The part of me that is afraid is telling me a story that says I can’t handle the pain if pain happens.
I believe that story.
When Fear cries out, I turn to her with my attention. I coo to her, coddle her, tell her everything will be alright. I try to calm her. And, seeing she has my attention, like any bright baby she cries louder. She demands my full-on love. She rises in power and tells me a story that says I cannot get back to Now from here, so I might as well give in. She acts like it’s already happened, and I believe her.
Does she notice that I turn to her only with reluctance and aversion? Does she realize that I am afraid of Fear, that I resent her intrusion on this moment? Yes. She notices. And she resents me for it, because she’s only trying to protect me.
So she grows her power more. She tells me a story in which she and I are one, where her Fear is my Fear and my attention cannot stay with Now, it must stay with Then, where the Fear was created, so she can continue to exist, so she can stay strong to protect that part of me that I created her to protect.
She ruins everything.
She ruins everything.
But she’s doing her best.
So, the thing I do with Fear is to be kind and firm.
Fear is like a very loyal dog. She will keep that tender part of me safe, even if it means barking like a maniac at every squirrel that runs by. But she’s forgotten that I’m the human and she’s the dog. She thinks she has to run the pack, and it’s beyond her capabilities. She needs to know that I’m strong now, that I’m ready to lead.
I must be firm. Kind, and Firm. Don’t let her bite me, don’t let her jump and knock me over, don’t let her growl at my friends. Train her with love and kindness to protect appropriately, and otherwise, chill out. When she comes whining for attention at moments I’d rather stay happy, I pet her on the head and tell her firmly to go lie on her blanket quietly.
At first, it was hard to get her to back off. It felt like failing when I had to give her the attention it took to lure her back to her corner, calm her. But over time, the process tightened up, she knew what to expect, I got more confident in my delivery. Now, I tell her to go to her corner and Stay! And she does. Because she trusts me to handle whatever might happen, and to know whether Now is dangerous or wonderful or something in between. And I trust her – because she's not jumping at every little thing, when she raises her hackles, I pay more attention to what’s happening Now.
At first it felt like I was going nowhere, but it didn't matter. That time was going by, and I could either try to train her, or let her rule my life in the false delusion that she is in charge and I am the trained animal. Every day, I try.
There are lots of ways to train our Fear, once we know her for the loving protector she is.