Working With Fear

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I have lived with fear for much of my life. I remember all the way back to when I was young, around 4-5 years old, lying in bed at night afraid of everything- monsters, wars, people I loved dying, getting lost. The list goes on and seemed to visit me often. My parents tell me stories about how I was afraid of anyone in costume- even a little girl dressed up in her first communion dress. As I grew a little older, my fears grew as well. I clearly remember finding a bug in my school salad and running down to my sister’s classroom surely convinced that I was going to die. I was afraid to go over my friends’ houses because I was afraid of their fathers for some reason. I could feel people’s energy. I knew who I felt safe with and who I did not. Luckily, I grew more comfortable in my own skin and developed a deep faith in God as I grew up and was able to do big things- like be the first to go away for college out of state in my family and then a different state for graduate school. I spent a term abroad in Italy. I pushed the comfort zone of the scared little girl inside of me and am proud of my courage- big and small steps.

Despite my ability to move forward, fear was always a constant visitor- sometimes lurking while other times paralyzing. It seemed to never go away. It wasn’t until I became a mother that I realized that my fears would run rampant if I didn’t do something. I began to realize that I was even afraid of being afraid. I was fearing fear. I made the decision that I no longer wanted to be held captive. It has been a long and challenging journey with many twists and turns, but I have learned that I no longer have to run. I am learning to, in fact, stay. To recognize when fear is present and make room for it. This is not easy and the scared little 4-year-old inside of me feels so alive and present at times. I am learning to meet this little one inside with kindness and compassion to let her know that she is safe.

I want to make clear that fear can show up in many different disguises. It can show up as anger, rage, jealousy, blame/shame, sadness, confusion, felling “stuck,” anxiety to name a few. Underneath all of our difficult emotions, lies one common emotion and that is FEAR- fear of being unworthy, fear of being unsafe, fear of being unloved, fear of not being enough. When we can come face to face with the fear, we can heal but this is a process that takes time, wise discernment, limitless compassion and support along the way.

My up close and personal relationship with fear has taught me some valuable insights that I want to share with you, especially if you relate with the feeling of being held tightly by fear’s grip. I hope this brings even a slight relief.

  1. Fear serves a purpose. It is pointing us in the direction of what needs to be healed. If I can remind myself of this when I am feeling afraid, I am able to be with it in a more open, compassionate and curious way.
  2. When in the tightly held grip of fear, it is best to allow it “to be” without trying to figure it out or get rid of it. The mind likes to make sense of things, but healing doesn’t come from the mind. As the grip loosens and there is some inner space, that is the time to investigate it and engage with it, inquiring what this fearful place needs most.
  3. Compassion for myself is the only way to allow me to stay and feel the fear without running. Self-compassion builds safety.
  4. Learn my own safety zones and when fear is too overwhelming, learning how to ground myself (resourcing) – reach out to others, go for walks in nature, journal. This isn’t avoiding fear. It is a wise and kind way of providing safety and building trust within.
  5. On the other side of fear is love. We must know our fear in order to truly feel the depth of our love.
  6. Fears feeds on fear. When we learn to see the fear for what it is, an unhealed part of our self that needs love, we become freer and freer to live from our heart, our truest self.

Certain conditions can be fertile ground for fear. Uncertainty is for sure one instance where fear becomes active. This current pandemic is fertile ground for individual and collective fear. Yet, it is also an opportunity to learn how to soothe yourself in the face of fear and how to release the tight grip you may feel. We are all feeling fear in some way or another right now. I can attest to the ebb and flow of emotions within me at any given time.

I am offering an online course called, Living Fully: Creating a Wise Relationship with Fear, starting this Tuesday, April 7th at 8pm EST. This is a four-week course that helps transform our relationship with fear. I will be teaching the steps that I practice all of the time- how to re-frame the way we are relating to fear, the signs of fear (physically, emotionally and mentally), how to calm the nervous system, how to allow for fear “to be” without trying to fix it, and ultimately how to befriend it and heal.

I welcome anyone in the class. The only prerequisite is to show up as you are with the willingness to be brave.

SIGN UP FOR CLASS HERE

Walking this path together with fear and courage.

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Mindfulness is a limitless tool for self-discovery. It is an experiential process, meaning that you cannot just read about mindfulness to understand the process and receive its benefits. You actually have to practice and develop the skill to be present.

 

-- Amanda Votto

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