Fear is one of the big stoppers in our life. Sometimes it freezes us, sometimes it causes us to panic, and at times it makes us invent extraordinary ways to control events of life or actions of other people. Occasionally we do anything to avoid certain people or episodes.
Fear is also one of our most discounted feelings. It is considered as a sign of weakness. Many people despise those who are afraid. They consider timid people as weak. Shyness bears a negative worth. People who listen much and talk little are not valued, since our community thinks that they can not take care of themselves. This age of individuality appreciates noisy people who speak much and put up a show wherever they are. Yet, most people are scared under their disguise of boldness. As they, or we, keep up the mask of courage, at the same time hating fearfulness, we hate and despise ourselves. We keep our false self, since we desperately wish to earn the name of a bold man. Fear causes us to hide, and it prevents us from belonging.
What does the fear stop, then? Certainly it prevents us from going into dangerous situations. It keeps us at land when the sea is rough, and we avoid places where we might become robbed. There are times when we are threatened by true danger, and we respect our fear. In these cases fear works for our best and does not prevent us from belonging. However, if we live in a 'normal' environment, these times are not a significant part of our life. This kind of fear does not cause us to worry, unless someone or something important to us is in real danger. When the danger is over, our fear disappears, and we forget it. We don't have to repress this kind of fear. It does not prevent us from belonging, but it is a part of our belonging.
Most situations, in which we feel fear, do not contain real threats. Often these situations deal with other people. We are afraid of them, although we are adults, and we are safe. Fear stops us from reacting spontaneously and we raise our defenses. Our child within does not feel himself safe, and we protect him with our false self. In doing so, we lose our belonging and other people become our enemies. Life becomes an enemy. As long as we overcome our fears by pretending, we will not find togetherness and we will not own our belonging in rest. Fear merely tells us that our child within, our true self, has something important to say. He wants to say: "Stop pretending, and listen to me. I am not doing well. I want to be here with those people, but you are only taking me farther away from them. I want to belong, but you are so afraid of being you that there is no way to belong. What are you afraid of losing? Your Mask?"
Fear is good. Fear is a real feeling, and like any other feeling, it needs to be respected and validated. A generally accepted advice is: "Don't let your fear control you. Breathe deeply and go. Stuff it. Do not respect it". This is what I did for a long time, and I thought it was the correct way. I still think it is good advice in some situations, for example when protecting our boundaries or when detaching. However, because of this fear is one of the most invalidated of our feelings. We have been trained, and we have trained ourselves, not to respect fear. In doing so, we do not respect our inner world, our internal messages, and our worried child within. Fear is good. Fear needs to be respected. Other people may not respect fear, since they may have learned that it is not okay to feel fear. We have learned the same. For this reason it is difficult to share our fears, especially to those towards whom we feel fear. If they are not safe persons, they might only hurt us. Very few people, if any, have demonstrated us how to deal with fear, except by repressing it. We may have learned to repress it in such a way that we do not even recognize when we are acting out of fear.
I was afraid. Fear was one of my most common feelings. I have experienced panic reactions, and I have been afraid of other people to the extent of avoiding them. I was an addict, and one of the major elements in my life has been fear. We have experienced fear almost as soon as we have been able to feel it. We have been rejected, and our existence has been in danger many times. We learned to watch for every signal of hatred and rejection, and we learned to pretend so well that we were not aware of our fear. We have learned to live with fear. We may even have no idea what it is to live without fear. For us, fear was not a stopper. It was an unmistakable part of our life, and it became a part of our relation to the world. Fear, and being alert, was our prerequisite of being able to continue to live.
As we begin to heal, we will uncover our child within, our true self, and he is terrified. Unless we know how to face his fears, we will not be able to release him from his prison of panic. We will find fear, and his fear is not insignificant. We may find terror. We may feel his terror. He is earnestly waiting for us to release him from his shadow world of phobias. We will step in his world. We will validate his fears, and he will validate us as real persons who are not afraid of fear, and who can safely feel fear. We will learn that fear is just another feeling, and in the beginning it is not a pleasant one. At the end we will find the beauty of fear, and eventually we will recognize that fear is merely an internal message - a feeling.
