Fear is a perfectly natural feeling none of us will escape. There’s that fear that makes the tiny hairs on the back of your neck stand up because you know you’re in danger. Then there are the very human fears we all face to some degree or another. Fear of losing those we love. Fear of saying or doing something we’ll regret because it makes us look stupid or feel ashamed. Fear of being hurt, betrayed or left. Fear of rejection. Fear that you’ll take a chance with all your heart and fail. Fear of being alone. Fear of committing. Fear of success. Fear that our past can’t be overcome, and our future will be more of the same. Fear of screwing it all up. Fear of never being seen, known or loved. Fear of death. Fear of really living. Not everyone will experience all those fears, but most people will face at least some of them.
Fear isn’t a problem, but repressing it is. “Don’t be scared” is a common mantra we’re taught in childhood, but you can’t be other than what you are, ever. You feel how you feel and denying your experience is the issue. Thinking that a feeling we’re having is wrong or that it’s socially unacceptable is where we get into trouble. It would be better if we were taught, “Feel scared, but do it anyway.” There’s an elation that comes when we head into the center of our fear, flip it the bird, and dive in. A confidence in ourselves that can’t be gained any other way. There are few things as disappointing in life as when we let apprehension, the loud voice of “I can’t” or “I shouldn’t” stop us from doing something our hearts are crying out to do. When we feel paralyzed that way, our hearts get crushed because it’s a missed opportunity to grow, learn and strengthen. To know ourselves more deeply, and to be able to move in the direction of that inner yes.
People write in with all kinds of fears. This guy is afraid to ask this woman out. This girl likes this guy but doesn’t want to tell him because maybe he just wants to be friends. This woman has a dream, but it isn’t realistic and everyone would think she was nuts for pursuing it. This mother lost her first baby and is terrified it will happen again with her second, so she isn’t loving her baby the way she could. This man wants to reach out to his dad, but they haven’t spoken for thirty years, and what if he doesn’t want to talk? What if he’s dead? This woman lost her husband and her children and is afraid to move forward because who wants to risk that kind of loss again? This guy doesn’t go to parties, ever, because he’s convinced he’s so utterly unattractive no one would want to speak with him. This man is in a marriage without any love, but is afraid to tell his wife how he feels because what then?
There are some situations in life that are so complex, you really do have to move slowly and think clearly before you head off and make decisions that will affect other people in your life, but living in fear feels terrible. It shuts us down and makes us feel there isn’t any hope, there aren’t any options, there isn’t a path that could lead us to something different. I do not believe anyone can flourish from a foundation of fear, and if you’re withering, you really can’t nurture anyone else, including yourself. If you feel stuck in fear, reach out. Get yourself some help and some support if you need it, so you can start to face it down, which is totally different than pushing it down. The very funny thing about fear is that when you have your back to it, it feels like this raging, huge, fiery dragon that could take you down with one big exhaled flame. But if you’d turn around, you’d see it’s just a huge pile of blocks you’ve erected in your mind. The kind you used to play with when you were a kid. The blocks are mostly made of pain, and the tower is teetering. You could, if you found the courage, reach out and knock the whole thing down. Then you could look at the pieces, and start to build something new. Maybe a bridge. I’m not saying the fear isn’t real. I’m just saying it’s not going to kill you.
Sending you love, and the hope that you’ll saddle up if you need to,