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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: April 2013

Monday, April 22, 2013

More Thoughts on Fear

"We do not have to get rid of anything.  No matter how troubling, frightening, or annoying the message emanating from within us, all we have to do is perceive ourselves as separate from that toxic message and disagree with it."  And even when disagreement seems too much to ask, we can still disobey.   ...    And....

...When we move toward the fear, understanding that the fear does not need to change as we are willing to change our relationship to it, we stand up for ourselves."  ~ Thom Rutledge from Embracing Fear

I couldn't choose which quote to bring you (as is often the case with me) so I am bringing you both.  Truth is, there were more than a few nuggets in Thom Rutledge's book Embracing Fear.  And since today someone said to me "I am anxious.  And I am anxious about being anxious, "  I thought it was a good time to write about fear once more. 

Since fear is often the driver, we can find so much hope in looking at our fears.  And since fear is often lurking underneath anger and hurt and frustration, we are doing ourselves a deep disservice if we don't face it.  I am not talking, of course, about rational fear - a lion in the parking lot.  I am talking about deep fear.  Fear of being alone, of not mattering, of making mistakes, of being helpless or worthless or terrible or left.  Of not being able to care for ourselves or meet our basic needs.

We all have these fears.  They are human.  They may take different shapes, speak in different voices within each of us.  When we unpack them, face them and answer them, we often find enormous relief.  Even when they are masquerading around as rational, if we shine the light on them we can talk back, plan, pray and make progress.  They do not have to control us.  Strong as they can feel, they are not facts.  And to Thom Rutledge's point, we do not have to get rid of them. Which is a relief, because even though they may go away, getting rid of them may not be possible.  What is possible though, and so full of hope is that we can get to know them and face them.  We can reduce their hold on us.

Many folks tell me that they believe that the fear is keeping them safe.  If they are afraid, they will stay vigilant.  And then nothing bad will really, actually happen.  It never ceases to impress me how much fear means to us, and how we defend it to ourselves, believing we don't really have to deal with it.  Believing we can control outcomes with it.

I am equally impressed with how quiet irrational fear can be and how we can be operating under its influence and not even know it.  I am so hopeful when I remember that the work is do-able.  When we are feeling angry, cranky, off kilter, edgy, explosive, fear is often hiding somewhere underneath, and our task is not to fight it off, but to let it breath and diminish it's power.

I've often written about the value of looking at what has shaped us, what has informed the voices that we use to talk to ourselves, and to look at what has protected us as children and whether or not that is working for us now.  Fear is part and parcel of this work, of our path toward a healthy and well core and spiritually fit inner life.  When we study our fears and respond  differently to them, we are doing that work of creating a better inner world.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Allowing Our Minds to Open Up

"To win without risk is to triumph without glory" ~ Pierre Corneille

Someone reminded me of the above quote recently and we got to talking about winning in the psychic and spiritual sense: victory over our fears, doubts and negativity.  And the internal glory of a positive emotionally healthy life.

I have often written about practicing the ability to bear discomfort.  And practicing the ability to feel our feelings without self attack, without  hurting our bodies, our spirit and our relationships.  I have written about the importance of developing resiliency through emotional pain and that how we respond can make all the difference in our inner and our external worlds.  When we risk and win here, we do triumph with glory, in ways that quiet and true.

When we are in emotional pain, in transition in our lives, or we have become used to living with a certain combination of internal pressure and mindless survival,  we can lose sight of the idea that there is a better way to function, a better way to live.

People often come to therapy during a time of crisis or transition.  Sometimes for support, sometimes to unpack the pain and get curious about what has led to it, contributed to it and how to get relief.
There is always a process of course, unique and individual, but I think that the real change happens when we risk allowing our minds to be open not just to how we are feeling and the human nature of our character , but to what we can and are willing to do  to shift how we think.

For many folks, negative fear based thinking is a default setting because they have needed it to survive, to protect themselves from difficult circumstances.  For others it's what was modeled for them early in life.  There comes a time, though, when what seemed to have helped us cope in the past, no longer serves us well.  Shifting our thinking can feel risky emotionally, but the benefits are many.

The risk then includes not just practicing the ability to bear discomfort, but practicing the ability to bear comfort.  We have to get used to the idea that it's okay to be okay.  That when the crisis passes, when the transition is fading into a new normal, we may feel somewhat better but we still have work to do.  There is more to be won.

And that work is to continue our self discovery, to find out what lights us up, what opens us up to creativity and meaning and a life well lived.

(Radu Razvan Gheorghe | Dreamstime Stock Photos photo credit)