Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Fear gone, pain healed

When I was in college, I still wore hard contact lenses. You remember those, the tiny tough concave disks, colored light blue so you could see them if you dropped them, with the little black dot on one of them so you could tell left from right.

Frankly, they seem barbaric now! But back then, they were the best options aside from glasses. But they were also a pain to deal with, so I didn't wear them regularly. I only wore them when I cared about how I looked, and friends from back then can testify that I had at best a casual attitude toward appearance.

One weekend, when I was home for a visit, I woke in the middle of the night in extreme pain. My eyeballs felt like someone was scratching them with needles. I staggered into my mother's room and she tried to help me as best as she could. I thought I was going blind. I thought, This is it, it's all over, life ends as I know it. The pain increased with the intensity of the fear, with no sign of stopping.

When the hour became more reasonable (daylight), we phoned our family Christian Science practitioner, who began treating me through prayer. The pain eased some, but not the fear. I still couldn't open my eyes, and tears flowed non-stop. As soon as normal office hours hit, we made an emergency appointment with my optometrist, and he saw me right away.

The verdict? I'd abused my contact lenses by wearing them so irregularly. No, I wasn't going blind. No, there wouldn't be any permanent damage. Yes, I should think about switching to the newfangled soft contact lenses that were just becoming available. The eye doctor prescribed some pain killers because he felt I'd be experiencing the pain for several more days.

But here's where the funny thing happened. Once he told me I wasn't going blind, the pain eased appreciably. The fear was gone, you see. We called the practitioner and told her the results of the doctor's visit, and didn't fill the prescription. With the practitioner's continued treatment, I was free from serious pain by lunchtime. I was able to keep an important appointment that afternoon (albeit wearing glasses). The next day you couldn't see there had been any problem. I got soft contacts shortly thereafter.

This taught me several lessons about fear. First, my fear had made the physical symptoms worse. If I had been able to remain calm, to trust, to breathe, I wouldn't have needed to experience the pain. The pain itself didn't have any objective reality, it was an outward expression of my worst-case scenario imagination. Pain is a phantom, a figment.

Second, once released from fear, my physical body responded quickly to rational thought and prayer. The doctor could only project what my future comfort level would be based on the physical evidence before him, so he thought it would last several days. But when you add in the power of metaphysics, harmony can be quickly restored.

Third, sometimes it's helpful to know what's going on. I'm grateful to the doctor for letting me know this wasn't a big deal. I have no idea how it would have gone if he'd confirmed my worst fears, but in this circumstance, knowing what was going on physically helped me overcome the fear. Sometimes things aren't as big a deal as our imaginations make them.

Over the years I've become convinced that it's not that pain is *caused* by fear, but that pain *is* fear. Pain is simply fear given physicality. So pain can shut off like a spigot when fear is drained. Pour in spiritual truth instead, and put your mind—and body—at ease.


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