Fear is not harmful. The purpose of all feelings is to guide us in life according to our best, and fear is no exception. We will go through the terror of our inner child, but at the other end of the tunnel is peace and rest. We will find fear that is as constructive and joyful feeling as any other feeling. We will find fear that does not stop us. We will find fear that participates in life as spontaneously as any other feeling - and we will be happy even when we feel fear. We will learn to appreciate it, since it tells us much about our relation to the world.
Our fear already has shown us how important and good feeling it is. We have gone through much terror in our childhood, and our fear guided us and enabled us to survive in a dysfunctional and unsafe environment. Had we not felt fear, and adjusted our behavior accordingly, we might not have survived. We found our secret way to live with the pain that resulted, and a significant part of the pain are the fears and terrors of our rejected and hated inner child. We will find his overwhelming fears, and we will experience them, but they can not harm us. The events that caused the fears are history, and we are adults now. If we do not allow ourselves to experience the terror, we will harm ourselves, since the terrors and fears will remain within us, controlling us everywhere we go and preventing us from belonging. Now we can surrender ourselves to feeling the terror completely, since we are safe. No matter how much terror within we experience at present, it does not harm us. It just does not feel nice. The world may lose its colors for some time, but they come back bright and shiny. Every experience of terror that I endured opened my senses, and I can say that the colors are brighter and sounds clearer, literally.
The ways I used to deal with fear were either to explain it away or to repress it. Neither of these ways validated it, but froze it and kept it within myself. When I noticed that my fears are always with me, and follow me everywhere I go, I understood that they originate within me, and not outside of me. Nothing that is inside of me can harm me. With this realization I decided to listen to my fears the same way I listened to any other feeling. I began to say: "My beautiful fear, I love you. You are marvelous, and I want to see all of you. I am happy that I can feel fear, and all of its effects". At first, when I began to respect my fear, something took control of me, and I spent several minutes uttering: "Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful…". After the experience I decided to find my fears in the same way I searched for my sorrows to the point that I was able to cry them away. I did not know what was in front of me, and how I could release my fears. The only thing I knew was that I don't want to repress them anymore. In this chapter, I don't try to describe my whole process of validating fear, but rather I illustrate specific occurrences.
When we start dealing with our fears, we should remember that nothing inside of us can harm us. This gives us the courage to surrender to feeling our fear. We can let it overcome us, at the same time knowing we are safe. We may feel fear that causes us to tremble, moan or vomit, but it does not harm us. The sky will not fall on us. Our house will not collapse. We are safe. The experiences certainly are not pleasant, but in surrendering to feeling fear, we will find its essence: it is merely a feeling, and it can be released by validating and feeling it. In doing so, we will find another kind of fear, which is our friend. When we were children, the fear we lived with was terror that endangered our very existence. Now we are adults, but still our critical parent voice prevents our fears from being validated. This is crazy: actually we have no need to feel fear, but we feel it and we keep it within ourselves. The cause is within us, and the consequence remains within us, as in figure 2. When we let go of our fears, the flow will be reversed: the cause will be outside of us, and in the inside we feel and respect fear as an important message that communicates something real about the reality. Eventually we will see that in the world there are very few reasons for fear, and our fears will be real responses to the dangers of the world. We will learn to trust our feelings, and if they communicate fear, we will understand that there really may be good reasons to be afraid. If there are no good reasons, we will not feel fear. The way to this freedom goes through the validation of the fears of our wounded inner child. We may also learn to know many new attributes of fear. We will begin to like fear.
Figure 2. Dynamics of projected and suppressed fear.
