I love to write. In fact, I AM a writer. I am an untrained and unpublished writer, but none the less, writing is one of the things I do almost daily. I have been writing since I was a child, and with the exception of posts on Facebook and a few times in a writing group, I do not share my writing.
The few times I did share my writing in my writer’s group, I would go weeks before returning because the vulnerability and exposure I experienced afterward felt unbearable. So much so, that I would not only stop attending the writing group, but I would also isolate for a while. It didn’t matter if someone critiqued my work, gave positive feedback, or no feedback at all, the result was always the same. I left terrified that I might have exposed too much of myself through my writing.
What Is Fear, Where Mine Comes From And What It Looks Like.
Fear is a distressing emotion aroused by imagined or real impending danger, unmet needs, and physical or emotional pain, and it is a learned response. Everyone can find and track a fear pattern in their life if they look for one.
Something happens in our early development. A physical injury, abuse, shaming, abandonment, an unmet universal need like nurturing, safety or food, and ideally there is an adult there to help us through it. Someone there to give comfort and proper care, love and assurance, empathy and understanding, nutrition, compassion, and the presence and ability to convey an age appropriate understanding of what transpired.
Unfortunately at our best there will be times when we do not meet the needs of those in our care. Some of us were never taught how to do so through the example of having our needs met, and it is hard to give what you do not have. In some cases, the adult who should be helping the child learn how to process fear is the source of their fear and for this reason they are incapable. When we do not receive the help we need to work through trauma, however, big or small in life, we internalize it and attach unhealthy meaning to it.
In my case, I was abused as a child on a regular basis. I was one of four children in the home being raised by a step-father who did not like me. I remember lying in bed one evening listening to my mother plead with this man to love me. I never heard him respond to her, but to hear her confirm what I thought I knew, hurt.
My father punished me daily with ridicule and or hitting; sometimes both, teasing and more. Everything about me was criticized; who I was, my look, my size, my feet, my nose, my mind, my heart and especially my optimism, and sunny disposition. To him, the latter two were signs of my stupidity. Many people witnessed this abuse; my mother, grandmother, aunts and uncles, yet no one ever intervened.
At 15 yrs of age, my father beat me up one last time, and I moved out. I had escaped further physical abuse from him, but the years of neglect, abuse and lack of intervention left me with the belief that I was somehow inherently bad, with a very limiting belief system that turned into self-imposed limitations. A raging hatred of myself, PTSD and a deep rooted fear of being myself that would prevent me from living authentically for the next 38 yrs.
I carried the shame that belonged to my parents, and my life was dictated by my fear. Fear stopped me from being “more” in every area of my life until that became so uncomfortable and unfulfilling that I sought out help. In more recent years, I have had great success with working through this fear on many occasions.
My experience has taught me that the further I step outside of my comfort zone and move closer to what I desire most, the greater the fear I must face, and the work that is required of me to move through and transform that fear calls me to go much deeper each time.
Seven days ago, a teacher of mine gave me the assignment of writing a paper with the intention of publishing it. The old fear was triggered. Publishing my writing requires me to show myself, which my early training tells me is unsafe. My writing is the most intimate thing I could share with you; it is a glimpse into my heart and soul. As much work as I have done to heal and be free of those limiting beliefs, this assignment necessitated that I go to places that scared me and knocked me off balance, until now.
What To Do with Our Fear?
The worst thing we can do with our fear is to deny it, resist it, or hide from it in any way, and the best thing we can do is curiously lean into it. Our fear is an invitation to learn more about who we are and how we function in the world. It is an invitation to recognize our strengths and explore the areas we may want to grow in, and/or heal.
So after six days of being knocked off balance and pushing against the fear, I woke this morning remembering my work is to lean into fear. I’m not sure how long it took, but it felt instantaneous, the fear lifted and I was left with the innate wisdom, that each of us is born with, that reminds me who I am, what I know and what I need.
A calm set in and I could breathe deeply again. I remembered that I believe our deepest desires are divine and that I already have everything I need to fulfill mine, just as you do. I remembered that I am not in this alone and some divine force is rooting for me and helping me along the way, that at times I cannot hear nor see it, and other times it shows up through my support, my community and in you.
Upon receiving this assignment, I wanted to write about how I have overcome so much to accomplish the things that I have. I wanted to inspire and encourage with the stories of how I changed my life from one I dreaded waking up to, to a life I love showing up for, even on days like the last six. I could not though, every time I tried to write those stories, this was the experience that kept screaming to be told.
The story of how fear grips me at times. The story of how “living authentically” scares the shit out of me even though it is what I desire most and know that it is the best gift I can give myself, the people I love, and the world. I also remember, that there is intelligence in our desires and that good will come from leaning into them as well, and so, I am writing that story that screamed to be told.
How does fear grip you, and in what area of your life? How have you or are you working to move through it and transform it?
I am a believer in the power of community and the concept of The Village. I enjoy connecting with people. I think we encourage and inspire others through the ripples that flow from our courageous acts of authenticity. I would love to hear from those of you who want to share your own experience with fear or your acts of courageous authenticity.
Authors note; my father died in 2008. My mother and I nursed him through a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer. Although he was never able to get specific on what he was apologizing for, he did apologize on a couple of occasions for “Handling my childhood wrong, and for being hard to me”; his words.
His version of an apology didn’t erase my history, nor release me from the work I had to do to recover, however, it still provided me with some healing and important validation.
When you are mistreated, and no one responds, again and again, you begin to think the problem is you, and after so many years you even wonder if you imagined it, and eventually you start to question your sanity. His acknowledgment that all was not well during my childhood was an important piece in my recovery.
My mother’s current health is poor, and she recently moved in with me. I wanted to read this piece to her before I submitted it for publication. Afterward, I asked her how she felt about it? If she thought it was fair and accurate? Did the paragraph that includes her, hurt her? “The only thing that hurts me and I see as unfair, is that I didn’t protect you.” Another piece of healing has just occurred for each of us. My parents had horrific abuse in their childhood as well. I do not excuse their behavior, but I do think they did their best.
Their best was shit, and it didn’t meet the needs of their children, but, and unfortunately so, it was their best. Understanding this frees me from taking any of their treatment personally. I left my mother at 15 years of age, so we are just getting to know one another again and more honestly than when I was a child. We are working through our history together, growing together and learning to live together in a loving, respectful and healthy way. I have worked hard to get to this place.
Photo: Flickr/ Kristof Magyar