Meeting our fears with compassion
Fear is a constant companion for so many of us. Fear of the unknown, fear of taking a risk, fear of conflict, fear of failure, fear of our own potential, fear of change.
Fear in itself is not a bad thing. The innate intention of fear is always positive, helping to protect us from danger and threats. Indeed, fear is part of our human experience just like joy, anger, sadness, contentment.
The issue with fear and anxiety is that it can lead us to buy into catastrophic thoughts which can hold us back from living and experiencing life fully.
Fear can cloud our judgements, making it harder for us to keep perspective; to distinguish between when something is real and happening or has not happened yet.
Catastrophic thoughts – a loved one leaving us, losing your job and not finding a new one, conflict with a colleague, performing badly at work, falling ill – trigger our brain’s alarm system, preparing us to defend ourselves. Heart rate builds, palms become sweaty, and we’re on high alert, ready to fight, flight or freeze.
Keeping us safe or holding us back?
We are often unaware of our fearful thoughts, they run in the background, ‘keeping us safe’, keeping us in our comfort zone and sometimes holding us back from engaging more fully in life.
How can we meet our fears with compassion?
Finding a way to meet our fears with kindness and compassion is key to living a full and happy life.
Step 1: self-awareness
“If you stop and reflect for a moment, the mind doesn’t just think.
It can also be aware that it is thinking.”
Mindfulness – a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world, Mark Williams and Danny Penman
With greater self-awareness we can bring kind awareness to our thoughts, to examine them and understand them for what they really are. Self-awareness brings the opportunity to reassure the part of us that feels fearful about something.
Here’s how one of my clients met her fears:
Nikki got in touch because she was finding it difficult to decide whether or not to leave her job after six years.
Attentive listening helped Nikki to to lay her options and everything that was on her mind ‘on the table’, so that she could consider each carefully, one by one. This process, however, didn’t bring her any closer to making a decision as Nikki’s fears and worries around what may or may not happen if she left her job were in the way.
We so often seek to run away from our fears, hide from them, when sometimes, acknowledging our fears and concerns, sitting with them rather than pushing them away or wanting to get rid of them can actually help.
I asked Nikki to sense inside for where she felt fear in her body and to acknowledge her fear, and in so doing so Nikki was able to explore what her fear was about, to look at it a little closer, and to realise that what she was afraid of was unlikely to happen.
This was a turning point for Nikki.
“You challenged me to look more closely at my fears. And in doing so I realised that they were unfounded. So I’ve taken the leap and I’m open to all the exciting possibilities that lie ahead. I have made the decision to hand in my notice and then move to Paris for a 3-month course at Sorbonne university. This will take me through to the end of May when I’ll move in with my partner further north and get a dog. And a job. Thank you Karen.”
Remember, the part of us that is fearful is fearful for a positive reason, always. It wants to protect us, keep us safe. It’s hard-wired into us. When we meet our fears and enter into dialogue with them rather than pushing them away or trying to get rid of them, it can help us to move forward.
Let me know how you get on and please get in touch if you are interested in a free taster coaching session.