One of the things which I’m learning about as I grow older, is the need to be compassionate with myself and others when it comes to fear.
I believe the muscle talk which appears in our early twenties for conquering fear, is not always kind or necessary. Don’t get me wrong, there is a need at times to be firm with ourselves but that does not mean that we have to use words such as ‘crush,’ or ‘obliterate.’
I’d like to offer something a little different.
A communication and recognition of the importance of our fear. What it’s there for, what it tells us and how it communicates its need through us. Because fear is an important part of ourselves also. It tells us what can hurt us – how we can hurt ourselves. It can stop us from doing many things we want but it can also wisely hold us back from damaging ourselves psychologically, emotionally and physically.
The conversation with fear needs to start when you first meet it and there are different levels of fear. It can become ingrained within our personalities due to early life trauma or specific incidents, which render us wounded and without this wound being acknowledged or recognised – it can never be healed and then fear can rule our lives.
It is not meant to rule but can be a tool to utilise when we become afraid of what we want or are trying to achieve.
For example – i’ve been teaching myself over the summer to swim in the deeper waters of the estuary I live on. Swimming ever deeper, I encountered all the fears of great white shark attacks, held in my mind from the first moment of watching Jaws in the 70’s and trying to keep me safe. My mind even drew up a sink hole appearing, as I made my way out into the temperate water and closer to the end of the groynes. I still achieved my goal for the summer which was to swim past there and another width on, until I was totally away from the safety of the shoreline. Yet here I knew I needed to be aware of tide times, current, boats and length of time to be at this distance. I achieved my goal. Which for some I know is nothing but for me meant a great deal.
The fear wanted to keep me in the shallows, where it knew I would safe – not out of my depth or swimming into dangerous currents. So I talked to it. I thanked it for caring about me but I also let it know that it wasn’t going to stop me.
Although the irony of this, is that on some occasions its power is so strong, it does.
One of these times was whilst I was living on Koh Chang in Thailand recently. The island is really hilly and I worked towards the farthest and hilliest end, where not to be left waiting for taxi at in-opportune times, I really needed to ride a scooter.
I couldn’t get myself to do – although I wanted to. During this time my mind stood fast in not allowing me but I also missed a trick when I returned home to the UK, when my gut told me to get on one here, so I could develop confidence and not for the first time, I didn’t listen to that knowing, inner, wise voice. So on my return, this was an immovable fear, which I had let take hold.
There were moments when I just wanted to override it – to conquer it but I knew instead I needed to acknowledge it and say hello to this part of me and let it know that on another occasion, I will take the opportunity to help it out – so it can become malleable as my skill level develops. So it doesn’t feel as afraid, that its discernment at times, is as right as the other parts of me and that I don’t need to disown it or conquer it but look for the clues in it, for what it is asking me to do. Recognise the need and assess the situation.
If I do all of this, then I am helping my fear – I am deciding whether or not the fear is an accurate response to a situation or a danger and then as an adult, I will take the appropriate action in helping it. Whether that may be by committing to feeling the fear and doing what I want anyway or it’s by deciding that on this occasion, I’ll thank my fear for keeping me safe and understand that it is an important part of me to use, when deciding what adventures to have or experiences to move through as I live my life.
What’s your attitude to fear?