overcoming anxiety and fear and other difficult feelings, contact Jon using the form below. He lives in western Massachusetts.

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