Befriending Fear


Photo by SHTTEFAN on Unsplash

I had an epiphany. Well, it didn't start off quite that breezy. It began with my waking up in the middle of the night because it felt like something was sitting on my chest. It took a hot disoriented minute to realize I was in the grip of an anxiety attack. Since I normally sleep like the dead this was deeply disturbing. The short of it was that there was something I was not dealing with that needed attention and my approach thus far had been to ignore it and wait for it to resolve itself. This approach was clearly not working. In fact it was becoming larger and more unwieldy the longer I ignored it. It was Fear that shook me awake in the wee hours and it was doing me a massive favor.

It seems to me that the less I fight my fear, the less it fights back. If I can relax, fear relaxes, too.
— Elizabeth Gilbert

What if we stopped trying to distance ourselves from Fear and instead tried viewing it as a practical old friend and valuable resource? Now I don't think anyone should have to listen to a belligerent, surly voice that hurls judgements and criticism. That is something else entirely. Shame is not the same as Fear and does not make for great conversation.

What was most notable for me is that even in the midst of the anxiety I didn't feel judged. It was just a clear, measured message of this can not go on and you need to start looking at it in order to find a solution. Turns out there was a solution, a relatively simple one if I had only looked more closely. While that might not always be the case I am so grateful for the pointing. Sometimes our best lessons are the most uncomfortable. My avoidant behavior had not been serving me so Fear stepped in, casting light on the shadows by opening a window. 

In coaching we often label limiting beliefs as inner gremlins. It allows us to personify the ways we hold ourselves back, making them seem less vague. Fear is often lumped into that category but I want to take a moment to advocate for it because it gets a bad rap. What if Fear, concerned for our safety, just wanted to talk things through first so we knew what we were getting into? What if it is exactly what we need to push off against in order to get ourselves unstuck and move in the direction we most want to go? 

What might your Fear be trying to show you?