Last week’s story about Fears in the Dark Forest is a pretty accurate reflection of a recent experience I had in facing my fears. I had something in mind to do, but couldn’t get started. Something was always coming up to fill my time, a classic avoidance tactic. If I did sit down to try to start, I felt so anxious that I got nowhere. I finally had to admit that it was just plain old fear that was stopping me.
It’s tempting to think that fear is bad because it is crippling. But actually fear has something to teach and it is the avoidance of fear that is crippling.
I decided to have a look and see who all was hanging out with me. Fear, definitely. Anxiety, without a doubt. Doubt, yep that too. Panic, dread, dismay, trepidation, worry, concern, unease, misgiving, distress, agitation, hesitation, apprehension — they were all crowding in. No wonder it was hard to breathe. I acknowledged them all and asked them to back off, each one in turn by name. Little rituals like this might sound silly, but they have an impact on the subconscious.
Not a quick impact — it was several days before I could face the specific fears. And then came the Litany of Impossibility. Have you ever actually sat down and wrote specifically what you are afraid of? It’s a fascinating experience. Some of your fears will be embarrassingly ridiculous. Others you’ll see a solution to as you’re writing them out. Others will look quite valid and you’ll suddenly realize you need to put a safety net in place there.
It took me awhile to recover from fear facing before I could face my hopes. I had this idea that hope is for suckers — get your hopes up and you guarantee disappointment. But I finally did it anyway — all the pollyanna best possible scenarios I could think or dream of. Maybe I was thinking “yeah right,” as I wrote them, but I wrote them all out anyway.
The strangest thing happened as a result of this practice… with the fears on one side and hopes on the other, what I was left with was a clear middle ground! Facing them both took away their power. The fears became more like warnings of what to avoid. The hopes seemed less impossible and more like long-term directives. I was able to see a path in between and take a first step, and then another, and then another.
Then something stupid happened. Not only did I stop taking steps, but it took me days to figure out why I’d stopped taking steps! Facepalm! In fact I didn’t figure it out until I sat to write this post.
If you need me, I’ll be writing another list of fears and hopes.