Aurora Arlt – @Aurora_HealthyFit
While in the midst of reading The Art of Fear, by Kristen Ulmer I have been consumed with the idea of how we think about and deal with fear. This book has seriously blown my mind. It’s completely changed the way I think about my relationship with fear and any other “bad” or “ugly” emotions I deal with on a regular basis (i.e. sadness, anger, anxiety).
There seems to be a lot of debate about fear; whether it’s even real or just something we make up. There is even that acronym for FEAR – False Evidence Appearing Real – claiming that fear is just our own manifestation. But what if it is real and not just something we make up in our own minds? How do we handle it or deal with it? Have you ever been told you need to confront your fears? Face them head on and conquer them? Or have you resorted to burying them? Or does your fear consume you?
I know that for most of my life I have let fear consume me. I feared everything, from big to small. Every decision I ever made was fear based. Fear of the unknown, fear of being judged, fear of failing. My fear comes out in the form of anxiety. I am incredibly anxious person who worries about everything all of the time.
Before reading this book, I thought I needed to shut these fears out, stomp on them, and keep moving along. That approach works for the most part. It helped me tackle a lot of things and accomplish a lot professionally and personally that I would not have been able to if I didn’t push that fear down. But that fear and anxiety is still there…all of the time. I can burn it out for a little to achieve a goal, but it will immediately reappear and sometimes with a vengeance. It reappears in this form of incredible self-doubt and feelings of unworthiness. Why is that?
Well, Kristen suggests that repressing fear can actually be incredibly damaging. Both emotionally and even physically. She tells us to think of fear and the other thousands of emotions we have as children. We divide our emotions in half where one half is “good” and they have names like Joy, Gratitude, and Forgiveness and the other half is “bad” and they have names like Jealousy, Anger, and Sadness. Because of the edited, photoshopped society we live in, we shove those “bad” emotions, those children we have deemed unacceptable, in the basement. We put tape over their mouths and lock the door. We then give all of our attention to our “good” feelings and creating practices like a gratitude practice or daily meditation to show these feelings (children) how important they are to us.
But while we are doing that, what’s going on with bad children we locked in the basement? “They’re burning the house down, I mean how would you feel if you were a child that had been put in the basement with no food, no water, no love, no sunshine, no toilet, no toilet paper, like what would you do?” (Kristen Ulmer, Spartan Up! Podcast). At some point these children will rear their heads, and at that point they are there to seek vengeance. They will seek to destroy.
Kristen states that instead of suppressing these emotions and shunning them out to the point that they get out of control, we should seek to understand them. These feelings usually have our best intentions in mind. She says to sit with the fear, remain curious about it, and listen to what it is telling you. I have found that this practice can actually help to propel you forward. Usually when I feel this sort of fear or have an idea that scares me, it means that I’m likely onto something. Those of us who seek to fulfill our calling will follow that fear and go down the path we know we need to in order to achieve our purpose. There will be more people who immediately turn around and run as far away from that fear as possible. These people are still in search of their purpose or refuse to listen to that voice in their heart. “You’ll never be able to escape from your heart. So, it’s better to listen to what it has to say” (The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho).
“If you avoid Fear, then you avoid life. And you’ll feel bad, as if you spent your whole time here not really living” (The Art of Fear, Pg. 96).
This may show up in the forms for different individuals. For example, you may feel:
- “Inauthentic, like a fraud.”
- “Alienated from the world.”
- “Not confident of your worth.”
- “Not in charge of your life, but more like a victim to it.”
- “Guilty or ashamed for not doing more, living more.”
- “Like your only existing.”
(The Art of Fear, Pg. 96)
The Art of Fear has shown me that having feelings of fear and anxiety is a part of the human existence and not something to be ashamed of or run away from. Even the most successful and accomplished people experience these feelings, this resistance. I think in order to truly live and experience life for all that it is, it’s even more important to accept fear, listen to it, understand it, and let it work for you. If we can be at peace with fear, we can be at peace with ourselves.
Until next time.
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