Imagine being able to master your fears and experiencing a deep sense of personal freedom. It is possible for us all. In this article we take a look at fear – we aim to understand fear more deeply and describe the path towards mastery. Be warned, the path is not easy, but if you can remember what it was like to live with freedom (many of us have this experience during your childhood, teenage years or early twenties) the potential rewards are tremendous!!
So how can we understand fear more deeply? Firstly we must understand what fear actually is. Fear is really an energetic state. It feels uncomfortable and can make do irrational things and hold us back from what we want in life. However, it can also keep us safe and help us to avoid danger.
There is healthy fear and unhealthy fear – healthy fear can be thought of as something that relates to the here and now, fear of something physical in the moment. We can accept a little healthy fear, for example fear of falling or fear of burning ourselves with fire because these keep us safe. Unhealthy fear is when we have a fear of something based in the future and this type of fear is the key type that needs to be mastered if you want to live a life of personal freedom.
The set of unhealthy fears that can hold us back the most in life are all social fears. Social fears are not real, nor linked with here and now – they are imagined. They include:
- Fear of abandonment or rejection
- Fear of letting others down
- Fear of humiliation or being exposed
- Fear of not being good enough
Social fears are linked to pleasing other people because only once others are happy, (or once they like or love us) we can be happy. These fears can have a huge impact on our intimate and family relationships. For the fear to go away there must be a guarantee that others will be happy. Of course, there are never any guarantees and as soon as others disapprove of us fear arises. Hence an underlying fear remains and can easily become part of our life.
This type of fear can also lead us to postponing our own happiness because the happiness of others is prioritised. We justify our approach by telling ourselves that helping others is the only way to remain happy. However, we subtly pass on all the responsibility for our happiness to others. By postponing our happiness we also find it easy to postpone our lives. This then creates the fear that we will never really be fulfilled.
How to become the master of fear
To break the chain of unhealthy fear there are two levels to master. Firstly you must master courage and secondly you must master faith. The path to mastery of fear starts with courage.
In our “Finding the Authentic You” workshop at the retreat we work at finding courage to face our fears. We discover how one of the most effective way to get rid of the fear is to go out and do the thing you fear the most. We also discuss how pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from helplessness and paralysis of being controlled by fear. We see that if everybody feels fear when approaching something totally new in life, yet so many are out there “doing it” despite the fear we must conclude that fear is not the problem. We see that the real problem is lack of courage.
Most people incorrectly believe that to be courageous they must first make the fear go away. However, courage is not the obliteration of fear – it is the ability to take action in the presence of fear. When we see people doing something that we fear, we often incorrectly conclude that the person has no fear. In reality, what we see with others is the final result and when we compare ourselves we feel we come up short. However, when we are seeing others in this way we miss their training – we miss the time it has taken for them to develop their courage. Only once you are able to face your fears can positive courageous action be taken. Only once courage has been developed will fear start to lose its grip.
So if you think that fear is holding you back, our best advice is to face it. You may want to start just by being honest with yourself, just acknowledge that it is there. Your first goal should be to develop courage. What you do is not the most important thing – just do anything that will start developing your courage.
The second step to mastering fear is faith. At the La Crisalida workshop Having Faith (Letting Go) we define faith as “trusting in the unknown”. Faith follows courage because it takes courage to have faith in the unknown, trusting that all is well and that we are safe. The future is unknown and faith is the antidote to fear of the future. Faith in yourself is an antidote to social fear and faith in life is an antidote to other unhealthy fears. Here are a few suggested exercises to develop your faith:
- Practice being yourself, particularly in situations where you might feel uncomfortable. For example join a public speaking club or practice this in other social situations. Trust that you’re going to be ok and if you feel uncomfortable, practice being centred (you can focus on your breath to help) – practice trusting just yourself, focus on keeping in touch with your inner resources with no support or encouragement from anyone else.
- Practice trusting in life. Meditate on the possibility that life is there to support our highest good and consider all the ways that life supports you. Meditate on your connection to others and to life. Practice connecting with life as though it is friendly and supportive. Focus deeply on being grateful for your body and on accepting your life as something special.
Finally, if fear stops you doing what you want to do in your life and you are not able to attend the workshops at the retreat, there is a book we recommend for our guests interested in developing more courage. The book is entitled “Feel the Fear….and Do It Anyway” and is written by Susan Jeffers. This book helps us understand our own fear and enables us to see that finding the courage to overcome our fear is the first step to liberation.
We hope this article has helped you understand your fears a little more and given you a path to move forward if you need it. Good luck with your practice.