My love letter to Fear
Fear we are often told is something that we need to get the better of, we need to conquer and be in charge of and sometimes this might be true. Liz Gilbert has a wonderful conversation with fear here. But what if occasionally when we feel fear taking hold we sat down and had a chat and listened to this very primal instinct. What might we say to make it listen and quiet down?
Let me explain.
I have long history with getting a ‘wry neck’ It’s my go to stress complaint. Part physical work hazard, part structural habit part just plain not taking care of myself.
One particular time last year I developed a really painful wry neck.
In an ideal world I wouldn’t have waited for this to happen. Our body is always in conversation with us and with practice we can learn how to listen to the more subtle whispers.
This time however I was ‘busy’ which is code for ignoring all the signs, and after a couple of bad nights sleep, where I woke up with nightmares on the third night I woke up unable to move. (normally I am an amazing sleeper)
Now I had also picked up something very heavy very poorly, but in essence my body and mind had been giving me every possible signal that something wasn’t right. That I was scared and emotionally wrangling with some worries.
And because I didn’t get it, it showed up in my body loud and proud to get my attention.
Perhaps you can remember a time when the same sort of thing happened?
Then a few weeks later I’m at the airport on my way to work in Sydney. I have a full weekend of clients (really full) and I feel my stiff shoulders getting worse, I feel a headache creeping up the back of my head and I remember that I had a rough nights sleep and woke after strong dreams in the night.
There has been a lot on. And some of those things involved big decisions that I am having to make very quickly.
The reality is I hadn’t given myself time to FEEL, and there wasn’t necessarily going to be time to feel right here right now.
And then I remembered my earlier experience with fear and my neck and right there at the airport I started to feel fear taking over. Let’s just call it panic and be done with it!
I could have run with it, freaked out thinking how am I going to work with a stiff neck, what am I going to do, should I cancel, can I take painkillers… on and on….
And then I remembered the antidote to fear.
And I breathed.
The only way we have direct access to our parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest functions) to switch of the flight or fight mode is with our breathing. So I slowed my out breath right down breathing slowly into my belly.
And then I wrote a letter to fear.
You might find it helpful, cut out the specifics and add yours in.
I can feel you, I’m paying attention I promise.
I know you want to keep me safe. This stuff we’re doing right now is big and scary, but look I honestly believe we’ve got this. We have lots of help, new great work on the horizon, genuine friends in our corner.
I’m taking my time, and caring for us.
I want you to know that I heard you.
I’m listening and I’m going to keep on checking in with you, and at the first sign of real trouble I’ll let you know.
Lets have a great weekend in Sydney, have some fun, sleep in and do some great work.
Our heart is big enough for all of this I promise.
I’m choosing to be here now and trust all that is.
Let’s let that tension in our neck go.
And that tension in our jaw too.
Lets let it all go.
I love you.
We’ve got this.
I re-read this a few times focusing on my breathing.
And by the time it came to board my flight. The headache was gone, my neck was no longer stiff on the side it always tightens up on and I was back in my body.
Fear is a slippery thing, our minds are programmed to keep us safe. There is a part of our brain, the Amygdala who’s only job is to seek out things that are dangerous.. even when they are not there, it’s like a very odd game of snap where it wants to win and it wants to find scary things. At the very least it wants to keep us in a known place (even if it’s not a great place) To disengage this we need to loosen its grip on our nervous system and to do that we need to first harness our breath.
In Chinese Medicine the spirit of the lungs the PO, which is our embodied primal self reaches down and grasps the Kidney energy and regulates it, as it does this it passes through the Shen, the spirit of the heart. It takes magic and spirit in each breath to speak to our darkest of fears and bring them literally into the light.
I sat in the departure lounge with a scrap of paper and a pen and scribbled down furiously. Really feeling fear hear me. It could see it wasn’t required, there was no saber tooth tiger to flee from, no impeding peril about to wreck havoc on the airport. I was safe, and supported and in charge of what I was doing, and about to embark on an incredibly privileged weekend.
Nope, no need for fear here.
Love and I have it sorted thanks.