It was the feeling of fear in my body that made me realize I was actually afraid. I immediately started directing my self talk and in a matter of seconds was back in a place of, what I call, “resource”.
Resource for me is a place of calm, it allows me to consider multiple options, whereas fear only allows for three; fight, flight, or freeze.
I was in the woods on a hike and challenging myself to go longer/further than I have since my knee injury. The unfortunate part is I didn’t know exactly how far the trail was around, and because it was uncharted territory for me, I didn’t know exactly where on the trail I was in relation to where I needed to get to. Suddenly all I saw in front of me was a fence with no path.
“What?!” Where the heck is the trail?! Now what am I going to do”, the fear was there and very real. I was stuck and didn’t know if I had the strength to walk all the way back from where I came in.
I stopped, literally, and took a breath – in through the nose, out through the mouth. My inner voice started, “Anne, you’re fine. You’re on a trial in a park in town, not in the middle of nowhere. You have a cell signal. You could call the county and have someone come and get you if you needed to”.
I started to calm down. “I’m ok”, I thought. “I have options”.
Fear drives us to narrow our vision, to see only what is right in front of us, either literally, figuratively or both. That primal fear of the sabertooth tiger is going to eat me, is very real, even if the perceived threat is nothing more than a fence where there should be a trail going through, or a work deadline, or a conversation we don’t want to have.
Fear is real. At least for a moment, in the moment. Our fight, flight or freeze response is important. There are plenty of times it does indeed save us. A perpetual state of it, however, is highly unhealthy. An ability to stop inside of yourself and direct it is absolutely essential.
Learning to direct fear to a more resourced state is a practice. Absolutely, positively a practice. Many people experience themselves as victims of their emotions, they believe they are powerless to fear.
Practice. Start your practice by getting in touch with your emotions during times of small discomforts; the line at the drive through, traffic, planning dinner if that sets you up in nervous energy. Get in touch with the discomfort; what am I feeling? Name it. Where in my body? Experience it. What is that feeling reminding me of? Let yourself have a moment and see what presents itself. What am I afraid of? What am I nervous/frustrated about? Stay with the question long enough to hear yourself speak the words. Don’t rush it.
Now, ask: “What do you need right now?” and then wait. Give it time to first know the answer, and then to tell you. The vast majority of the time it will be something around safety. Ask more: “What do you need to feel safe?” again, let your inner self answer. That place within us that experiences fear also knows what it needs! Our job is to listen and respond. Treat your inner self as a child. Be kind, be compassionate and be patient and respond in ways that lets that inner child know they are safe with you.
When we are in fear or anxiousness, we need to be able to connect with the part of us that is holding that feeling as truth. Stopping in times of lesser emotion will help us be able to connect more easily in times of more intense emotion.
Too often we get uncomfortable and we run away from ourselves inside. This just intensifies and legitimizes our inner selves belief that fear is necessary!
Stop. Ask. Listen. You are developing a relationship with your inner self. Like any good relationship we have to be a good listener so this other person knows that they are valuable to us. It is the exact same way in the relationship with our inner selves. This practice can take time so be consistent. Again, you’re proving to your inner self you are trustworthy. So, be trustworthy. I will stop. I will ask you, and I will listen to what you say. These are all good relationship builders!
No fear is small fear to our inner being, or to our physical body. Learn to care for yourself by being available to work through those times of fear in a healthy model.
The good news is it’s very doable. We can indeed teach ourselves to respond healthfully to fear signals when they are triggered. It’s not about never feeling fear, it’s about how we handle the feelings so that we can create ourselves into a space of resources and options, instead of staying stuck in a tunnel.
By the way, when I reached the fence, the trail took a super sharp left that from a ways back was totally hidden in the tall grass. The trail was there, just not easily seen. I felt instant relief when I saw it, and continued on along the fence line feeling a renewed sense of “I got this”.
You, too. You got this.
Forever the journey,