Until this year, Fear is a word I have never consciously used to categorize any emotion I was feeling. The only way fear ever made it into my internal dialogue was as a license to go and do something reckless. Then one day not long ago, during a therapy session my therapist said that she felt that fear had had a big place in my childhood. Fear. Afraid. Terrified. Yes.
Accepting that I was afraid again and again as a child, a teenager, an adult, has been one of the most liberating experiences of my life. I was afraid and that's ok. IT'S OK! Ok it's not ok, but you know what I mean!
Acknowledging the fear I have felt throughout my life has allowed me open my eyes on my past, to face the experiences I had blocked away and rewrite my life narrative in a way that finally makes sense to me.
Why was it ok to finally acknowledge fear for the first time at 38 years old? Because I was finally safe. So safe that I have stopped feeling alive... but that's a topic for another article. :-[
So, let's get back to fear. More often than not, fear is triggered by the unpredictability of our existence: injury, the risk of illness or death being the most evident triggers. We are afraid of what we believe we cannot achieve, survive, or conquer. The resulting reaction to fear is the need to survive at all cost. Even if our fears are triggered by real events or the prominent risk of real events, our evaluation of them can often be unrealistic and thus our reactions to them are expressed irrationally.
I am not afraid of the "unpredictability of my existence" - my fear can be boiled down to one specific cause - I am terrified of emotional harm as inflicted by others or by myself. As a child, I couldn't do anything about this fear, firstly because I didn't understand it and secondly because it was out of my control, I submitted myself to its consequences, I was the victim; as a teenager and young adult, I had become a decision maker, I chose to reject or live with fear, often putting myself in harm's way, pushing aside or blocking out the consequences of my actions; as an adult, as a result of various events in my life, both of my own doing as well as totally out of my control, my confidence took a big hit and I have become both figuratively and literally fear-struck.
I can admit to you here, in this article, that my reaction to my trigger, emotional harm - and as a self-proclaimed sensitive person, emotional harm can come from all directions - is emotional paralysis and that fear is preventing me from being happy. I am conscious that I must heal the wounds of past fear to learn how to deal with my fears today, I know that I must reconnect with my confident self. I am working on this with my therapist: there are good days and bad days, days where I hide from the world and days where I express these fears to myself and my trusted few. Part of the process is learning how to trust myself again, learning to identify my triggers and act rationally when confronting them, knowing when to put up my boundaries and when to be vulnerable, all in hope of slowly letting the happiness in, letting it warm my heart and soul, ultimately letting the good one in.
What are some of your fears and how do you deal with them?
PS: here are a couple TED Talks on the subject of fear: