Fear

When I first thought about writing about fear, I thought, I really can’t because I don’t know fear that well. Not as well as sadness, shame, even anger. But as I reflected I realized that I do know fear.

What makes us afraid? Certainly our deepest fear as humans is death. Mostly we don’t let ourselves feel that fear, we allow ourselves to feel lesser fears. But ultimately all fears with stories attached are about the future. Since we cannot know the future we make up stories about it and then scare ourselves with these stories.

I didn’t think I felt fear much because I am wired to feel other emotions more intensely; sadness, shame, guilt, anger, and of course joy, peace and happiness. But fear is not one the main ones. I don’t make up stories about danger, or possible physical threats. Many people whose primary emotion is fear make up stories that start off with, what if that happened, or what would happen if, or because this happened that will happen next. Someone might break into the house, there could be an earthquake, not eating organic food will lead to cancer, a virus might take over the world, etc. These thoughts become things to dwell upon and for which to make plans.

Because I generally don’t think like that I didn’t see at first that I am just as familiar with fear. My kind of fear has been to worry about having said the wrong thing, hurt someones’ feelings, or been uncaring in some way. The story that got spun, was that I would be rejected, not loved, abandoned, because of this mistake. For me these were scary, life threatening stories.

These stories lost their power a while ago, through much processing, allowing and accepting. I learned to focus my attention in my body, to not pay attention to the thoughts, to pay attention to the present, to my breath, to any physical sensations. And all this helped.

Only in the last year did I have an experience that was more similar to the fear people I mentioned above. I became afraid that I wouldn’t make enough money to support myself. The story that began to build was that I would become homeless. I actually exchanged myself for homeless women I saw on the street. It felt very real to me, and very terrifying. I knew this was what others had described to me. I tried everything I knew, every trick I learned to get myself into my body out of my mind. Also I knew that the homeless scenario was not real for me, because even if I didn’t make enough money there were several people ready to offer me help. Somehow being rational that didn’t make my story feel any less real.

Finally I realized that I had to not pay attention to the emotions. Not only was it important not to indulge the mind, but I also had to allow all the emotions without giving them importance, or meaning.

An example might be, waking up in the morning and noticing a heaviness in my heart. I would automatically wonder what was causing this emotion, did something happen, did I do something wrong, is this something from the past that was not processed, did I have a dream, etc. If I followed this line of questioning I would wind up with some story line that would validate the emotions making them worse. On the other hand if I recognized the process and said to myself, this is just a sensation, it doesn’t mean anything, it isn’t important, there is nothing to understand. The feeling would not even be labeled heaviness, it would just be a sensation I was having upon awakening. There would be no problem.

By paying so little attention to the thoughts and the emotions, slowly, the fear subsided, the stories of homelessness subsided, and all was well.  I had to do this several times before the fear stopped arising. Certainly I still experience fear, but it is very present and there is not much story to it. If a car suddenly pulls in front of me, or if there is a sudden noise, the shock will go through my body, and if I think about it, I will know it as fear. This type of fear is not a problem, it comes and goes and doesn’t leave a trace.

There is a simple formula I follow for working through sticky stories and emotions. You start with the simplest most direct approach if that works no need for deeper exploration, if it doesn’t keep going. So if there is no labeling, just emotions and stories flowing through There is a simple formula I follow for working through sticky stories and emotions. You start with the simplest most direct approach if that works no need for deeper exploration, if it doesn’t keep going. So if there is no labeling, just being the space within which everything arises, there is nothing to do. If you label and are concerned, let go of the label just allow or accept what is showing up, be it a story first and then an emotion or vice versa. If the tension is still there, you can ask yourself when this first began, sometimes just identifying the childhood story helps, acknowledgment and acceptance can facilitate release. If the story and emotions are still sticky, you may need to do more processing of the original wound. For me the last story of fear was new and did not hold the past, so it could be dealt with more directly.

, there is nothing to do. If you label and are concerned, let go of the label just allow or accept what is showing up, be it a story first and then an emotion or vice versa. If the tension is still there, you can ask yourself when this first began, sometimes just identifying the childhood story helps; acknowledgment and acceptance can facilitate release. If the story and emotions are still sticky, you may need to do more processing of the original wound. For me the last story of fear was new and did not hold the past, so it could be dealt with more directly.