Nothing binds us more than the chains we bind ourselves with. Our patterns of speech, our choices, the risks we take or refuse, and the way we view the world all create the limitations we live within. Our self-imposed limitations keep us safe, but also keep us from changing our lives for the better.
“Fear is a question: What are you afraid of, and why? Just as the seed of health is in illness, because illness contains information, your fears are a treasure house of self-knowledge if you explore them.”
What is your natural response to the things you fear? Do you avoid, break down, become defensive, or explore them? When it comes to our fears we choose to allow them into our lives or we choose to release ourselves from their grasp. Let’s explore these 4 methods of dealing with fear.
Avoiding fear can buy you time to process the source of your fear, but if the only way of dealing with the fear is to avoid it every time it comes up there will be no resolution. If there is no resolution this fear will become a guiding principle and constant limitation in your life. For example, some are fearful of flying and will not get into an airplane. If the fear of flying is not dealt with and resolved, then the world only accessible to you by flight will always be outside of your reach. This creates a constant limitation in ones’ life. Your dreams of exploring foreign islands, forming a lifetime of memories and connection with distant relatives, and learning about the world cultures will always be limited by your choice to let fear rule.
Breaking down in the face of fear can be a way of forcing yourself through a situation in spite of your perceptions, but if we breakdown instead of breaking through we allow fear to rule our lives. Fear Factor is one of my favorite television shows. If you have not seen it, teams or individuals compete in challenges that force the players to face common fears (like the fear of heights, spiders, snakes, or being trapped underwater). There are many safety precautions taken, so the players face no real danger, the perceived danger or fear is all in the minds of the players, not an actual reality. The first step of each challenge is to address your fear and decide if you will face your fear or allow your fear to knock you out of the competition. There have been many times when the screaming, trembling, or crying participant drops out of the game, but there seems to be more times when the screaming, trembling, or crying participant faces their fear and completes the challenge. In our own lives the more often we can complete the fearful challenges of life the sooner we realize the fear was in our minds, not an actual reality.
Fear can reveal the worst of us and bring us to a defense position, where we attack before the fear can actually get to us. As an unmarried woman I have experienced this in the dating arena. Dating is a very vulnerable life event. We all get emotionally hurt to some degree while dating, but how we handle those hurts and how long we carry around that perfectly packed baggage is the difference between becoming a compulsive dater and creating a nurturing relationship. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “I know how women are.” Getting a man to explain how women are gives me a clear understanding of what his fears are, how he has been hurt in the past, and unfortunately what I can expect from him in the future (at least until he is willing to resolve his fear and choose a new perspective). This is not man bashing, women do this too. Both sexes will assume a defensive position if they are not willing to explore their fears, acknowledge the choice they are making, and make a conscious change for the better.
I believe the healthiest approach to fear is to explore it. When we allow ourselves to get curious about the fears we perceive in the world we choose to perceive and experience the world in a more rewarding manner. When I was a kid we owned airplanes. I flew airplanes probably before I could balance my bicycle on two wheels. I was also in a minor plane wreck and due to 9-11 I know airplanes can be used as weapons. I know planes are safe and I know planes are susceptible to situations outside of my control. I could use that knowledge to fly and explore the world, the world’s cultures, and their impact on me or I could use that knowledge to stay home or limit my exploration to the places my car will take me. I choose to face any of my fears of flight and explore the world in all manners available to me because exploring the world is who I am. It is as fundamental to me as air is to breathing.
Today’s Simple Smile Igniter is to Explore One Fear. What is a fear that is limiting you from living fully? Now there are healthy fears, if your fear of going to jail is preventing you from robbing a bank…claim that fear! But for those fears that have prevented you from being the best you can be, like the fear of meeting new people, flying to connect with distance family members, learning how to drive a car, or allowing yourself to be vulnerable, today is a great day to start exploring those. Just like the quote from Marilyn Ferguson above, explore your fear like a doctor examines and diagnosis an illness. Look for the source of the pain, the choices that are made to cope with the illness, and write your prescription for a full recovery.