“I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” –Georgia O'Keeffe
I wish I could say the same thing that Georgia O’Keeffe did, but worry and fear had a big grip on me for many years. I did allow worry and fear to keep me from doing things. I was ignorant that there were ways to actually work with fear versus being controlled by it. Fear wants to constrict us and keep us trapped. Beyond fear is expansion and endless possibilities!
Recently, I woke up gripped in fear. This doesn’t happen to me very often anymore. There was a time when it happened quite frequently. I have learned much better ways to work with fear. I have learned that fear is not me, and I’ve come to accept that fear will likely always be with me.
Fear, in its purest sense, is a great warning sign protecting us from danger. Most of the time, we are not really in danger when fear is present. Is what we fear, always true? No. So much of what we fear is not a fact. It’s just a feeling running through us. We can move fear through us like the feelings of anger or happiness flow through us. It’s impossible to stay in one state forever. We shift from one state to another as energy moves in and around us.
It’s easy to disconnect our mind from our body. Remember, the body never lies. When we catch ourselves feeling fear, we need to remind ourselves to come back to the body. We can revisit what’s going on in our mind later and go deeper into why we are feeling this fear, but first we need to help the body. When in fear, our body is put into “flight and fight” and our brain is not able to function properly.
When I woke up that morning feeling the gripping fear I began focusing on how to soothe my body and calm myself. The fear needed to move through me instead of me holding it in my body. I needed to get grounded and present in the “here and now”. We can do this in many ways. For example, intentional breathing exercises, prayer and meditation, some type of physical exercise and much more.
Once I was more present and calmer, I was able to quickly realize what it was that was causing this fear to be so pronounced. In this case, I was really worried about some thing that was in the future. I could then use tools from my “recovery toolbox” in order to help me deal with what was coming up for me and at the root of this fear. When we find tools that work for us, we can help re-pattern our body, and gain some space inside so further recovery will be possible.
Stephen Levine says, “to heal is to touch with love that which we previously touched with fear.” I have learned most often what’s under my fear is some part of me that’s been wounded, like that of a scared child. That part of me really does need love. It needs compassion, understanding, and forgiveness. Often, it’s a protective mechanism I developed from trauma in my life. Fear does keep us alert and that’s a good thing in the right environment. Too much and in the wrong environment is counterproductive.
One of my co-workers taught me a helpful acronym for FEAR— Face Everything And Recover. We can face our fear. We can recover. We can love it for all the ways it has helped us in the past, and will in the future. As we lovingly coexist with it—fear goes with, and alongside of us, without letting it keep us from doing a single thing we want to do!
Cheri works as a Peer Support Specialist for RI in Arizona. She has experienced loss and grief which has led her to write for the masses to bring voice to those in similar situations. Cheri possesses a deep passion to share with, encourage, and inspire others on what she calls the Journey of the Heart.