Stop Fighting Your Fears
By Louis Savalli
Allow them. Let them hit you. Let them make you cry. Find a nice quiet place, where you're alone and won't bother anyone, and let your fears run wild and free in your mind.
The emotion of fear has gotten a bad reputation. It's been said in our popular culture that we must fight or ignore fear, or have "no fear" as per the corporate slogan. That we should conquer it, beat it up, and make it submit, and that is a key to success. Right?
Wrong. This is dysfunctional and senseless. Growing up, nobody ever spelled out for me what fear was or how to handle it. I suspect that is true for most people. Having been taught that fear is a bad thing, and showing fear was even worse, I practiced repressing it from a very young age.
The problem with that approach, which was the only one I could think of for so long, is that you're not learning from your fear – you're denying it. This also serves to stunt your growth as a person. Show me someone in their thirties and forties who acts like a teenager, and I'll show you someone who isn't dealing with their fears and unpleasant emotions. They live in denial, which causes other problems.
Living in denial forces you to modify your world view to fit that denial, because your worldview can't point to the fact that you're feeling fear. For example, you're in a relationship with a person and you feel insecure – you're afraid. You're afraid that they'll leave you or find someone better than you. BUT – you're in denial, so you can't admit to yourself or show anyone that you're afraid. So you modify your world view. It's not that you're afraid, it's that your significant other is doing something wrong. Maybe they're dressing too provocatively or flirting suggestively with other people. And then you're angry with your significant other because they're making you feel bad.
But they're not – you already felt bad to begin with. The unpleasantness, the fear – started and ended with you. It's just that you can't see this because you're in denial.
Living like this is a good way to blame others for your problems. I did plenty of that growing up and well into my twenties. It wasn't until my late twenties and early thirties did I really come to see that all of my fears and dysfunctions – all of them – started and ended with me. It was only when I became aware of how I really felt, then took full responsibility for it – that I was able to change it.
This is why I encourage you not to fight your fear, because it's a poor metaphor for what's happening. Fear is there for a reason. If you're doing something and you're feeling fear, don't ignore it. Don't push it down, drown it in alcohol or smoke it away with pot (which is only temporary anyway). If you want to develop as a human – to change, to grow, to enjoy everyday life a little more – deal with the fear.
The key is dealing with fear properly, and using it for growth and development purposes. Most of the "battle" so to speak is just becoming aware that you feel afraid of something or someone. Once you can see that and admit it, you've crested the hill. The hard part is over. Then you have to accept it – to let it be. And let yourself feel it. Actually let yourself experience the emotions you've been denying for so long. Yes, it's unpleasant – but it's temporary and it's good for you.
Then, and only then, will you begin to learn from the fear. As you truly let yourself experience it, you'll have insights pop into your head about what the fear is, where it's from, and how it's affected you. And it'll become clear what you need to do, think, or not do or not think to move beyond it and let it go.
Life brings you these fears for a reason – they directly relate to you as a soul; they're rooted more deeply in your psyche. And by healing and releasing them – by truly overcoming them (not repressing, not denying, not ignoring) – you transcend them. And for each fear you do this with, your life will be forever better.
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