I've been having lower back pain for more than a year, and I didn't see a doctor because I have an admittedly foolish tendency to hope that physical symptoms will just go away–as most do.
Finally, though, I noticed that my left big toe was becoming more and more numb, which would indicate that there was compression of the L5 nerve root.
I saw a physician, who predictably sent me for an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). The MRI machine is essentially a large, computerized magnet, which can obtain astonishingly detailed images of the internal structures of the body.
The machine is built around an open tube, into which the patient slides on a motorized track. This is not a large tunnel. As I was sliding into the tunnel on my back, my arms were compressed from my sides onto my abdomen. And the roof of the tunnel was three inches above my eyes. That's how tightly I fit into the machine.
I've had MRIs done in the past, and although I'd noticed the tight fit, it hadn't bothered me. This time, however, I felt a panic rising within me. Within seconds, my heart was racing, and I asked to be withdrawn from the tunnel. Sitting up, I composed myself and asked that the procedure be resumed. This time I closed my eyes, visualizing all the joy in my life, and I experienced no distress for the thirty minutes I was in the tunnel.
The MRI tunnel couldn't possibly have collapsed and injured me. I had a panic button in my hand, so at any time I could have signaled that I wanted to get out of the confined space. I was surrounded by a medical facility in case I had a medical problem. I had absolutely no objective reason to be afraid, and yet I was, and I was surprised by the intensity of it.
Our Biggest Fears
Our fears are ALL irrational, and when we realize that, we can begin to do something about them. That's pretty important, because rarely is any given person or situation actually painful or threatening. What causes us the greatest pain is our FEAR of people and things. People might object that a man holding a gun to your head is certainly a rational cause for fear, but really it's not. Simply prolonging our lives is far less important than filling our lives with love and happiness. I have sat at the bedsides of many people who knew they'd be dying in hours or days, and it's not death they fear. They fear dying unloved and alone.
Each time you become afraid, I suggest that you consider thinking or saying the following:
- All fear is irrational.
- What exactly am I afraid of right now–or at least what do I believe that I am afraid of?
- Does this thing or person really have the power to take my happiness from me?
When I did this in the MRI machine, my fear disappeared. It can be so every day of our lives. Imagine, for example, that you become afraid when someone criticizes you. But you are wise and brilliant, so:
- First you say to yourself, "All fear is irrational. Let's see how that insight applies to the fear I'm having right now."
- "What exactly am I afraid of–or at least what do I believe that I am afraid of? I'm afraid of the criticism and anger of this person in front of me (or who just left the room)."
- "Does this person really have the power to take my happiness from me? I used to believe that, but now I know better. This angry man is simply expressing his own pain. Anger and criticism make him feel less helpless, at least for a moment, and I'm involved only peripherally. And I have the unconditional love of several people, proving forever that I'm worthwhile. This man can fail to love me, but he can't take the love and happiness I already have, unless I allow it."
Your fear disappears, just as mine evaporated when I closed my eyes to the illusion of danger and remembered what really mattered. Admittedly, this process works only if you actually have had loving experiences to remember. If you haven't, learn how to tell the truth about yourself and find them.