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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: More Thoughts on Fear

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.

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