There’s no such thing as “getting rid of fear” just like there’s no such thing “getting rid of having feelings” (learn more about the value of fully feeling your feelings HERE). You are human, therefore you have fear.
You are stuck with fear, but it doesn’t have to own you. In fact, fear can be a wonderful motivator and it can help us to feel more alive…but fear is also one of those difficult emotions to sit with.
As humans, it’s in our nature to avoid difficult feelings – fear being at the top of the list.
We create distractions from fear. We run interference about unimportant things, so we don’t have to come in contact with fear. We look the other way, hoping fear won’t be waiting for us when we turn our head back again.
The interesting thing about fear, like many feelings, is that it intensifies the more you fight against it.
What you resist, persists.
In the MindBodyWise Living Room last week, a question came up about how to handle fear that generated a lot of rich conversation, which was the impetus for writing this post.
Below are 3 different exercises you can try to begin to flow with your fear — instead of against it.
Fear-Flow Body Exercise:
Try this body-based exercise to connect with the heart of your fear and although this exercise is not about removing or excising the fear, often going into your fear through the body, does result in a lessening of the fear.
1. Where’s my body holding this fear today?
It may sound like a weird question and it may not be easy to identify at first, but stay with me here.
Fear usually shows up in your body as tension, holding, clenching, fluttering, faster heartbeat, changes from your normal breathing or excess movement. Your fear may show up differently and that’s perfectly normal too.
While considering your fear in your mind, close your eyes and slowly scan your body from feet to head.
What do you notice and where do you notice it?
2. What is this fear like in my body?
If you located a spot or two that’s holding your fear, see if you can bring all your awareness to it.
Get curious about it. Try not to judge it as bad / good / right / wrong / weird / normal. Instead, notice it’s qualities as if you were going to explain it to someone else. For example: It’s interesting that when I inhale, I notice that spot tightening up and when I exhale it loosens a little bit – then my mind keeps moving away from my body and into the story of my fear.
3. What’s happening now?
This may seem counter-intuitive, but now it’s time to play with moving toward the fear in your body more intensely. I use the word “play” intentionally here, as this can be a less serious and more exploratory experience if you think of it as an experiment.
Some ways to play include: exaggerating that part of your body with a movement or continuous movement that has you get more deeply in contact with the sensations there. Or consciously send bigger, deeper breaths to that area of your body.
As your moving or breathing, keep your curiosity hat on (non-judgment hat) and ask yourself “what’s happening now?” every 30 seconds to a minute. Answer that question out loud or in your mind.
“Be with” the sensations and feelings that emerge as a gentle observer. Do your best to allow whatever you notice to be there – without any attempt to try to change the experience of what is.
Fear-Flow Mind Exercise:
Ask yourself: “What am I most afraid about X (the fearful thing)?” Answer the question. With each answer, take a breath, notice what’s happening in your body. Then ask yourself: “and then what?” Keep asking “and then what” with breaths and body awareness in between each. Do this until you get to what’s at the core of your fear. You may find, it’s not what you thought it was!
Fear-Flow Stillness Exercise:
You don’t have to be a meditator to sit still and present for a few minutes. I know, it’s extremely challenging to sit with fear and distraction, which is the exact reason to practice sitting still with it.
Whatever comes up, even if it’s more fear and distraction, notice it, be with it, and keep bringing your attention back to your breath (“this is my inhale, this is my exhale”).
Try this for 5 minutes with no goal in mind, except completing 5 minutes of being with yourself. It’s powerful to see that the more you sit with it, the more the intensity of the fear tends to dissipate.
It takes courage to flow with your fear…! Every attempt you make to do so needs to be acknowledged and honored.
P.S. If you enjoyed this, you may also enjoy this post on how to become more courageous.