Monday, October 03, 2011

Fear - the mind-killer

Once I attended a therapy seminar in which the seminar leader taught us a truly miraculous technique for helping a patient rise from seated to standing.

She introduced this technique by pointing out that most patients that need assistance to stand are in pain and are afraid to stand up, and that a common reaction to this pain and fear is to take a breath in and hold it, locking the chest muscles, effectively making the entire torso into one massive, unmoving block of meat and bone. It's no wonder the patient can't rise to standing while locking their torso.

So, the solution is to get the patient to the edge of the seat with his feet under him, and get him rocking forward and backward. The rocking motion is soothing, it facilitates breathing, and it prevents them from locking their torso. Then, after two or three rocks, at the peak of a forward rock, you suddenly say, "look up!" And the result is the surprised patient looks up and sucks in a breath, and their respiratory accessory muscles almost fling them up out of the chair to their feet.  This technique works like magic!

It is the fear of the maneuver that prevents normal function. And the miracle of the technique is in using deeply-seated natural reflexes to bypass the fear reaction, facilitating normal function.

We want to learn a similar trick for falling. We don't want to have to prepare for the upcoming fall, to screw up our courage and suppress our fear and steel ourselves, because resisting the fear strengthens and solidifies it. We want to learn to fall out of positions that we naturally reflex into when we stumble, and we want to learn to use natural reflex actions (like a sigh of relief) to facilitate our fall.

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