Occasionally in life, we go through waves of deep, all invading and almost paralysing fear.
The type of irrational fear where the slightest sound can set us spinning, the slightest mistake and we feel we will have a warlord of cops coming down our path.
At times almost stupid in its irrationality.
Five years ago I went through such a spell. It got to the point where having had enough, I stocked up on food, locked myself in my room for three days and wrote and wrote and wrote. I made list after list of varying topics.
The final one was fear.
As each line added yet another fear to what may be ample for more than nine lives, I reached a point where I stopped and started reading up my list.
Suddenly I looked up.
I had noticed a pattern.
Those were not all different fears.
They were one fear dressed up in many different outfits.
So then I took a journey down that specific fear to go and meet its maker.
I traced all the times in my childhood when I had felt the same sensation.
I could feel that hand over mine.
The thick black lines forming heavily over my weak uncertain ones.
And that voice in my ear.
The heat of that breath.
And those words, almost like a broken cassette.
Why don't you do it like this?
Wouldn't this be better?
Will I ever be better?
And the jolting suddenly brought me back into reality.
The shock realization.
The constant fear.
Was not an actual fear.
But an actual self-berating.
In the absence of that heated breath in my ear, those dream shattering words, that hand over mine, I had in fact replaced their presence in my very own mind.
I was continuing their legacy.
A legacy I loathed.
A legacy I had vowed as a child never to repeat on another person (and had kept).
In that exact moment I realised I was repeating the behaviour I hated most, on my very own person.
That was the day I looked fear straight in the eye.
That was the day it melted into inexistence.
And my life made a complete turnaround for the better.
A life where I no longer have to wait for those words which never come.
Where even I can be proud of how far I have come and who I have become.
A place where fear has its space.
But it knows who is in charge.
Which in itself is a beautiful happily ever after story...
But from time to time we do discover that there is A Little 'Fear' which 'got away'.
The naughty one.
The wild one.
Or maybe just the ‘stupid’ one.
We all have them.
They keep us on our toes.
Like naughty or cheeky kids.
But if we are not careful, they can actually pull down a lot of hard work.
That time is actually right now.
My first occasion of experiencing high-level fear was the above.
My second occasion is actually right now.
As I write these words.
In fact I am writing them almost as a path of clarity.
That realisation that yes, I have already been successful once.
And yes, I can do it again.
Writing brings our fears out of the depths of our darkened mind into the full light of day. I'm hoping in writing these words, not only can I give myself clarity, I may at the very least share that process, in case it may also be of help to another.
As I feel my present fears, I cannot put my finger on them. I just know they are irrational, ‘stupid’, however we choose to call them, but what intrigues me, is that with them I get recurrent flashbacks to very specific events in my life.
Which also puzzles me because while those events were not the best of my memories, they are not what I would even bring close to what we might classify as traumatic events.
And this is where I choose to carefully dig deeper, emphasis on 'carefully', as we never know what we will find. But for me this is a trade off. Either I continue in my current irrational paralysing mental state, either I dig deeper, unearth something that might scare even the scariest of zombies, but through it gain clarity which gives me that full clarity and confidence to move forward.
I guess this is where my fearless state comes to the fore because there is only so long I will tolerate my whimpering because I am afraid of something and putting it off. But instead of whipping myself into shape and just telling myself to pull it together, pretty much sweeping all those dustbunnies further under the carpet, I prefer to do a massive clearout and get to the bottom of what's really going on and find out 'who' (aka which 'fear') is really screwing up the status quo.
I guess if I only need to do that about once every five years or so I'm actually not doing too badly.
One of my favourite things I wrote on my pinboard after my previous success, and always keep close to me, was this:
How can I be so fearless and yet so afraid?
Because fear can be present, but it doesn't have to stop us and it doesn't have to hold us back.
So where do my current explorations lead me?
First, without going into too many precise details, the recurrent flashbacks take me to a time when I was trying to get paperwork done. I had to take recurrent trips to the registration offices, because each time it was never clarified exactly what I needed, or that I needed photocopies, or how many photocopies were required. Each time meant getting up early to get in line, several hours wait, only to be turned away for some random omitted detail, like a document that only had one photocopy instead of two (sorry trees!).
In itself a funny story to tell.
It's possible from this came my lifelong hatred of paperwork.
(Correction: My lifelong hatred of having to sit down to do paperwork. I actually love that satisfaction of crossing all the t's and dotting the i's, but the knowledge of the sheer amount of work it can take to bring everything together simply sends me running.)
But I need to dig deeper.
This is an episode of my life I have never fully analysed until right now. Come sit with me.
It was a time which spelled monumental change.
Up until this time I was extremely confident, even more fearless, very clear thinking, determined, and pretty much nothing was ever going to hold me back.
And nothing did.
I had big dreams and this change was only going to help me further those dreams.
Life was an adventure and I was excited to be on it.
I was going to prove to everyone I could.
This change as I said was to prove to be monumental in more ways than one.
And as I start to think about it for what it was, it really did have a deep impact on me.
It probably did shake me to the core.
Incidents like the paperwork spelled how things might not be as straight forward or as easy as I imagined in my naïve adolescent head.
But that was not all.
I will never forget the first day I went into the big city by myself.
A man followed me out of the metro and kept inviting me for a coffee.
That was perhaps the first time I felt fear.
That I had to part ways with my trusting friendly nature.
Or the morning I accompanied my sister on her way to school.
We stood excitedly staring through the driver's window as the metro bolted through the dark tunnels of the city.
It was new and exciting, but something felt very wrong when in the crowded train we felt men pressing themselves into our back end.
Innocence was going to be a luxury we couldn't afford to hold onto.
Then too was the change in family dynamics.
In a new land and a new country, it was no longer parents caring for children, but because of languages skills, or said lack of, those roles were quickly reversed.
A dependence which never before existed quickly shot into life.
A beautiful place to live, but the harsh realities of day-to-day life leaving you feeling lost, incapable, vulnerable, out-of-place. A dependency was lost and a need to fend for yourself came to the fore.
Arguments became frequents, depression a daily visitor, fear of deep loss looming every time I entered the front door.
This went on for went on for many years, but it was all born in this specific period of flashbacks.
Deeply thought provoking.
One word comes to mind.
At a time in life where we are set to gain so much, loss seems to be coming to the fore.
It is something I never took time to think about, but it is possible, with everything thrown at us, we never had a transition period, that safe period where we finally grow into adulthood.
Even with the excitement of youth and seeing life more as an adventure and to fight for, I also never allowed myself time for reflection or to process each of these events.
Without realising it I lost a lot at this time, without that haven to safely process or even grieve that loss.
It could be right now my mind is automatically or subconsciously fearing and bracing itself for loss, however small those chances actually are.
Obviously, this is something which I am going to need to take more time to analyse and think about, but already it has been very enlightening.
I think too often we are quick to judge our fears as stupid or of little consequence, but if they are something which are holding us back, we should definitely consider giving them a little love and attention.
Bring them out in the open and have that conversation.
Just as we would if it was our precious child who kept playing up.
That simple act alone can give us that value and attention we may be sorely missing in our life.
We need to stop fearing the fear.
Stop ignoring it.
Rather give it that space. That voice.
Which at times is all it really needs.
Peace and love to you all.
And all your fears.
What is your one strategy for working through fear?
Share below :)