It hits you out of nowhere. For no apparent reason. Its effects are paralyzing. Fear. Of elevators. Of leaving the home. Of fear itself. In the middle of it, you feel like you’ll never climb out. In those moments, it’s exactly as Goethe so eloquently put it … “even in the greatest of evils the fear of the worst continues to haunt us.”
Today on Thinking with Somebody Else’s Head, we’ll penetrate the mysterious world of fear, panic and phobias. If you’re a sufferer, or know someone who is, you’ll find some real clarity today. These conditions are not as murky or impetnetrable as you might think.
By the way, my book offer is still open. Free copies of Norberto Keppe’s Liberation of the People: The Pathology of Power are available. You might think this has no connection to today’s topic, but Keppe’s books are therapeutic in the deepest sense of that word. His studies into psychopathology are unmatched in the history of psychological, philosophical and even theological thought, and I know any introduction to his work will open your eyes to a deeper understanding of all aspects of the human condition. Just write me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like a copy.
Like most of us, I’ve had friends who’ve suffered from the debilitating effects of fear and panic. From the outside, it can seem so ridiculous. How can you be afraid of that, we say in disbelief. But to the sufferer it’s all too real. I had a friend years ago who couldn’t walk out on the roof of the old office building we worked in together because he had a fear he’d jump off. When I came to Brazil 6 years ago, and I began to study Keppe’s work, I began to understand many neurotic conditions like this one. I began to see that all of our outside difficulties have personal, psychological connections inside us. Our reaction to outside events is more a question of the outside thing mirroring something to us about what’s going on inside us. That’s what we’ll look at today.
Oh and by the way, I think my friend’s fear of jumping was consciousness to him of how self-destructive he was in his life, but didn’t want to see. On the roof, he had consciousness of this, but thought this feeling was unique to being on the roof.
Let’s, if you’ll pardon the pun, dive in and see if we can de-mystify this area.
Leo Lima is a psychoanalyst at Norberto Keppe’s Integral Psychoanalysis clinic here in São Paulo. He attends clients in person and by phone from North America and Europe. Let’s find out what he has to say from his extensive clinical experience.