SHERIDAN — The Sheridan College Campus on Main Street hosted a “Brown Bag Lunch Seminar” Wednesday.
This week’s installment of the series of free 40-minute classes taught by Lynn Gordon, a counselor at the Family and Personal Counseling Center in Sheridan, focused on understanding and managing fear.
“I have lot of things I’ve prepared for people that I think can help reduce suffering and help people develop good self-esteem and learn to make clear, informed decisions,” Gordon began. “The more you know about who you are and where you’re going in the world, the easier it is when you have to make a decision. Most of our decisions are made by default.”
Gordon went on to explain that past experiences are a constant subconscious influence to a person’s behavior and reasoning process in the present. She said the involuntary referral to memories in immediate behavior is an evolved survival mechanism.
“We have to have habit or we’d never get anything done,” she said. “We need things we recognize.”
Gordon said an average person has more than 50,000 thoughts a day, and 90-95 percent are thoughts the person has had before. Therefore, a bad experience in the past, whether in the conscious memory or early childhood influence, can create fear, anxiety and worry in adults.
“Fear, by my definition, is stories we tell ourselves about experienced dangers,” Gordon said. “We don’t think any different than what we’ve thought before. That’s where experienced dangers come in.”
In addition to direct past influences, Gordon said genetics and environment can play a role in how someone perceives the world around them and how they handle an anxiety-inducing situation. She said 25-40 percent of a persons feelings can be attributed to genetics, which leaves a lot of room for environmental influences and personal choice to modify behavior.
“If people demonstrated fear and grief and anxiety and worry to you, they showed you how to do it well,” Gordon said. “You’re going to go into symmetry with that and that’s what you begin to generate the rest of your life until you say you want something different.”
Gordon said fear and anxiety can be minimized by practicing self-calming techniques to interrupt the inertia of feelings of fear and anxiety. Though the modification of automatic responses to stressful situations isn’t an automatic process, Gordon said over time, people can dramatically reduce their fear responses by practicing self-calming techniques.
Some of the coping mechanisms Gordon discussed entail manipulating brain functions to induce a more controlled mental and physiological state. For example, touching the tongue to the hard palate on top of the mouth stimulates the pineal gland centers of the brain, slows breathing, and makes for a more calm mental state.
Counting at a moderate pace shifts brain function up to a more computational, and less instinctive, level of functioning.
Gordon also mentioned carefully choosing words to avoid a fear-based overtone in conversations, crossing arms in front of chest and lightly alternately tapping the collar bones and “heart math” as coping mechanism to change deep-seated behavioral patterns.
Wednesday’s discussion about fear management concluded a three-session series on self improvement. Gordon plans to resume offering the short lunchtime classes Feb. 12, 19 and 26.
The next block of classes centers on topics central to male and female relationships.
More information about the seminars can be obtained by calling Gordon at 672-6789.