Zhilaohu is an ancient Chinese phrase translating as ‘paper tiger’, which refers to something that appears threatening but is ineffectual and unable to withstand challenge. Like the head-wreckage executed by the human mind and nervous system: quite scary but ultimately dickless.
I’ve read about it in a book called DARE: The new way to end anxiety and stop panic attacks by Barry McDonagh (inevitably Irish). It was recommended by a life coach I’m seeing (story for another time) after we discussed the fact of my several weeks of sleep-deprived anxiety and my determination to alchemise terror into excitement about the changes I know I must make in my life, mainly with regard to work. Changes with the aim of creating the real deal: a sense of purpose and fulfillment, freedom, all that biz.
McDonagh talks about the only way out being through, about turning towards and not away from the panic, the pounding heart: it’s funny how writing this down in itself reduces the paper tiger to what it really is, terror-inducing but actually bullshit.
My mum, bless her, sent me another book by a guy called Paul David, At Last a Life Anxiety and Panic Free. It says similar things and really hammers home the fact that a prolonged period of worrying, most often after a big life event or just via working too hard and not switching off properly, simply batters the nervous system until the mind buckles: enough.
Worrying about the worrying, not helped by sleepless night after sleepless night, is the danger zone.
Excess adrenaline causes the panic wank, and nerves which are already sensitised have a stronger reaction to it (I’M GOING TO DIE RIGHT NOW OF A FUCKING HEART ATTACK BECAUSE I CAN’T STOP THINKING). That’s it.
Paul David: ‘When you break your leg, what do you do? You don’t say “my leg hurts, I must stop it hurting” and then start running around in your mind every day trying to think of ways you can stop it hurting and tensing against the pain.’
‘A lot of recovery is to do with losing your fear of a symptom. While you still fear it, it is bound to dominate your day [and night]. You need to take the fear out of how you feel, so you can start to move towards your feelings instead of continually running away from them.’
‘Just allow yourself to feel like this. By doing nothing you will give your exhausted mind and nerves a rest and a chance to heal.’
‘You will not get better until you stop trying to get better.’
‘Avoid your fears and they will grow, move towards them and they will subside.’
We are more than flesh and blood, we humans. Everything is energy in this universe, including us.
There are several ways of referring to it, unfortunately a lot of the religious stuff pisses me off, but the scientific fact is that there is something bigger at work within and without us. We are not isolated consciousnesses, and this is something which gives life meaning. And hope. However fucked up that life is. Because the life is always something apart from the life situation.
We just have to have the intention to live in the here and now and practise kindness, seeing the good in things and having compassion for the fact that dickheads have simply been brought up by dickheads and will take a while, if ever, to wake up to that.
Trust in life, that there is a pattern to things and you can energetically feel this if you try, and thereby you are guided.
Anxiety is your energy body telling you something is not right, alerting you to beasts in the metaphysical bushes. You’ve got some shit to sort out to nudge your life back in the right direction and it’s time to get to it.
Paper tigers, schmaper schmigers.