Fear, like all emotions, poses as the truth
They give the false impression that it is representative of a true perspective. This is so important for all of us to see as clearly as possible as our emotions have hypnotic effects that all too frequently puts us under their spell. If we can look at our past experience and see this it gives us a chance to do some reality testing to see that the amount of times that our fears indicate realistic assessments of the danger we are facing is minimal at the least. This can give us the potential to develop a counter voice that will be able to say something like, “Fear I see you and you have been wrong 99 out of the last 100 times you have arisen.” This is particularly true when it comes to health or an area where we have wounded self-esteem, and rejection issues to name just a few areas. We are not talking about simple fears like avoiding putting your hand in a fire or hitting the brakes when a car comes too close to you. We are focusing on future events that are not happening in the present moment.
As we see this tendency it highlights the importance of developing a way of relating to our fears so that they don’t have the same power to run our thoughts, reactions, and actions. The central direction that we want to develop is the ability to first experience the fear consciously and see the fear clearly, and then to bring this observation to enable us to speak in a way that is both honoring the vulnerability of the fear and at the same time cultivate a sense of caring and courage to be embraced with the fear. This doesn’t mean that we are telling the fear that it is right. We are instead letting the fear know that we aren’t generating the fear on purpose and that we want to learn how to take care of ourselves when we are frightened.
We will frequently want to say things like, “Fear I am experiencing you and I feel very vulnerable, yet I want you to know that I accept you or at the very least I am doing my best to be tolerant. I see the benefits of holding you in a softer way and the paradox is that the more I can care for you, the less I will believe that you have a monopoly. I can start to develop the capacity to be afraid and have a response that cares both for you and wants to develop the capacity to find our courage at the same time.”
If you are afraid that you might be rejected by your lover, You can say to yourself, “I can see this fear, and both notice if there are clear-cut signs that this is likely” and I can also ask myself, How can I best care for both the fear and the relationship at the same time.” This is a way to both honor the fear and starts to develop a type of courage and wisdom at the same time.
This might sound impossible especially if you haven’t done a good deal of work on yourself. The ideal is to allow both the fear and the courage to be as close to simultaneous as possible. In the beginning, it is a major victory to even recognize the next day or week that courage could still be available when fear is present. This is a great starting point. No matter whether this is a relatively new idea for you or one that you are familiar with, I don’t think any of us can rationally underestimate both the benefit and the evolutionary development this represents.
It is important that we greet whatever our emotions are with a receptive observation
We can say something like, “It is perfectly natural for you to be afraid, and I am here to look at whether this is reflecting an overprotection/exaggeration or simply a warning that I need to take healing steps or gather the courage to accept the danger I’m facing.”
This may sound obvious, but when fear arises, if you look closely you’ll likely see that fear often isn’t accompanied by support and realistic observation. This is a very healthy dialogue that we each can teach ourselves to develop. The tendency to be semi-paralyzed or even frozen by fear can make it hard to even remember that we have other parts of ourselves that can be of immense benefit. Once we remember we can ask guiding questions that will seek greater courage while we’re afraid requires a great deal of practice. It isn’t just an intellectual realization for it to be really helpful. It is more like a marathon or an athletic event where we need to have a lot of repetitions in order to withstand the shock of fear hitting our system and not being knocked over by it. We can learn to have something like a Pavlovian response when fear arises . . . REMEMBER COURAGE. I have encouraged myself, friends, and clients to repeat the mantra fear/courage fear/courage to help remind the subconscious to remember this potential that we all have especially when we’re blindsided.
Many of us have believed that it is hard enough to even stay aware of one part of ourselves at a time. However, with practice and the intention to care for ourselves, it will become obvious that we can be aware of the fear and take great interest in our best ways to guide ourselves and what thoughts, qualities and actions will most likely take care of our needs during these times.
It is helpful to realize if your tendency is to either suppress your fears, stew in them or periodically vacillate in both ways. When you see yourself suppressing you want to be an encouraging voice that will say, “Have the courage to stay stably aware of your fear.” If you are stewing and obsessing in them then it will be very helpful to say, as kindly as possible, “I see that you are afraid and it’s necessary to balance this out with thoughts, actions, and qualities that will help you deal with them. What are the ones that will help?” This is not a punishment, and the tone will make it clear that it is a form of self-compassion or caring. It’s not ever necessary to get over the fear, but it is necessary to support the capacity to be transparent and resourceful in your response to it.
Articulate your specific and general relationship to fear
How would you do this? There are so many possibilities and of course, each of us is likely to respond to different types and levels of fear differently. As I name several common ways of responding see which ones you most identify with and the ways you respond. You might suppress it, be consumed by it, intellectualize it without feeling, you may withdraw or get angry, or become depressed (a very common reaction as when fear is happening and we don’t recognize it, most commonly it will leave us withdrawn and tired mysteriously) and many more.
Each of us will want to develop a common strategy, ask ourselves the question of “How Can We Best Take Care of Ourselves” and have a verbal response that is helpful.
If you are suppressing the fear and become aware of it then encourage yourself to stay aware and feel the fear as long as it takes for it to be registered and then ask “How can I support myself to feel both the fear and start to bring courage?”
If you are consumed, then let yourself say, “Fear I see you and you are not all of me. I am now going to focus on what thoughts and actions will support me to find courage.”
If you withdraw let yourself see and say, “I see you are withdrawing from your fear and I want to feel it so that I can recognize and go for the need for strength and courage.”
If you’re depressed let yourself say, “Depression I feel for you and can you see that you are actually depressed because you aren’t feeling your fear.” Let yourself feel the fear and notice how it affects depression. Now see what your wisest thoughts are to guide you to take good care of your fear in terms of thoughts and actions.”
If you’re defensively angry then you say something like, “I see that you are getting angry and I can see you really are afraid underneath.” Feel the fear and ask how you can best care for yourself while you’re afraid.
If you intellectualize it then encourage yourself to direct your thoughts. Move from the mind to feel the fear and take feel the tremble or quiver. Ask yourself, “How can I take the next step to experience the fear and guide myself to the thoughts and actions to access a starting point of courage.”
It’s important to see the need for at least a brief dialogue between the fear and the part of you that can see it. This establishes the beginning of independence from fear and yet develops a relationship. Our ability to have a dynamic relationship with our fears opens the door to actively taking care of ourselves, rather than just being taken over by them consciously or unconsciously. So much of the suffering that we and the world experience is a result of fear staying compartmentalized. By supporting this dynamism we put ourselves in a realistic position to accept the fear and develop our capacity to care for ourselves and develop courage.
For greater detailed support read chapter 7 in the book Awareness That Heals called “Moving From Feelings to Needs” and listen to the ATH podcast episode 17.