I have lived with fear most of my life, especially as a child it was ever present in my thoughts. It came upon me one day recently that I still allow fear to guide me, to block me and to hold me back. This month I want to explore and try to unpackage what it is I'm really afraid of. Am I afraid of failure? I am certainly afraid of rejection, but most of all today, I am afraid of hurting others with my stories and by speaking my truth. For so long I have lived my life to please others, making sure that they had what they needed when they needed it and forsaking myself, and just plain afraid to let people down, to ask for support…just living with damn fear. I am truly going to try to remove these chains and be free to express myself, support myself and let go of my attachments to what other people think of what I do and say. It is this program that I'm trying to erase. The one that was put there long ago, and not by my own hands or voice. The programming that we all receive, good and bad, as children, was in my case: being raised to live with fear and consequently obey. As I near middle age my tendency is to be rebellious and I no longer want to listen to the old program. I'm just learning to listen to myself, to trust my own voice and even though fear lurks just around the corner; I can now look it in the face.
When I was very small and fragile, watching myself in a dream. I was paralyzed in fear. I could not scream, breathe or move. I desperately tried to wake up out of this night terror but was stuck in this endless cycle of fear. I had this dream for several years nearly every night waking up in the same way; locked in a terror filled dream, watching myself, unable to escape as if there were a pane of glass between myself and my reflection, and I could not escape. That feeling of absolute helplessness returned to me some time ago, although this time it wasn’t a dream. I was living this reality; Desperately trying to escape a life that I had chosen. Perhaps this is why I dislike making decisions so much, I'm afraid the next one could be yet another reality I long to escape. I did escape although not completely unscathed, but much wiser and stronger. Still, the fear is there.
Fear is one of the most basic human emotions we all experience. It's programmed into our nervous system and works like an instinct. Right from when we're babies, we are equipped with these instincts so that we can respond to fear when we feel unsafe or sense danger. Fear can help protect us, but it can also hold us back. The purpose of fear can often be to make us act in some way, whether it is to leave a burning building; and this is obviously a legitimate fear or to motivate us, like when you try new things and greater things happen. But fear often gets in the way, and then it's a form of emotional fear. Fear starts in the part of the brain called the amygdala which gets activated whenever we see a situation or even sense the emotions associated with fear. It also triggers the release of stress hormones and affects our sympathetic nervous system. It can physically have negative impacts upon our health. So, in living with fear for most of my life, I have been over taxing my nervous system. The old “Nervous Nelly” kind of sums up the first 45 years of my life. Some of the reading I've done about fear tells me that there are 3 areas of fear that most people experience; Respectful Fear as in being in awe of something like a waterfall or God, Protective fear that wisely has us running from the burning building, and finally, the one that has stuck around my entire life, like the boyfriend that won't go away; Chronic fear: when we assume there are dangers that most likely do not exist. This year I am saying goodbye to this toxic relationship and at last releasing the imagined, yet terrifyingly real fears that have held me prisoner for decades.