The way we have learned to deal with fear is demonstrated in figure 2. The feeling of fear arises within us, but we do not know that fear is merely a feeling. We project it somewhere outside of us, and the projected fear returns with the idea that something or someone outside of us has the intention of harming us. The only way we know to handle our fear is to suppress it, and we hide it within ourselves. With no aid of the object outside of us, we become isolated and lose our belonging to the object. We do it all by ourselves, and we keep collecting suppressed fear wherever we go. Eventually we may have so much repressed fear that we become physically ill. When we learn that fear is merely a feeling, we learn to feel it and release it. We learn to separate fear from the outside world. When we learn that fear is just an internal message that can be separated from our observations and outside objects, we learn to feel it without projecting the intention of harming and experiencing the consequent insecurity.
I began to list all words of fear I knew, and I began to draw pictures of fear. One picture was very revealing. I drew myself as a tiny creature near a corner of a paper, and then I began to draw an endless black curve, circling around the paper, occasionally making rapid rushes close to the little me. The curve never hit me. I was amazed: fear does not harm me. It derives its power from the great movements and rapid rushes of the black pen, but it does not hit me. After I completed the drawing, I placed another paper beside it, and drew a path along which I walked through the fear to the middle of the new white paper. I drew myself there, almost as big as the paper allowed. In that picture I smiled.
Somewhat later I had another very similar experience. I placed a small baby doll on my pillow, as if he slept, and I played the part of fear. I noticed that I behaved exactly in the same way as the black pen. I hissed and howled, dancing around the bed, occasionally making aggressive movements towards the poor baby doll. I never touched the doll. A few minutes later I laughed: this is fear. How funny. It howls and hisses, but at a distance - like in a children's horror movie. Actually, it is the horror of a small child – our worried inner child. He will carry it as long as we do not take it away from him. For an adult – for us - his horror is like a joke, but it is extremely real for him. It is real for us as long as it is real for him, and it waits for our validation. I think that fear derives its great power over us only because of the repression. We have come to learn that fear can somehow harm us. It can not, but in suppressing our fears, we have merged the fears and the harmful circumstances that caused them. They are woven together like a disordered ball of two threads running side by side. When we begin to validate our fears, we begin to pull the thread of fears, and we will separate the feeling of fear from the events of our history. We will see that fear is one issue, and the events that caused it are another issue. We will free our fear, and we will learn to know a life-giving and joyous fear - a fear that is on our side and enhances our belonging. We will learn to know fear that has no separation.
When we feel fear, often it is due to something in the present moment triggering a regression. We anxiously try to find solutions to wrong problems, since our fear is not caused by anything real in the present moment. When we concentrate on solving the present moment, we can not find the elements of our regressions, and we can not feel fear as a pure feeling. Eventually we learn to deal with fear in the same way as with any other feeling: we separate the feeling from the events. The fact that we feel fear is our challenge number one, and the events that triggered the feeling are of minor importance. We do not regret. We do not plan. We try to stop thinking of the events, or of the future, and we concentrate on feeling our fear. We try to distinguish between our observations, interpretations, memories, imagination and feelings. We refuse to think of solutions, or to invent all the ways the world could harm us. In doing so, we might feel a pure feeling of fear without connection to anything else - like sorrow or joy - for the first time in our life. When we feel it, we will learn that it is not so terrible. We learn to identify it as a feeling - not as a set of external or internal circumstances. We can surrender to feeling the fear, and we realize that it is a feeling that has very little connection to the present world outside of us. Our fears tell us about a forgotten world in which we lived a long time ago. When we separate our fears from the events of the present moment, they will lead us to our forgotten world. We will begin to pull the thread of fear, and we may find memories of many events repressed with our fear. None of these events is fear. They are incidents in which we felt fear, and we learn to distinguish between our fear and the events. When we learn to separate our fear from the events, our memories gain peace, and they will become rich. We will be free to feel fear, and actually we will enjoy our new fear.
