I have a couple of changes coming up on my horizon, and as expected, there has been a decent quantity of fear and doubt looming.
This morning I dialogued with my fear. As a part of my morning pages I asked my fear to tell me everything it was concerned and worried about. After a generous list of fears spilled out on the pages, I acknowledged it’s presence and concern for me. I said “thank you” and talked with my fear, reminding it that I was here, and that we would take things one step at a time. I reminded my fearful self that although it feels like it, we are not alone, and that we can move forward and practice being flexible with the changes as they come.
I felt a calm as I went on with my day. I felt a deeper grounding in knowing that, although I don’t know how things will turn out, that I will be okay. But there was something else that wasn’t quite buying the whole thing. It was a skeptical concern. So I brought it up in my counseling session today.
What peeled back was a deeper layer, a missing step to acknowledging and listening to my fear. You see, fear serves us. So when I am telling my fear that everything will be okay, my fear takes a slight “We’re not going anywhere. We have a job to do.” stance.
So the missing step in working with fear is that, when we acknowledge it, let it speak, and thank it, we must also let it know that we are not asking it to leave, but instead, are welcoming and embracing it.
What? Isn’t the whole point to not be afraid?
Well, to a degree. We don’t want our fear to overwhelm us, and cause us to go into fight, flight, or freeze mode. We want to give the fear our attention, much like a loving parent would give to a fearful child. Instead of being a negating/cutting-off parent by saying “Well that’s silly, there’s nothing to be afraid of!”, we can become a loving presence to our own fearful selves. “It’s okay, you have every right to feel afraid. You’ve had plenty of reasons to be afraid. I am here with you. Even in your fear you are loved.”
Loving myself in my fear? What? I don’t know about you, but for me those to things don’t go together. I can witness myself being in fear (depression, anger, etc.), but I can’t love myself in those moments. I processed this paradox with my therapist, and I began to make an important connection.
As a child, anytime I was afraid, angry, depressed, or worried, I was chastised. I definitely received the message that I was “wrong” and “bad”. Since the way our parents treated us is how we treat ourselves, it’s only makes sense that when I feel anger, fear, depression, etc., I can’t be in it and love myself while I am in it. Instead, I try to make myself NOT feel those things so I can be good. And when that doesn’t work, boy do I feel BAD!
So, what is your personal history with fear? When did you first feel fear and how did those around you react? Were your fears allowed or denied?
Cultivating your witness self takes work and time. You’ll notice it in those moments where you can be in an emotion and simultaneously there is a part of you that says “Oh, interesting, you’re really feeling _____.” This witness self grows over time and helps you to re-member that you are not your emotions.
A deeper growth in cultivating a witness self is being able to be loving and compassionate to yourself no matter what you are feeling. Can you say that you are loveable when in the midst of road rage? It’s laughable to me now, but I’m willing to try.
So, instead of trying to eradicate your fear, see if you can move from being IN it, to being WITH it.
To help imagine what this looks like, think of someone you love unconditionally (a child, sibling, pet, friend, etc). If that person began telling you how afraid they were of something, what would you do to help them? Would you match their fear response and cause their fear to escalate? Would you tell them they are dumb for being afraid? Or would you be a loving, calm, and accepting presence that listens to them? The latter is what you can be to yourself in moments like these. Like everything, it takes practice, but like all these types of practices, it’s a loving investment in yourself.
So how do you be a loving presence to your emotions? Below are some examples, and I really encourage you to explore and create methods that work for you. Remember, you’re not trying to get rid of the emotion, your aim is to be with the emotion.
- Mediation (walking, sitting)
- Write out a dialogue between you and your fearful (angry, sad, etc) self
- Say your dialogue out loud
- Let your emotion create via: drawing with crayons or finger-paints
- Do an activity that expresses the emotion such as kickboxing, running, etc.
- Dialogue with something that represents the emotion your dealing with such as a plush animal, toy, photo, or doll
- Talk with someone who is safe who you know will respect and listen to your feelings instead of try to change them
If you have your own methods of being with your emotions, what are they?