Fear and Courage

This past Mercury retrograde has been a doozy for me. This past month has been harsh energetically, really. I’ve been riding these waves of energy and diving even deeper into myself, practicing radical self-acceptance and getting to know my inner child more.

But, with all the new revelations I’ve been discovering about myself and the amount of stuff I’m letting go of seems to have triggered a cascade of things to appear in my life that invokes deep-rooted fears.

Not only have my personal fears ignited but it seems to be reflected back to me as I see it all around in the collective as society goes into a state of panic and fear right now.

And I have no choice but to face them. I mean, I can avoid them all I want to but it will not do me any good. And the point of this journey is to be able to use what we’ve learned; to put into practice the tools we’ve discovered to help live our lives in harmony and balance.

Fear plays a huge role in my life. It’s my default mode for some reason. With having a pretty bad anxiety disorder — social anxiety, and numerous phobias — I tend to live in a perpetual state of fear. I’m happy to report that I’m in a much better place than I used to be but fear still plays a significant role in my actions and choices.

Some of the things that invoke fear in me are not real, at least not right now. Such as, I’m very afraid of becoming an elder and ending up alone with no support. Of being put in a home and forgotten. I’m beyond terrified of living past the loss of life of someone I deeply love and care for. I will do anything to not experience that. I’m afraid of being forgotten. Tossed aside. Left unwanted and unloved. And the extreme… being kidnapped, tortured, or in a painful situation that I cannot escape from.

Seeing this all written out I can see that – I’m afraid of pain.

And then there are the day to day things that terrify me. I’m deathly afraid of spiders. One little spider will send me into orbit! I’m terrified of dental work. To the point that I avoid the dentist at all costs and it’s one of the things I now must face and get taken care of because I let my fear stand in the way of my health. I fear leaving the house to do the things I love because I feel I can’t handle any situation that may occur. I’m scared of being in large crowds by myself. I’m afraid of being abandoned by the ones I love. Of being in pain. Especially, emotional pain. And the tiniest thing that happens to my kids will have me breathing in a paper bag.

At the same time, I’m beyond courageous when it comes to helping those I love, especially my children. I will fight tooth and nail for them. I grew up in a home where I was not fought for. My father was supposed to protect me and keep me safe but he allowed his wife to hurt me as much as she wanted just so he could keep his own happiness. That created rage within me. I was enraged that he wouldn’t help me, stop it, protect me, care…  love me. I swore I would never let that happen to my kids. I’m especially courageous during a crisis. For some reason, I think more clearly during intense stress and extreme fear that’s not situational to me. If there is an injustice happening, I will stand up for the rights of another without fear.

That’s one of the reasons I love my anger and rage. When anger is present, fear is not. My anger aids me in protecting my loved ones. In setting boundaries. With saying no without guilt. For putting my foot down. For standing up for myself. Because I have so much fear, anger is particularly useful for me. Anger and fear cannot live in the same space. My anger helps me to better care for myself and others. My anger is passion and that passion trumps fear.

With all this fear bubbling up to the surface and the many different fearful situations occurring all at one time right now, I’m trying my best to remain calm. To use what I know about myself to get through it. I know that these fears stem from early childhood. That they are belief systems put into place by my subconsciousness to keep me safe. That I’m human and it’s okay to be fearful. Fear is an opportunity to be brave.

If I just take one step at a time, one moment at a time, I can remain present as much as possible. If I travel too far ahead, I will begin to panic with irrational thoughts and feelings. I’m aware that I’m making these fears bigger than they are because of my past experiences. I also am aware that my fear of pain is absolutely valid. I realize my knee-jerk emotional reactions stem from childhood as well. That my fears are fears from my past. It’s as if I’m still a child inside afraid of the uncertainty of the world. Afraid to feel, but yet, I feel too much. I suppose the pain I experienced as a child traumatized me and I’d do anything to avoid it again.

There is an intimate relationship between fear and courage. Fear ignites courage. And you need your courage to face your fears. They seem complimentary. Interconnected, yet interdependent. They need one another to exist. Maybe this is what I need to help me face the world, grow, and change.

Yet, fear tends to take over. The fear-courage dance is out of harmony. My insecurities are too loud and real. It makes me doubt my abilities and I cannot be and live how I wish. I avoid it instead of thriving. My fears have become unhealthy, blocking the best parts of me. Feeling like I cannot access my strengths. I’m disconnected from my true self.

But what if fear isn’t really bad. What if accepting that the fear is there and learning to work with it to ignite my inner courage is the way rather than banishing fear altogether. All this time I’ve been trying to banish the fear to live a better quality of life. What if I use it as a steppingstone, instead, to reach my courage?

Our brains look for the fastest, most efficient way to relieve stress when we feel it. Which means we rely on solutions that we’ve always used for short term relief. For me that is fear responses. Avoidance, self-doubt, hiding, disassociation, running away. If we can train our brains to develop different habits then maybe I can train my brain to cope through seeing an opportunity to express courage instead of fear.

Mindfulness has been one of the tools I’ve developed through my spirituality to help me cope. It helps me ground into my body. When fear is activated my body is the first to respond. I get flutters in my chest, pain in my stomach, sick, I start to sweat, I get lightheaded and dizzy, then panic. Taking large deep breaths is immensely helpful to calm me down. While in this noticeably short window of calm I will then move my consciousness into my heart space where I feel my soul and Spirit lives. I can feel love there. If I concentrate on the love, I begin to feel safe. Safety is especially important to me. Where there is safety, I find courage. While in this state I try my hardest to refrain from creating any stories. My inner critic can be quite dramatic and if I let it run wild, I will be in a full-blown panic attack. So, I have to keep telling myself as if I am my own parent, that I’m strong enough to do this. Having a support system helps tremendously, as well. If it wasn’t for my loving husband’s strength and support and love I don’t know if I would have ever found it in myself. Community care is just as important when it comes to healing. As children, we are supposed to develop a bond of safety and love with our caretakers for security and a strong sense of self. If we do not we will struggle to find that within ourselves as adults. Then we are stuck having to reparent ourselves so we can function with stability.

All in all, it stems down to feeling like I am not able to handle anything. I have a history of not being able to handle things well. But all my soul-searching has done me a lot of good. I have greater clarity of who I am. I’m aware that fear is being too loud and my courage is being too small. I have created and developed tools to help myself that I can use in these instances. I have a support system to support me when I feel like I’m being crushed. My inner warrior is there, somewhere. I will find her. I will make friends with my fear. I will be courageous instead of fearful. Someday soon, I will be free.

“He who has overcome his fears will truly be free.”

Aristotle