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The human brain responds to danger by making us do one of the following:

• Freeze
• Run away
• Become aggressive

The freezing process involves immobilising the muscles and locking the body. Tense, anxious, fearful people exhibit unhealthy body language: guarded, hunched, lifted
shoulders, furtive.
Instead of expressing emotions in a free, healthy manner, the face is fixed and inexpressive.


In an interview the actor Michael Caine explained that the key to playing a truly sinister character was to freeze the facial muscles.
The aim was to turn the healthy, natural, expressive face into a cold, inhuman mask.

The eyes are the window to the soul

When at work, the supermarket or in the street take a moment to look at other people's faces, in particular their eyes. Notice the eyeball itself and the muscles around the eyes and the forehead.
You may observe the following:

• Anger
• A fixed, blank gaze
• Restless movement

Many people look defensive, aggressive, stressed and anxious.

Which of you for all his worrying can add one day to your life,
one inch to his stature?

So don’t concern yourselves so much with the means of life;
what you shall eat or drink, or with your bodies,
and how they should be clothed.
Life is more than clothing.

Consider the lillies of the field;
they do not spin,
they do not weave,
but not even Solomon in all his glory was so arrayed as one of these.

(Jesus of Nazareth)

Fear in perspective

We respond to certain threats in a healthy manner and this keeps us alive. Dark streets at night, gangs of youths and hostile animals should create a fight-or-flight response and this is good.
Talking with your boss should not produce fear. People imbue everyday situations as being more serious than they are and their bodies become filled with chemicals intended for survival.

How serious are your problems?

Ask yourself honestly:

  1. Are you homeless?

  2. Are you suffering from a terminal illness?

  3. Are you financially destitute?

  4. Are you starving?

  5. Are you in physical pain all of the time?

  6. Are you the victim of persecution?

  7. Is someone victimising you?

  8. Is your life in danger?

  9. What is the worst thing that can happen to you the present moment?

The hardship of the First World?

Some people blow their problems way out of proportion. It is common for wealthy Western people to conveniently forget that their standard of living
and quality of life is not global.
There are usually many people in the world in a far worse situation than we are.

How many other people are facing difficulties right now?

You will quickly find that pretty much everyone has problems. It is not just you. Problems are part of life. They are part of the package. What matters is how we respond to adversity...

Worst case scenario

It can be helpful to look at your problems and visualise the worst case scenario. Can things get worse? Probably. Be thankful that you are not there yet.
Why not see what you can do to avoid hitting the bottom?


Unless people are willing to be different, there cannot be change in our lives. Change is caused by ending the past.
The great leaps of change that have affected our world have come about by people who were willing to try something new, knowing that it would not meet with initial approval, if any

With today's round-the-clock access to news we can now receive a twenty-four-hours-a-day parade of mostly negative information about random shootings, drug wars, environmental disasters, racially motivated hate crimes, rampaging serial killers, and gruesome sex crimes. As they say in the world of television news production, "If it bleeds, it leads." The news, in fact, has become so stressful that health experts recommend 'news fasts' to improve psychological health.

(Dr Bradley Wilcox, Dr Craig Wilcox and Dr Makoto Suzuki)

Admitting your vulnerability

A well-adjusted person is honest with themselves and other people - they are not afraid to say that they don't know or that they have doubts. Nobody is perfect.
We all make mistakes. We are all vulnerable. We all fall ill. We all feel pain. We all experience fear. And we will all die. This is what it means to be human.
The glory of the human spirit lies in our capacity to admit our fears and proceed regardless. We call this 'courage'.


Our sense of anxiety arises from how we perceive things. Some people will find a situation most agreeable, whilst somebody else will find it unpleasant. It is all about how you appraise the situation.
Every event in life can be considered from different perspectives, points of view. Learn how to see things differently.


Consider events in a yin/yang way... For example: your car breaks down and you must evaluate the cost of fixing it, the frequency of repairs - balanced against the cost of replacing it.
Do you put money into an old car and risk that it breaks down again? Or buy a new car and get a breakdown/repair warranty?
If you repair the old car, it may cost less in the short-term but maybe more in the long-term. A new car means peace of mind but also monthly HP to pay.
A new car means no immediate repair cost on the old car but long-term financing of new.
The old car is bought and paid for but essentially worthless (beyond its function) whereas a new car is financed but may have a greater future trade-in value.

Can you see the thinking process behind yin/yang?

This constant dual perception of every event? No event is just one thing and the yin/yang principle can be applied repeatedly, relative to different nuances, factors and variables.

Accepting the unknown

Once you are willing to drop your front and admit your fears and your vulnerability, you can make progress. Taoism helps us to face the unknown and realise that almost everything in existence is unknown.
When you can see the magnitude of reality, you feel humbled and small, insignificant. You feel comfortable dropping your defences and just being yourself.

Letting go

It is very hard to let-go of anxiety. The process cannot be hurried or forced. Old habits do not fade quickly. You need to feel safe, comfortable, supported, familiar.
Then you can begin to let your defences soften; this is the first step on the road to relaxation.


Everyone who starts tai chi approaches the art with some sort of baggage: whether physical or psychological.
The habitual actions and thoughts, the misconceptions, preconceptions and expectations are all present from the very first lesson.
People see what they want to see and frantically attempt to understand the art in terms of their existing life experience and memories.
As a consequence, the syllabus involves shedding the baggage before the real training can begin.

Our classes

We offer a stress-free, friendly learning environment. Students feel welcome, safe, relaxed and comfortable. There is no pressure, no expectations, no urgency, no competition, no rivalry, no ill-feeling.
Everyone proceeds at their own pace. With time and patience, the body and the emotions begin to lose their fear. People unfold and relax.

A new path

Students with Sifu Waller are trained to keep their nervous systems grounded and their emotions under control.
With a calm mind, settled emotions and a relaxed, balanced body - you have the opportunity to choose. Rather than curl in a protective ball, you can deal with adverse situations differently.


All change begins in the mind, so it is best to start there:

  1. Overcoming Anger and Irritability by Dr William Davies

  2. The Road Less Travelled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth by M Scott Peck

  3. Who Moved My Cheese: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life by Spencer Johnson

  4. Your Erroneous Zones: Escape negative thinking and take control of your life by Dr. Wayne W Dyer

Our reaction to disturbing events throws our bodies into chronic imbalance. We tend to hold the 'memory' of a traumatic experience in a particular part of the body. This muscular memory in time becomes part of the total pattern and is incorporated into an individual's use of himself.

(Michael Gelb)

Page created 18 March 1997
Last updated 04 May 2023