Psst, Is Your Fear Controlling You?
How to hear the message of your fear instead of letting it consume you.
Let’s get honest for a second here. Fear has been a main character behind the scenes (and sometimes center stage) in many lives over the past couple of years. From climate emergencies to a disease that swept the globe, to political and civil unrest, just to name a few. Fear has been hyper-present. She’s been running the show, in many ways. Most of the time, however, we don’t always notice she’s here until we’re deep down the tunnel, the tail between our legs, shaking like a leaf. And fear can do this to us, but, it doesn't have to.
Here’s how to know if fear is running your life:
-You feel weighed down, heavy, and lethargic.
-You don’t want to go out and do activities that normally fuel you.
-You feel lost, hopeless, and confused.
-You feel stuck.
-You get panic attacks or feel anxious just thinking about certain things.
-You can’t move from where you are to what’s next.
-You feel paralyzed.
Fear, like all emotions, is there to inform us of potential danger. It really is a helpful piece of information when it shows up. However, it’s not your mind or your brain alerting you of fear, it’s your body, specifically your nervous system. And your body doesn’t compute verbal language, it only feels if a certain situation is scary or not.
When you come up across a bear in the forest, and you feel fear run through you, that is a normal response, and helpful to some degree. It ensures you don’t keep walking towards it. If you feel fear to make a call to a close friend who you are having a disagreement with, this is also healthy fear that is trying to protect us in case we feel hurt, but it’s also a fear that we need to step through to move forward in our lives. If you feel the fear and don’t make the call, and the situation prolongs and causes you distress for days to come, then this shows us that fear is stepping into the driver’s seat. Similarly, if you feel fear to try something new simply because you are stepping outside of your comfort zone and then you don’t do it, this fear is starting to take control.
How do we ensure that fear doesn't run us?
First, we notice and name it when it shows up. I’m watching the news and they are discussing a new disease that could be deadly, my body has a wave of panic ripple through it and my throat clenches: “Hey, fear!”. I decide to learn how to mountain bike and almost fall off my bike, “fear, yep, I see ya”.
When we can notice that fear is stopping by to tell us something, we can name it and then rationalize if this fear means we need to step out and away from something (ie. the bear) or if we can step through it to help us move forward and grow (ie. the conversation with a caring friend to resolve conflict).
Fear is only here to provide us with information. And its primary job is to protect us. It doesn’t know the difference between an angry bear or a friend potentially hurting our feelings. If we can invite awareness in and acknowledge it is here, we can then determine what direction we need to move instead of it shutting us down or creating panic unduly.
Run or move through? Ask yourself this next time fear comes up within you.