At times fear may call us to detach. We may be so entangled with an issue, or with a person, that we can not think clearly. We may be afraid of losing something or someone. We may experience regression every time in certain circumstances. If we can continue to live with our fear, at the same time being able to separate our fear from the issues, detaching may not be necessary. But if we only worry and try to invent solutions, we might need to detach. Enduring in difficult situations can well lead us towards healing, but we must always remember to pray the Serenity Prayer. If we act out of fear, we will not find good solutions, and we begin to be afraid of feeling fear. Fear is merely a feeling we don't have to be afraid of, but we can not heal if we constantly are overwhelmed by issues outside of ourselves. Panic reactions are examples of fear that is projected to external events, although fear is only an internal message. Panic reactions notify us that we have much suppressed fear, and we don't allow ourselves to feel it. When we learn to know the pure feeling of fear, we can begin to release it, and our panic will fade away. We will learn that there is no real danger in situations that trigger our panic. Our panic is within us, and not in the outside circumstances.
After some time of conscious detaching of the feeling of fear from the outside events, I was able to feel fear without being afraid. It was a marvelous experience, after which I got the courage to invite the fear to take over me. At times it made me gasp for air, at times I trembled, and a few times I vomited. After each such experience the colors of the world were brighter, sounds clearer, and I felt overwhelming joy. I found the feeling of fear, and I learned that it does not compel me to be afraid. It is merely a feeling, and actually in this state it is a joyful one. At times I felt pressure in my heart, or I panted, but at the same time I felt great joy. After each such experience I felt deep peace.
When we process our fears, we may experience moments of terror. Within us is a protective system that allows us to feel extreme terror only for such periods of time that we survive. Our inner child knows how much we can handle. Our Higher Power loves us and he wants to heal us - and at times he operates like a dentist. The moments of terror have caused a wonderful opening of my senses, and the world has been full of colors and sounds after every such moment.
In my collection of terror music, there is a piece whose name is 'Close to Danger'. It describes terror as it slowly comes closer with heavy steps. Once when I listened to it, a memory emerged. I remembered clearly the house where we lived when I was six years old. I remembered the tapestry of my room, my bed, my toys, and I heard the approaching steps of my new dad when he was drunk. I used to hide from him in the attic, and in the memory I felt the touch of the unpainted ladders as I climbed there. I felt the warmth of the pile of blankets in which I hid myself. In the regression I experienced dreadful terror, and everything became black. I knelt on the floor. There was nothing apart from terror. I thought I would breathe my last breath, but it lasted only for five minutes, after which it gradually faded away. When I opened my eyes, I could not believe the brightness of colors of the world around me. It was as if I was one with the colors, or as if my eyes invited the colors inside my head. I belonged to a new, colorful world.
At another occasion I visited some friends, and we discussed about our childhood experiences. I felt that I need a moment alone. I knew they would understand, and I told them so. I went to a nearby cottage, walked for some time at the shore of the lake, and started a fire in the fireplace. Suddenly I began to feel terror. I knelt on the floor and moaned like a little child. All I could do was to groan. After a few minutes the terror faded away. I was more peaceful than ever. When I went out, I was amazed at the colors the trees and the flowers, and at the sounds of the wind, waves and birds. I was in a new rich world. I still don't know what the terror was, and it is not necessary to know it. I knew I had released terror that was stored within. It could have been a terror of a baby who could not speak yet, and he had no rational concepts for it. At times when we validate our fears, we will feel the helplessness of a small child in front of terrible circumstances. He faced something that he could not understand, but it was real and full of horror. He may have no words to explain it, but his feelings explain everything.
We carry much suppressed fear, and it may take a long time to release it. However, my experience is that we can learn to distinguish the feeling of fear and the outside events relatively quickly. When we find fear as a feeling of its own, we will feel fear that does not compel us to be afraid. When we find this fear, we still feel fear, but at the same time we will feel joy, and we begin to own our belonging in a deeper way. We will not be afraid of the world. We know that we are releasing our suppressed fear, and it does not prevent us from belonging. We will be at rest, and a new world opens in front of us, a world which is our home. We will find our true home, in which we belong, and where we are always welcome - and we will see that our home is with us all the time. It is a safe home with very few reasons to be afraid.
Out of Pain