Are Your Running from Your Fear?
What if you embraced your fear rather than ran from it.
Embracing or feeling fear is not for sissies.
Most people don’t like fear, including me, CrisMarie. However, the more you keep your fears in the dark, worry about them, push them down, ignore them, the more they’ll keep growing and controlling you from the shadows.
Fear’s not like other emotions. I’m pretty comfortable with sadness, grief, even anger these days. There was a long time when I wasn’t willing to feel my anger. Now, I know repressing anger leads to chronic physical issues. (More on that later.)
However, my Achilles heel in the feelings department is…fear.
Yep, I’d prefer to do anything other than feel fear. I’d prefer to jump over it, run from it, distract it with work, or numb it. My favorite strategy is to get busy. I often quell my fear with action. It’s a good life skill, but it can be an overdone strength.
Fear can be a valuable emotion like all the rest. It gets a bad rap because it’s so uncomfortable to feel in the body. Plus, culturally, to be afraid is equivalent to being a wimp, a sissy, or a loser.
In my family, you did not show fear. You had to be tough, in control, and taking charge. Otherwise, you’d be criticized, made fun of, dismissed, or treated with disgust. So I repressed a lot of my fear and didn’t share my scary and uncomfortable experiences with my family.
I still remember my sister being all tough and cool while riding her 10-speed (dating myself, I know) with her arms crossed – no hands, which is the metaphor for how we were to deal with our fear. Be tough.
The result: I suck feeling fear.
About five years ago, my life started to crash down around me:
my older brother died of colon cancer
my older sister was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer
Susan and I ended a business relationship and corporate clients dwindled
money was tight, and we were racking up debt (another thing you don’t do in my family)
I’d wake up in the middle of the night shaking. My fear attacked when my defenses were down. It’d grab me by the throat and not let go. My fear was overwhelming. I couldn’t sleep. I felt frozen and terrified. Panicked, I didn’t know how to “get rid of” my fear. Sleep deprived, the spiral of fear got worse.
I had to make friends with my mortal enemy—fear.
I started learning about the nervous system and how it worked. I discovered tools and skills on how to regulate and discharge the fight, flight, or freeze reactions of my nervous system.
I also realized there was unresolved trauma from childhood lurking in the shadows. I had to become a large enough person to feel my terror, hurt, and anger in those events back then. I turned to EMDR, a form of therapy that helps your brain sort traumatic events so they become right-sized.
Then, I developed the skill and capacity to essentially reparent different ages of myself. I often joke that it’s like the musical, Oliver. I have a bunch of street urchins inside of me that need love and kindness.
Fear still emerges. It always will. I’m never going to get rid of fear because it also alerts me to danger, usually physical danger. It tells me when some part of me should be afraid. So, it’s needed.
The key is to unravel fear when it’s based on old data or a something in the present.
Now, I’ve cultivated enough safety in my body and nervous system that I can hold and be with the energy of fear as it runs through me. I won’t lie, this is a graduate level ability. It’s not always easy, but when I can hold for the fear, it doesn’t run me.
So, the key is not racing from fear, it’s about embracing fear. When I do that I have more energy, more courage, and I make more expansive choices.
P.S. Stuck in fear? I’m happy to coach you on how to embrace and make friends with your fear!
CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke
Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict
CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.
They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.
Check out their website: www.thriveinc.com. Connect with CrisMarie and Susan on LinkedIn. Watch their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It! Find your copy of The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team's Competitive Advantage here.