As I get older, I’ve come to realize how much people operate from a space of fear. People use fear as a reason to protect themselves from being hurt and as a way to keep from moving forward. While everyone carries various levels of fear in their lives, it doesn’t have to define you. Once you identify it, fear can become a choice. Understanding fear is the first part. Then, what you decide to do with that fear keeps you stuck or helps you move forward spiritually.
I am a big believer in the universe giving us opportunities to learn and grow as spiritual beings. The universe will keep giving you certain types of experiences until you learn to handle those situations in new ways. Often, it’s much later before you are able to look back and understand the lessons. But they are usually there if you choose to look.
There are two different types of fear to practice observing: fear that is your own and then fear that is someone else’s.
Start by taking a self-inventory. Write down the biggies, like fear of heights, fear of flying, and/or fear of public speaking. Then commit to digging deeper. If I am really truthful with myself, here are some that are on my list:
*Fear of rejection.
*Fear of not being enough.
*Fear of being misunderstood.
*Fear of failure.
*Fear of being judged.
*Fear of not being worthy.
As you continue to write down your list, breathe deep and be brave. This is an opportunity for discovery. While you may be aware of the first few on your list, as you continue to write, you will start to go deeper and may surprise yourself with what comes up. Your initial response may be to reject some of what comes up: ”That’s not really me” or “That can’t be true.” Write everything down, no matter how surprising or painful. Some part of you deep down is wounded and needs to have a voice.
Next, take a few more breaths and then read through your list. How do you feel as you read through each fear? Note which ones are most painful. The fears that are deepest and most painful are usually your strongest triggers when life gets tough.
Discover Your Triggers
What do I mean by triggers? Let’s go back to human evolution. Everyone has heard of the fight or flight response. A caveman or cavewoman is out hunting and gathering and happens upon a large predator. The predator spots them and there is a moment of immediate tension and adrenaline. The body floods both creatures with a chemistry that tells the brain it is time to fight or run like your life depends on it to safety.
Have you ever experienced the full intensity of the fight or flight response? Maybe in a true emergency, such as right before a car accident? Or in a semi-controlled environment, such as right before you leap if you’ve ever bungee jumped? Those are life-changing moments that stay with us.
And that’s the point, there are all sorts of things that stay with us in our lives. We are experiential beings. As humans evolved, we’ve learned to use aspects of the fight or flight response on a regular basis. Some experts call it the pain or pleasure principle. From the beginning, we learn what brings us pleasure and what brings us pain. Our evolutionary programming jumps into gear to help us try and avoid anything that brings pain. Our brains store memories around painful things so that when we encounter similar situations in the future, the brain kicks in and says, “Wait! This was painful last time! Stop! Don’t go there! Beware! Be afraid!” We often bury these experiences deep and pile other examples of pain on top of them to the point where we aren’t even aware of these feelings anymore. Until something triggers the fear response again.
Like I said earlier, the universe loves to test you to try and keep you growing deeper into your spiritual self. What is the saying? We are spiritual selves having a human experience?
I was recently tested, and have been reflecting on the list of fears I noted for myself above. A person I very much respected turned on me, told me some harsh things about myself and really crossed my boundaries. What made the situation extra painful was that I did not expect it. The situation kicked up all kinds of triggers for me. Let’s just say I had to really breathe deep and be extra brave to walk through the last few weeks. I am still reflecting on some of what was said and reconciling what I experienced with who I know I am.
Learn From Your Triggers
So that’s the next part of the lesson: be aware when something triggers you. If you are truly aware when it is happening, then you can choose how you will react. When you find yourself in a situation where you feel afraid, you can choose whether to proceed or hold back. When someone provokes you into an argument, you can choose to participate or not. You can hear what is being said and decide if it has merit or not. You can choose to defend yourself or just watch the other person go into a dither without having to lose your power. Some situations are just about unavoidable. However, you can control much of it by being proactive instead of reactive.
When you look back at the situation, figure out what you can learn. What triggers came up? How did you handle the situation? What did you do poorly? What can you improve upon next time you are in a similar predicament? If you were triggered by another person, is there merit to anything they were saying? Or were they just coming from a place of their own fear?
Dealing With Other People’s Fears
So now we’ve come to the other type of fear that is worth observing- other people’s fears. As humans, we tend to be quick to point out things in other people. And we can often be mean about it, focusing on where we think other people are falling short, instead of building them up. For most of us, it takes practice to be positive and find the good in each other.
People act out, say negative things, become competitive or behave passive-aggressively when they are coming from a place of fear. Part of them is frightened that there isn’t enough___ (fill in the blank- love, power, money, basic resources, etc.) to go around.
Knowing people are coming from a place of fear gives you the opportunity to step back and breathe in the moment of intensity. It’s hard to do and takes practice.
Sometimes people need to be heard and it’s best to let them vent. Knowing that they are coming from fear and pain, gives you the option to have empathy towards that person. If the situation becomes personal, you have the option of defending yourself (which often doesn’t work in the heat of the moment) or telling the person, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” By using this phrase you acknowledge what they are saying but you don’t lose your power. It’s a neutral phrase, so practice keeping the energy neutral as you say it.
You can also always breathe, ground yourself and then choose to remove yourself from the situation. There’s no reason you need to stand there and take it. That doesn’t mean you have to go storming off. It’s usually best to just quietly announce that the situation has become heated and you are leaving now but are willing to readdress the issue when things are calmer. Sometimes you do have to be firm with the other person and tell them you need some space to think, then do what you need to do to take it.
Understanding Fear as a Mirror
Another thing you may notice is that people often point out in others things that mirror places of pain within themselves. It’s so much easier to point to people and say what their faults are than look within and take true inventory of ourselves. The universe surrounds us with people we can learn from, and the closer the relationship, the more reflective they can be. In other words, those close relationships will often trigger things within you until you choose to learn and grow. Knowing this gives you power to handle things better in your life.
When you are in a quiet space, think about what the other person said in the heat of the moment or complains about in less heated times. It may be comments about you, someone else, or just in general. First, if directed at you, see if there is any merit to the words and if there is anything you can do to improve yourself. Now reflect on the person who said them. Why are these points of pain for that person? What can you do to acknowledge and support their points of pain and help them to grow through them?
However, you have to tread very carefully here. Just because you are aware of the patterns doesn’t mean the other person is aware or willing to work on things. Timing is everything. And you don’t want to enable them. You CAN’T FIX the other person. But you can be gentle and have empathy for where that person is at in their lives. And you can always work on yourself.
At a quiet, neutral time, you can try saying something like, “The other day you seemed very upset about ____. Is there anything I can do to help you feel more supported? I just want you to know you are not alone.” If the other person triggers and immediately gets angry, you’ll know they are not ready to acknowledge their pain and fear yet. Sometimes people will want to talk about what happened and your acknowledgment will provide an opportunity for healing and forgiveness.
Understanding Fear Changes Your Life
While you can never completely overcome fear in your life, you can learn to recognize it in yourself and others. Recognizing that you or someone else is operating from a place of fear gives you the power of choice in any given moment. Fear can hold you back, but choice can propel you forward. Fear gives you many opportunities to grow as a spiritual being and have empathy towards others. The next time fear enters your life, I encourage you to breathe deep and be brave. You may surprise yourself what you learn.
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