Go ahead; be afraid

Because we know how fear can drag us down and keep us stuck, we may cast off even the slightest hint of it. However, if we ignore our fears, we may step into unsafe waters and become entangled in its complex undercurrents – toxic relationships, compromising situations. Or, we may slip into repeats of our old, unhappy experiences. One of the keys to overcoming our fears is to accept that it is okay to be afraid. Only then we can face up to what frightens us and deal with it.  
We should –
Acknowledge it. With all the negativity that surrounds the issue of fear, it is only natural that we would ignore, deny or run from it. However, acknowledgment is the first step to understanding, managing and mastering many life issues and that includes fear. When we feel that first tingle of fear, we should acknowledge it, even if we don’t take the time to assess it immediately. Can we really ignore the cold hand of paralysis creeping closer? We must acknowledge that fear is present?
Sit with it. Complaining, blaming others, making unchecked remarks and taking rash decisions create chaos and mental and emotional trauma. Like many other life circumstances and their accompanying emotions, quiet time with fear helps us to get intimate with it – the feelings it stirs, what it says, what it seems to be prodding us to think, say or do or not. We sit with it and say to ourselves, I am afraid but I am determined to face my fear. I will assess its rationale, its origin and its message. I am going to work my way through it.
Define it. Not all fears deserve the same treatment.  Some materialize from false perceptions, unrealistic expectations and latent memories of past failures and hurts we’ve already dealt with. Some surface because we bear wounds that may be still tender beneath the scars. We may need to revisit the circumstances to see if there is more clean-up and mending to be done, so that we can move forward. Others rise up from present situations, with no connection to our back stories. If we don’t define our fears we may find ourselves fighting battles we’ve already won or lost, reactivating wounds that have already healed and incorporating old issues into our present circumstances. If our fears are unfamiliar, we could use old strategies or devise new ones to deal with them but not before defining them.
Write it down. Often, things are clearer on paper but only if we allow ourselves to write honestly. If we hide, hold back or write partial truths, we deprive ourselves of the chance to see our fears more clearly. Additionally, we may unearth unforeseen issues. We are writing and we begin to think that we are getting a handle on what frightens us. Yet, more thoughts emerge, more feelings surface, more words splatter on the page. We not only learn more about our current fear and sort through solutions. We also learn about ourselves.
Talk it out. Discussing our fears with someone does not come easy for all of us. It is a step we should take cautiously. We don’t want to expose our vulnerability to ridicule. Rather we need someone who is a good listener, empathetic and comfortable with the realities of being human.
If we want to live a rich life, we can’t ignore our fears. Instead, we should acknowledge them, sit with them, define them, write them down and talk them out. In the process, we will not only learn to surmount them but to understand and empower ourselves. 

(This article was published in the Wright Words of Wisdom column, in theWomanwise Magazine on Sunday 11th November, 2012)

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