Holding Our Fears
What scares you? Maybe you’re uncomfortable in crowded spaces. Or perhaps you suffer from acrophobia. But then again, you might become anxious at the thought of encountering a wild animal, a dangerous human, or even a ghost.
Fears are real. Whether actual or imagined, they can stop us on our tracks, causing us to retreat, shut down, or become aggressive. Sometimes, they present directly, clearly showing us the source behind our feelings. However, fear can be tricky. What we’re afraid of often disguises itself as another emotion, making it difficult to know what’s truly upsetting us.
Regardless, being afraid keeps us small and limited. We’re apt to do whatever we must to remain safely in our comfort zone. Unfortunately, this prevents us from stepping into uncertainty, where beautiful possibilities exist.
I know what it’s like to be afraid. So much scared me as a child. These fears continued as I grew older, but I tried to disguise them, avoid them, banish them. However, now that I’m aware how harmful this is to both body and mind, I’ve taken a new approach. Whenever I am unable to dismiss what scares me … I give it love.
“The things that frighten us just want to be held.”—Mark Nepo
Think back to when you were little. Whether an unanticipated noise, a dark room, or a scary movie upset you, what was the one thing you craved? If you were like me, you just wanted to be held and reassured. As adults, we must learn to self-nurture. After all, we’re no longer children with parents to do it for us.
If soothing ourselves brings relief when we’re afraid, what if we gave comfort to whatever scares us? Could we acknowledge the sensations, accept the pain, and then—instead of blaming or shaming our fears—love them?
When we embrace what scares us, instead of feeling like something is wrong with us, we validate how we feel. Shining light on our fears disempowers these negative thought loops. And if we are present and aware, we can learn a great deal about ourselves and better understand what’s holding us back so we can confidently navigate the path ahead.
Recently, I discovered an unknown fear. I was quite surprised when it surfaced. However, instead of ignoring it and its cryptic messages—as I often do—I allowed time to contemplate how it’s controlled me. When it felt “sticky,” I did my best to give it love. I also forgave myself for being captive to it for years. Suddenly, the “whys” behind previous behaviors and decisions became clear. “Aha” moments magically connected those confusing dots from my past.
By holding this unrealized fear, I could then process and let go of attached embedded emotions. Not only was this freeing, but I suspect it will also help me respond differently in the future.
All things need to be held now and then … even our fears. The next time you’re afraid, consider showering what scares you with love and affection. Watch its grip over you dissipate. Then witness how fear slowly fades and is replaced by a sense of peace.
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”—Joseph Campbell