Listening and Not Listening to FearBy Rythea Lee
December 04, 2007
Fear is not always a problem. Discover which kind of fear is harmful and which kind of fear is a sign of powerful person growth.
When we have thoughts about ourselves, about life, that are not true, our inner child gets afraid. She feels unsafe when the adult is telling her she is not good enough, not creative, not lovable, or has something "wrong" with her. These are just a few lies that people commonly tell themselves; false beliefs learned from childhood, taken on to protect them from attack, rejection, abandonment, and the like. Our wounded self is addicted to lies, will do anything to protect us, and we are often committed to these lies because they create a sense of control, even if they also create a ton of fear.
Here is an example: A friend who I will call Jenny, is always telling herself that she is "fat and ugly." Her wounded self is addicted to this recording, especially when she starts to get close to a man, or when she is heading into vulnerable territory such as interviewing for a job. Though thinking she is fat and ugly has become the source of inner torment and pain, her wounded self does this to protect her from rejection. If she rejects herself first, she feels some sense of control over her date or over her possible employer. This is a coping mechanism that began in childhood during adolescence when she felt left out and invisible by her peers. The loneliness and helplessness she felt at school could be blocked out if she could find a cause. The cause she concluded was her ugliness and fatness. If she focused on this, she could keep from being swallowed up by the emotions that overwhelmed her. Now, as an adult, when a situation brings up feelings of helplessness or loneliness (which many do), she goes into the recording of "I'm fat and ugly" "There must be something wrong with me" "It's my fault they don't like me." As you might imagine, Jenny is often afraid and her inner child feels terrified of new experiences because her wounded self gets so mean. Inner Bonding is a wonderful tool for tackling fear because it uncovers the lies that cause them. It also supports connection with a personal source of Guidance that can tell you the truth about who you are, what makes you safe, and how to take care of your inner child.
There is another kind of fear that is about breaking patterns. It is a fear that can also be mixed with great excitement. It comes when we do something we thought we could never do, even little things like telling someone from our past the truth, or making a boundary with our partner, or taking a dance class for the first time. There is a kind of fear that means we are growing, we are taking risks, we are alive!
A woman I know named "Katie" always wanted to be a therapist but was truly terrified that she did not have the stomach for it. She thought she would cave under the pressure, that she would feel like a fake since she had so many of her own issues. I watched her go through graduate school and it was not easy. She sweat through fear on a regular basis when she began her internship, sitting face to face with people who needed help. Sometimes, before entering the office, she literally shook with fear. Still, the pleasure of being in service took over and brought great joy to Katie. Her confidence grew and grew. She knew this was her work in the world. Still, on the first day of her new job, she was very, very scared but she had already learned to hold her inner child and say "I can do this!" In this way, fear became a friend, a sign that she was on an unknown path, an indication that she was in the midst of a victory.
For me, performing during these past 20 years has been a great construct for learning about fear. Right before I go on stage to dance, sing, or deliver a monologue, my body vibrates very fast. I feel like I am on caffeine, I feel the raw experience of exposure. I have gotten to the point after all these years of practice where the fear fuels me. It shares the same high energy as excitement and the two sensations dance around me as I express myself on stage. It is no longer a block but a wild part of the experience. If I did not allow fear to be my friend in this way, I would not have continued performing. Also, this practice has helped me as a model for doing many unfamiliar things such as writing a book, traveling, and teaching workshops.
I highly recommend distinguishing healthy fear/excitement from lies. Just as a child might feel fear and excitement before jumping off the high diving board at the pool for the first time, there is an adult fear/excitement that can be embraced. Once you have cleared away the false beliefs about who you are and what you are capable of, endless carnal pleasures and challenges await you.
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Today, notice what you do when pain comes up - especially the pain of loneliness and heartache when someone is being unloving with you. Do you get irritated, angry or judgmental? Do you resist or withdraw? Do you people-please and give yourself up? Do you numb out with food or other substances, or with activities such as TV? Notice the ways you might be avoiding your feelings rather than compassionately attending to them.
By Dr. Margaret Paul