For many of us, fear can be paralyzing. It can prevent us from living the life of our dreams. It can carry us into un-healthy habits or patterns, it can keep us from making the changes in our lives that are so necessary in order for us to be safe, to be happy. It can bring on anxiety, worry, even terror. It can control our lives.
There are types of fear. Fear is a part of life, think about stepping off a curb and hearing a truck or car barreling towards you . You leap back in fear for your life! That is fear that is a survival mechanism. Necessary for your survival, but not something that happens to you every day, or even very often.
There can be large fears, such as illness, death. Little fears such as “will my pants fit”. We can be anxious and frustrated from little and big things, by what people may say to us, or how they may say things to us. Social media may instill in us FOMO, fear of missing out. When you start to notice you may realize a lot of your day is spent in fear, and many things you do may be rooted in fear.
In my life, I was driven by fear until a few year ago when I hit a tipping point, and realized that my fears were holding me back from living a life of fulfillment, a life where I looked forward to each day. It was time to make a shift and embrace those fears, see them, acknowledge them but also sit with them.
Where did it come from? What keeps it going?
Worrying is using your imagination to create something you don’t want.” —Esther Hicks
Echkart Tolle calls the storyteller in our head the “mind-made me”. As children we began to tell stories in our head to explain what was going on as we began to encounter thoughts and feelings. This storyteller is trying to manage life, so you do not get lost in fear, or loneliness.
This storyteller brings commentary to all parts of our life. Maybe an important meeting at work, maybe a trip somewhere you have never been, an event where you will be with challenging relatives, or a doctor visit about a health concern. The storyteller voice shows up…what if I say something wrong, what if I have the wrong directions, what if I am late, catastrophizing.
Most people are not aware of that dialogue running through their head all day long. Some of us are constantly chasing happiness, believing we will be happy when this happens, or this is right, or everything gets together (I lose weight, I find a new home, I am in a relationship). And when that happens we find that we are not happy, so we are off to the next thing….. the next search.
We actually become afraid of our own fear, and we keep trying to feel good in order to leave fear behind.
We are not aware of our fear because we have been conditioned to run away from it. We are so deeply afraid of our fear, our anger and the despair it generates, we stay busy with all sorts of things to keep us distracted. Fear can manifest in our bodies, through illness, aches and pain.
The Way Out
The way out of fear is to get to know it through your heart. It is possible to become honest enough with yourself that you can start looking at what is going on within you, and you become free.
To truly let fears go, you have to give them attention, you have to recognize them and you will feel fearful. But fear is nothing to be afraid of, it is just a story we tell ourselves and 99% of our worries have never come true.
Mark Twain: I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.
Fear doesn’t want us to be afraid, it wants to be seen, to be welcomed, to be touched by our hearts so it doesn’t have to be afraid anymore.
Rainer Maria Rilke says in letters to a young poet, “perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”
As you give space to fear, it can pass right through you. Consider that fear is happening within a greater space of you that is not afraid.
Its about awareness…as you burn away assumptions have made about how you should live, how you should look…its about burning away those images so you can get to the authentic part of yourself that fears may be holding you back from.
Mary O’Malley’s book, What’s in the way Is the Way invites us to live in the question:
What would it be like to get to you know fears, rather than being afraid of them?
What can you learn from your fears? How can embracing, and loving that part of yourself that is afraid open up to life to new experiences?
That is the invitation I am living every day as a practice.