Have you ever tried telling a child to stop being afraid of the Boogieman? You may attempt to assure him or her that they are safe. After several times, late into the night, you may even reach a breaking point and be tempted to go with the “Just stop it” approach which inevitably backfires into more paranoid sobbing. You know their room is uninhabited by monsters, but your reasoning is futile. Positive thinking certainly will not work for you either. Telling a child to repeat “I am safe, there’s no one under my bed” has no power in the grips of visceral fear. Amazingly though, explaining that “Yes sweetie, I know being alone can make you scared. Our imagination can get carried away sometimes. It’s ok. Everyone gets a little afraid in the dark. ” may actually get you much further in the battle against the Boogieman. We often need to follow that speech up with thorough checking of all closets and spaces under the bed and maybe even lay next to our little ones until they feel safe. What seems like exaggerated behaviour to one, may be as real as rain to another. Similarly, to disarm our own fears, anxieties or worries we must first acknowledge them for what they are and validate our emotions without judgement.
We function best when we are cautioned by fear not frozen by it.
The problem is not in experiencing fear but in letting it limit our choice-making abilities. Just like our little ones, while we imagine the worst, we are bracing for all sorts of bad things and are unable to approach the problem from angles that are untainted by negative thoughts. When facing our personal fears we often can’t move, we can’t sleep, and we can’t do much other than complain or plead for help. We lie there petrified with our eyes shut-tight, hoping someone else can help us out of it. It is no wonder that all of our energy gets sapped by the efforts we make to manage this stress. Worry and anxiety stifle our actions, limit creativity and prevent us from doing differently. Our bodies don’t lie. It’s like you’re playing Simon Says. Your thoughts are Simon and your feelings do whatever Simon says. It’s hard to ignore nausea, depression, muscle tension, insomnia and so on. Stress manifests whether we mask it or not.
As we fret away, we have less time and energy to direct toward actions that may actually help us avoid that very outcome. Trying and approaching our challenges in resourceful ways is key to operating from our best, integral selves. This doesn’t mean striving to be super-humans who are immune to fear. It just means knowing that no matter what comes at us, we will be ok. No matter how difficult a situation is, it will pass. And when it does, we can feel content with the wisdom and love we brought to such a difficult place. While this approach doesn’t guarantee success or even lessen the many risks or hurts, it does help to give us confidence in the strength of our spirit. Facing our fears brings us closer to our unique power and individual beauty.
The question is not “How do I make sure this never happens to me?” but rather, “How would my best-self want to deal with something like that? What would help me live with the least amount of regret and provide the best footing to proceed from such a difficult place?”♥
- The Six Attributes of Courage (bravegirlupgrade.wordpress.com)
- If You Weren’t Afraid. (manifestationyoga.com)
- Feeling Safe (wunderkindred.wordpress.com)
- Fear and anxiety: coping, reframing, transforming… (beyondmeds.com)
- Facing Fear (themcfellowship.wordpress.com)