While fear normally gets a really bad rep, it’s actually an extremely important part of our human journey.
Once upon a time, there were sabertooth tigers and we were at the bottom of the food chain. In that time humans had impulses of fear to stop them from leaving the cave at certain dangerous times of day, or to stop them from taking any risk at all. Because any risk could literally be life or death. In that time, our brains were programmed for survival. They were protecting us from real danger. They were on our side.
While the olden days and their dangers are gone now, we’re still responding to fear in the same way. We still have that anxiety response, that paralyzing fear that stops us from moving forward, whether it's warranted or not. When we’re afraid of getting hurt, we get stuck in our comfort zones and we actually keep ourselves from growing. So while fear had really, really good intentions to start, and it served its purpose of keeping us alive, the rest of us has evolved… and it hasn't.
And while fear can feel like a big problem, it’s actually not.
No, i’m not trying to diminish its “realness”. Fear is very real. But, it is as real and important as any other state or feeling. It shows us the limits of our comfort zone and like any other state or feeling, can be seen, processed and released, if we let it be.
It’s not having fear that’s problematic; it’s our judgement of having fear that causes our suffering.
You see- many of us have been taught that experiencing fear is negative or weak. And so in addition to being afraid or upset, we then shame ourselves and feel even worse.
But here’s the thing: our fear cannot be beaten out of us - what it needs is to be witnessed and loved until it evolves with us. And as we commit to evolving, it’s important to shift our focus from surviving to thriving.
In the children’s mental wellness program I co-founded, I teach a really helpful way of looking at fear using a fish puppet! The fear-fish represents fear and shows up when people are nervous/ anxious/ worried or are afraid of experiencing something new. The fear-fish follows them around until they finally take their power back and confront their fear. When they do, they see that the fear-fish is shaking, because fear itself is just afraid! Fear, in the form of the fish, doesn't feel safe, and it needs comforting, love and acceptance, not anger or blame.
If picturing your fear as a shaking, terrified little fishy doesnt work for you, picture it as a scared little kitten, or sweet little puppy… something you find precious and would want to comfort immediately.
That way, the next time your fear shows up, you have a choice; judgement or compassion.
And while compassion may not seem intuitive; the more energy you give it, the more you will remember your true nature: love.
And fear will be happy when you do because that’s what it’s wanted all along… it just went about getting there the wrong way.
Photo: Change Duong