self-expression for the self-strong

Gentleness In Fear

Please note: This post is talking about illusory fear, where you are afraid of things that do not exist or cannot hurt you where you are. If, however, you are afraid of a real threat, get the hell out of Dodge immediately.

We learn fear from experience, and some of these experiences are traumatizing. Sometimes, we hold over that echo of fear long past its usefulness, long past its validity.

Fear is useful when it protects us, warns us of danger, makes us cautious and wary so that we do not go blind and get hurt. Fear is valid when there is something present, both in your surroundings and in the current moment, to be afraid of.

Fear can be crippling when it outlives its causes. The same tactics that once ensured our survival can paralyze us or send us spiraling into paranoia. We may feel terror when we are in the safest place, with our most trusted people, simply because, once upon a time, some aspect of this situation may have signaled danger – such as hearing loud sounds outside your home.

Being accusatory and angry towards yourself only heightens your fear. Shouting “why am I afraid of this?! this is stupid!” in your own head solves nothing and only increases the tension in your body. Attacking yourself when you’re afraid only verifies the sense that there is something to fear.

Gentleness, then, is the best approach to fearfulness. Just as you would approach a panicked animal: move slowly and never suddenly, keep yourself non-threatening and low, and stop if the fear spikes. Use a soft voice; do not brandish weapons or fists or your frustration with yourself. Be as patient and compassionate as you can, and forgive yourself if you cannot.

Remember that hostility to your fear only worsens it, but staying calm in response to sudden fear will often drain it of its power and allow you to coax it away.

4 Responses to Gentleness In Fear

  • Should “warns of us danger” be “warns us of danger”?

    And I agree with this, particularly as it relates to phobias. I used the calm and slow tactic when trying to help get myself past my own phobia of poison ivy a few weeks ago while out hiking. I’m not close to moving past the phobia yet, but I was able to hike very narrow trails by breathing slowly and trying to remain as calm as possible. The phobia itself stems from a bad experience I had years ago.

  • Elinox,

    Good catch on the typo! Did I mention I’m dyslexic? (Do I need to? Heh.)

    Lots of hugs for the phobia, and cheers for your success in hiking narrow trails! Breathing slowly is so very helpful for me, as well. :)

  • I like to think of it as a practical joke (most of my fears come up in the form of Resistence.) I’ll notice I’m avoiding something and when I catch myself, it’s like catching a fourth grader making bunny ears “Hey, you little bastard, I see you doing that!” And then carry on. What am I supposed to do, beat him up? ;)

  • Shanna,

    *laughs* Yes, beating up internal fourth graders is probably a bad idea.

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