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Should you just want to, or be able to, "Let go of fear"? I'm a hard no on that and here's why and what to do instead.
“Let go of fear.”
I was listening to a talk this last week, and the woman repeatedly said, “Let go of fear.”
Here is a live stream of my response as I was listening:
This is such a common refrain in personal development. As a coach and healer that uses active imagination, energy work, and internal family systems to help clients address resistance, fear, and other powerful responses to life, I wholeheartedly disagree.
Be driven by fear? No.
Be overwhelmed by fear? No.
Let go of fear? Also a no.
I don’t want to let go of fear and neither do you.
Fear is an incredibly important aspect of our physiological evolutionary wisdom - it keeps us safe. We really do not want to let go of fear. I understand that when people say things like, “Let go of fear” they are referring to the flavor of fear that keeps humans from taking risks, from doing new things, or speaking up, or doing any number of things where there’s a chance we will fail, be criticized, or (at least for me) not be perfect from the get-go.
What if we were to move toward our fear?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent a lot of my adult life learning how to truly be on my own side. To be honest. To trust myself. To be exquisitely kind to myself. But trying to deny or get rid of fear (or any emotion for that matter) is the ultimate reinforcement that I’m not enough, that I should be different, and that I am not lovable.
And listen - that is not true for me, nor is it true for you.
I recognize that it is almost a national sport to be stoic, to be positive, and to avoid admitting, feeling, or expressing what are considered to be “negative” emotions. However, some of the most important work we can do is to learn how to move toward and welcome all of our emotions, including fear, because all of our emotions contain deep wisdom - I particularly love how internal family systems dovetails with the way that energetic and shamanic practices work with emotions and parts of self. This is how I work with emotions, resistance, or (as they refer to them in Internal Family Systems) parts of self in my daily meditation to work with what is alive in the moment.
Working with the stuff you’d rather not
Breathe, sister. What do you notice in your body? Can you name the sensations and how the emotion move (or get stuck) in the body? No judgement, just noticing and the breath. You may want to gently place a hand over your heart.
Bring spacious presence to the emotion. Can you give the emotion and sensation space? If you invite it to reveal itself to you, what do you see or perhaps sense or hear? Can you ask this emotion or sensation (however you experience it) to give you some space so you can give it your full attention? Please remember - this is not about “getting rid” of the emotion - it’s part of you and your experience! It’s about welcoming and working with, not fighting against.
Invite the emotion to share its wisdom. How is this emotion trying to support you and help you? Our facets of self (such as emotions) are always working hard for us - perhaps in ways that are not at all helpful, but they are tireless advocates for our highest good. This is an opportunity to listen and really understand how the emotion is working on your behalf.
Compassion and appreciation. Can you locate genuine compassion and appreciation for how hard this emotion works to protect you or get you what you want (on some level)? If you can access it, pour on the love, the compassion, and the appreciation. Notice what happens to the emotion when it is recognized in this way.
Ask for what you need. Hey, you know that fear is trying to protect you but show the fear the way ahead. Affirm that you will listen to it, but that You’ve got this. You are safe. It’s okay.
Follow up often. Keep coming back to your emotional landscape. Listen as needed, but know that you - your highest, wisest self (the part of you that can love and cherish the hard work of these emotions) is leading. Keep reminding (without railroading) the fear, the grief, the resistance (whatever it is) that you hear the wisdom, that you appreciate their work, and you are moving in a new direction.
This is the inner work of wholeness and clarity.
It is this level of working with my inner landscape somatically, energetically, and psychologically via active imagination that has created so much clarity, peace, and freedom. I want that for you, too.
So instead of ,“Let go of fear” I say, welcome the fear. Tend the facets of you that are asking for your loving attention and see what changes.
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