What is needed, rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistance, is understanding fear; that means, watch it, learn about it, come directly into contact with it. We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it.
Fear is one of the greatest challenges and lessons on our life’s journey. One of my favorite quotes, and one that hangs in my office, is by Neal Donald Walsh- “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”. And it is at the end of the comfort zone that many of us experience the sensation of Fear.
Fear of the new; fear of the unknown; fear of the unexpected; and even just the fear of the unknowable. And it is also the place where life, excitement and adventure begins. Fear is one of the most basic and powerful human energies, and it has been and continues to be used to control people. People are easily controlled when they are afraid... the illusion that backing away from the fear = safety. This is not always true.
At its core, fear is meant to heighten our instincts and help us to survive a saber tooth tiger in our village. Or any impending, life threatening danger. When we are standing on top of a high precipice about to jump off on the longest zip-line ever, we may feel a tension building in our bodies. Our hearts may be pounding loudly in our chests and our hands may be shaking a little. We may be sweating and feel uncomfortable... like we want to run. This is that overt physical fear. We know it and expect it and often if we want to do something badly enough we choose to overcome it. But the covert fear is something quite different and much less tangible. It is the fear that prevents us from taking risks. It may show up as fear of failure; or fear of the unknown; or fear of owning ourselves completely. Sometimes we fear doing things on our own, or it may be a fear of doing things differently than our friends, or our family agrees with.
Knowing which fears are addressing something harmful in your path vs. fear that is just the energy of the unknown is vital to living a fulfilling life. We have to learn to navigate the corners of these feelings and move through them towards what we desire. Life is short ... and so many of us get stuck in the routine of life. We rarely move out of our comfort zone and into the discomfort of the unfamiliar. Yet, often it is in the space of that discomfort that amazing, life altering adventures happen.
Many of my most wonderful, life altering adventures happen when we push through our fear. Going to sleep away camp, traveling to distant places, going to college, moving away from my family, getting married, having children, or getting a new job. Each of these adventures can produce great fear, and yet, our lives would be much less rich and full without having walked through these feelings and reaping the rewards that came with them.
Here are some ways to help work with and, when necessary, push through fear:
Recognize the sensation of fear. Know all the ways fear shows itself to you. This may change over time, but the better you get to know it, the less crafty and manipulative it can become. There comes a time when you see the fear creeping in and you can invite it to join you for tea. You can sit with it, talk to it, understand it... and through the process be present with it. Then, it holds much less power. Never run from fear... it loves a good chase.
Learn to use your breath. Our slow deep breath has the power to shift our physical state. Learn to use this tool to help you get back to yourself when you are feeling afraid.
Move. Sometimes our bodies need to move in order to process the adrenaline that it releases during fearful times. Once we move that energy out of our system, we can often think more clearly and calmly. Just going for a run around the block can transform the fear.
Feel the fear and do it anyway. Be present with it and allow it to show all its parts to you. Don’t let fear control decisions that you know will be in your best interest. Don’t let fear turn you around from a great new possibility.
Engage in some form of meditation. This allows you to come back to and know yourself deeply. It allows you to sit in the presence of discomfort , painful, and challenging thoughts, and create great self knowledge. Even if you just sit with a question for a few minutes a day, you will develop your inner guidance and intuition and the ability to know deep down what is best for you. This will stop the fear stories from taking root.
There is nothing that will completely remove fear from your life. Having a deep understanding of how it shows up for you and how to navigate through it has the power to change your life completely.