Healthy Fear: How to Acknowledge The Fear Inside and Move Through
Fear. It’s a virus worse than any pandemic the world has seen. Why? Because we all carry fear. And when we don’t deal with our fears and move through them, we are vulnerable to those who prey on our fear. And the predators are many, often use subtle tactics, and sneak past our awareness because we already carry fear.
So let’s talk about fear — its healthy aspects (yes, you read that right!), and how you become vulnerable to fear and fear tactics. But most important, how not to get hijacked by fear, fear-mongering, and those who prey on fear.
Fear is a necessary emotion. You learn early not to touch a hot stove or you’ll get burned. That’s healthy fear. Fear by itself isn’t wrong or bad or something to be avoided.
In fact, if you try to avoid your fear, you become even more vulnerable to fear-mongering and fear tactics. How? Those tactics prey on your deepest, most hidden fears — fears around not being enough or not being loved or lovable, or not getting what you need, or not belonging, or missing out. This isn’t an exhaustive list, by the way, but it does cover a lot of the deepest fears that people I work with talk about over and over.
Why we have to acknowledge our fear
When you don’t acknowledge you have those fears, then you are vulnerable to exploitation. Any place where you haven’t acknowledged your own fear is a place where more fear can get in — and when it does, it magnifies the fear you already have and spreads it into other areas of your life. Fear is a virus. That’s a good metaphor, but it’s actually not quite enough — it is worse than a virus because it can poison your whole being without you even knowing it.
Here’s an example that I think we all can all get ahold of: Let’s say you’re afraid that you aren’t going to get the very basic things you need. Who doesn’t have this fear in this time of pandemic, social, societal, and political upheaval?
Now if you don’t acknowledge that you have that fear somewhere inside (and in most of us, it’s a fear that arises very early in life), then when someone comes along and argues that you are going to be left out if you follow this person, or you’re going to lose what you have if you follow that person, or you’re going to lose everything if you don’t follow me, you are much more vulnerable to that language. Why? It’s resonating — vibrating — with that deep fear you’ve carried all your life that you won’t get what you need.
That person or that group is tapping into the vibration of fear you already carry and magnifying it. And when you “catch” that vibration, then you’ve been hijacked. You will be reacting out of that vibration without even knowing it.
You see, when you “catch” that vibration of fear, it’s not just psychological, it’s also neurological. The part of our brain called the Amygdala is the reactive part of our brain; it reacts especially to fear and anger. More than that, when you have a fear or anger reaction, your brain will connect that fear or anger with other reactions you’ve had previously in life, glom them together (that’s a technical term), and create even more fear and/or anger.
Our body’s response to fear
And here’s where many of us are even more vulnerable. The amygdala reaction to fear is so deep within us because, way back when we were hunter-gatherers, fear helped us to survive. We had to have a healthy fear of fire, of tigers and other predators, and so on, so that we could stay alive. But so many of our cultures are death-phobic that we push this fear away. No one talks about it. And if we don’t acknowledge or recognize it, it’s this fear that makes us most vulnerable of all.
You can see this everywhere. Take a look at sales of cosmetics and anti-aging products, for example. Look at the language of the advertisements. What are they focusing on? Your fear, not of aging, but of death. If you have faced your own fear of death — or at least acknowledged it — you aren’t as vulnerable to the language they use (although since you have that fear, you may find that it causes “twinges” because it resonates or vibrates the strings of your fear of death).
Where this really gets pernicious, though, is in the public arena. Take a look at the language being used by people who are striving to stoke your fears. Look closely. Look for the tactics underneath. Be aware of how that language taps into — and vibrates — with your deepest fears. That is how fear is a virus — and can infect whole groups and even nations. For example, it is this fear that Hitler exploited to raise up the Nazi party; it’s the fear he exploited to exterminate 6 million Jews and millions of others who didn’t agree with him or his regime.
However, I won’t leave you in fear — because fear doesn’t have to have the last word. Seeing and acknowledging fear is the start, but not the end. Yet often seeing it can put you in overwhelm. It’s important to let yourself feel your overwhelm and the fear itself, but you don’t want to stay there.
The antidote to fear: deep heart work
What’s the way through? The antidote to fear is love. Every spiritual and philosophical tradition I know talks about it. Now I don’t mean the gooey, emotional, romantic notion of love. Rather, I mean the doing the deep heart work so that you can see your fear, feel it, and move through it.
The way through is a spiritual practice. While spirituality can be a bypass, it’s also the best anchor, not just for facing fear, but for dealing with the times we live in. One of my teachers and mentors, Mark Silver, says it so clearly:
“When compassion, strength, sovereignty, justice are in such need, I find it most effective to carry them in my heart, to be able to express them from love, rather than being caught up in the chaotic storms of opinion and upset.
We need to engage, and I would argue that we need to engage with a full heart, with the fullness of what is available to us. With the Fullness of Source.”
In my last blog post, I gave you a practice to connect with your heart and change your resonance or vibration. Do that. It only takes a minute. Here is the link to the article, and the practice is toward the end. It comes from the Heart Math Institute.
A Simple Practice you can use Daily to move through Fear
Today I would like to give you another practice that is also very simple and can become part of your daily routine. It comes from Pam Gregory, astrologer and spiritual seeker. She calls it “Freedom-Choice-Gratitude.” This practice may be particularly important if you’re feeling trapped by your present circumstances or the circumstances around you. It reminds you of the freedoms you actually do have.
She was inspired by Victor Frankl, a concentration camp survivor, who wrote the famous book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Even after enduring the most horrific conditions and seeing people killed all around him, he came out of that situation with the ability to love and to have a deep and abiding hope. Nelson Mandela is another person who comes to mind, who, though jailed for years, did not let the fear or anger harden into hate, but came out with a hope and a love that allowed him to lead his country out of apartheid.
This practice focuses on the situations where you do have freedom. Here are the steps:
- Become aware of the freedoms you have –whether it’s the time you get up (can you set your snooze alarm for another 5 minutes?), or something as simple as the freedom to brush your teeth, or to choose what you will eat, or when you will eat.
- With each awareness, remind yourself that you had a choice, and say to yourself, “I chose ____.”
- Be thankful. Express gratitude to the Divine or the Universe for that choice.
Don’t underestimate the power of this practice. When you are expressing gratitude, you can’t be in fear at the same time. The vibration of gratitude is one of the vibrations that helps you move through fear. I’ve written about this before, and I also recommend the practice there.
In these volatile times, don’t let yourself be hijacked by the fear-mongering that’s everywhere. And when you find yourself in that place (it happens to all of us here and there), take a step back and look for the fear tactics. And then come back to your heart. Practice gratitude. Double- and triple-down on your spiritual practices — not as a bypass, but as an anchor.
With love and gratitude,
PS: A central focus in my upcoming attunement and healing session on September 20, 2020, will be doing some deep healing work around our fear and fear culture. I hope you will join me. Please register here. If you know you have fear or anxiety and are ready to do the deep work of moving through your deepest fears, I have a couple of spaces open for individual sessions. Here is the link for more information.