I faced a fear today – not of the dentist or spiders or anything you might consider more usual but a fear of motion! I went on a train for the first time for 18 years! The last time was the hottest day of the year and we had taken the long trip to France under the tunnel and down to Rennes. No-one knew what stress I suffered that day because I just froze with fear.Every time the train tilted to turn a corner I froze that little bit more. By the time I got to my destination I had completely disassociated with myself and didn’t come back to myself for days. Part of it was the fear or the motion and part of it was the fear of the failure. I didn’t go on a train again.
But, having a seven year old son I knew I could only avoid my fear for so long. I kept putting it off but then the other day I said “Yes, we must go before the end of the summer. Friday looks like a nice day!” My son held me to to that so then I knew the time had come! We planned a 10 minute trip to the next station and I was still petrified at the thought of it.
The journey going had nothing memorable apart form the fear. I was sat next to my son and my husband was a few seats away. I tried to show interest in the view for my son’s sake and to try to distract myself. I felt that I was the only anxious person in the world and that everyone was fine and why was I so silly. When we arrived at the next town and spent an hour there I didn’t relax. I was still petrified of going home.
When the train arrived for our return journey it was only 3 carriages long and it was crowded. My worst nightmare – I wanted to get off as soon as I had got on but the doors closed. Richard suggested we stay in the area between the carriages and there was one seat free so I sat down, thinking this is a better place to be than actually in the carriage. Then someone kindly offered us the other 2 seats next to mine. So we all sat in a row – the 3 of us with 2 lads sitting on the seats opposite. It was intimate, I felt OK. From here I felt able to think about the motion. I noticed that I didn’t mind the rattly jolty sensation but I didn’t like the feeling of being pulled to the side of the train when it cornered.
The thing is when your’re anxious is that you think it is all you – ‘I have a fear of trains or motion’. But when you feel safe enough to be an observer of your feelings and sensations you see that your anxiety is really about your response to the world. I could turn it round and say ‘Trains make me feel unsafe’. I don’t mean I’m blaming the train (!) but I am recognising that my anxiety has to do with the relationship between me and the train and the other passengers. It is not all about me being anxious. What helped me today was that I had my little microclimate of intimacy. This was a safe place from where I could observe my response to the world as a highly sensitive person. I’m pretty sure most other passengers weren’t thinking about the subtler nuances of the train’s motion but I was. And that was OK!