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  • SuePattonThoele

Exploring Fear

To see and know the worst is to take

from Fear her main advantage.

charlotte brontë

Fear feeds on darkness and secretiveness. Those of us who have learned to beware of fear instead of being aware of it need to remember that awareness allows us to choose what to do with our fear and provides an otherwise unavailable avenue for healing it.

One of the reasons it’s so difficult for us to look at our fears is that we were never encouraged to do so. Watching our parents deny their fears and then act them out in oblique ways taught us to do the same. We learned to project our fears outside

ourselves. Instead of saying, “I get scared and feel abandoned when you raise your voice at me,” we yell back in order to silence the source of fear outside ourselves. Or we cower and acquiesce while concealing anger and hurt inside. Either reaction only intensifies negative feelings.

Often we women are in a double bind: we fear failure, but we also fear success. In relationships, we experience fear due to insecurity. We fear we’re not good enough, smart enough, slim enough, sexy enough, or caring enough. If we aren’t earning enough money, we fear we’re not doing our part; if we make too much money, we’re afraid our affluence might threaten other people. We fear we do too much for our children, thus spoiling them and making them dependent; we fear we aren’t doing enough for our kids, and they feel neglected. When we’re young, we fear we don’t have enough experience and credibility. As we grow older, we fear the loss of our youthful appeal.

It’s important to note that most hidden fears are stashed away because at one time it seemed safer to hide them than to be aware of them. As you begin to explore your fear, you may experience the original feelings again. Therefore, it’s essential to protect yourself via prayer, or whatever methods work for you, before examining fear. You must be convinced that the risk you’re taking in exposing the origin of your fears is something you can safely handle. Before you begin to dig deeply, find a person or group with whom you feel safe, and whom you can trust implicitly with your vulnerability. In my women’s group, we often ask to be held in the light as we excavate fear or navigate crises. Being surrounded by loving energy helps no matter what the circumstance.

Since the origin of our fears most often lies in childhood, we can expect to experience childlike fear while rediscovering them. Seeking emotional support at such times is not dependency; it is wisdom. Wouldn’t you think it self-defeating if a friend were run over by a truck but wouldn’t allow doctors to set her broken bones or friends to aid her in her convalescence? Letting others nurture and support us helps us heal more quickly. When we’re run over by an emotional truck, it’s silly to think we shouldn’t burden other people. The facade of stiff-upper-lip encourages repression, not healing. Repression imprisons. Healing frees.

Excerpted from The Courage to Be Yourself by Sue Patton Thoele. Available on Mango and Amazon.

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