Fear is a funny thing right? It shows up, sometimes unexpectedly and if left unexamined completely takes you off course. But then, when we embrace fear, welcome it as a likely companion, we find that it teaches us something about ourselves. Perhaps that situation we assumed was so scary wasn’t the real issue. Maybe our fear was a pointer as my wife likes to call it, to a deeper issue, self doubt or lack of self compassion.
Lately in my own journey, I’ve been learning how to make friends with various fears. My first step has been to name it when it shows up. Hello there, fear masquerading as insecurity or the desire to take control. It’s taken me years to get to a point where I can accurately name what I’m feeling, because I’ve had a lifetime of practice ignoring my emotions in order to survive. Obviously that’s not good. At our most basic level, we know that physiologically our fears tells us when we feel like there’s danger. If we ignore those warning signals we risk harm. But sometimes, it’s hard to decode exactly what type of harm our mind and emotions are conjuring up. Still, it’s worth paying attention to.
Next, I ask myself, where is this coming from? Another way to pose this question is, why am I feeling this way? Usually from here I can piece together what’s led me to this point. Finally, I ask myself the question, so what do we want to do now? Now that I’ve learned what fear has come to teach me, it’s time to thank it for its time, and make a conscious decision about how I want to move forward. It’s a process sure, but it’s also like building a muscle. The more you do it, the easier it gets.
Speaking of fear, it’s interesting, my most self confident daughter, the one we call Power, is also the one most afraid of scary movies and has the most nightmares. Even the four year old can sleep through anything and not be bothered.
So the other night when I heard her screaming daddy! from the top of the stairs, I knew it was serious. When I got in there she asked me, how come you didn’t come when I called your name right away? I don’t like it when it feels like you ignore me. Accusatory much?
By the way, I think that’s her real fear, being ignored and somehow not mattering. She hates being ignored in all its forms. That’s why Power always makes her presence felt. To make amends, she asked me to prove my attentiveness basically by showing up throughout the evening, coming back to check on her multiple times, particularly when it’s darkest. (Her words, how metaphorical).
When she asked me how long it would take for her nightmares to go away, I didn’t have an answer for her. Or at least I didn’t have one that she would accept. My heart goes out to the kid. Here she is simply trying to make her way in this world, and she keeps bumping up into a classic reality of life: sometimes you’re gonna have nightmares that you can’t control that you wish would just go away. When fear shows up, what are you gonna do?
I invited her to use this as an opportunity to remember all the good things she knows are true. Like the fact that she is loved, brave and wise. Sure you’re afraid right now, but is the thing you’re afraid of even really all that big and scary? Fear might be here, but so is love, hope, and joy.
Let’s see how they all work together.
Our bodies are prophets. They know when things are out of whack and they say so. BARBARA BROWN TAYLOR, An Altar in the World