“The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.” – Henry Miller

Fear can be so incredibly powerful. Have you noticed? It makes us doubt our gifts, squash our creativity, and leave our dreams unfulfilled. If you ask me, that’s no way to live.

I have been studying fear for years, and here is what I have learned. You can’t beat it, overcome it, ignore it, suppress it, or deny it. Push fear away or pretend it doesn’t exist, and all you get is more of the familiar effects of fear – limitation, confusion, and disappointment in yourself.

The only sustainable, intelligent way to deal with fear is to take away its power. How to do that? By making fear your friend. Make the radical choice to turn and meet your fear.

Making Fear Your Friend

It may sound counterintuitive, but here is how it works. Resisting fear empowers it. Fear that is not fully seen creeps into your mind and takes over your body. But giving it your full, open, loving attention brings it out of the shadows.

Once you learn to recognize how fear drives your choices, you can choose differently by letting aliveness, enthusiasm, wholeness, and love guide you. It’s the end of the small fear-fueled self and the beginning of truly living.

Become familiar with fear in all its faces. Make a lifestyle of studying it. Learn to recognize how it clouds your judgment and convinces you that you are not your brilliant, magnificent self.

Become an expert in your fear, and it will lose its power over you. Make it your friend for all time, and your life will begin to sing its own, unique, beautiful song.

The Body of Fear

Some of us come into the world with a body inclined toward fear. You might be prone to feeling tension, anxiety, and inner agitation.

Make a practice of getting to know these physical sensations. Then you will be able to recognize the seed of fear starting to take hold. From the most loving place inside you, bring your attention right into the tense and contracted places. Don’t analyze them or push them away. Simply feel and breathe, feel and breathe.

Know that these are just physical sensations. No need to create a story around them or let them guide your decisions. Simply notice them, then move on with the business of living your beautiful life.

Take good care of your fear-prone body by exercising, doing yoga, practicing deep breathing, walking in nature, and meditating. Be a kind host, even if fear is visiting. Know that place of essential wholeness in you that has never been touched by fear, and live from there.

The Mind of Fear

Fearful thoughts are all about “no.” They tell us that we can’t, shouldn’t, aren’t capable of. They convince us we will be judged, rejected, or abandoned if we express our true heart’s desire. They make our minds spin endlessly with worry. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • I can’t disappoint him/her.
  • I might fail.
  • I doubt if I can do it.
  • I might get overwhelmed.
  • I will have to work too hard.
  • I know they will disapprove.
  • What if I am criticized.
  • I will be outside my comfort zone.
  • What if it gets difficult.
  • I don’t know how to start.
  • I’m scared, I’m scared, I’m scared.

These thoughts weave a familiar web that leaves you frustrated and unable to change. But none of them is your true voice.

Here is how fearful thoughts work. They pretend they know what the future will bring, and they assume only negative outcomes.

What is actually true about the future? You don’t know. You don’t know if you will fail or feel overwhelmed. But your fear-fueled mind persuades you that you will. And if you believe these thoughts, no wonder fear paralyzes you.

What if what actually happens is amazing beyond your wildest dreams? What if you let yourself stay with the truth – that you don’t know what the future will bring – and allow life to unfold naturally?

Why go one more second believing limited thoughts with dismal outcomes that aren’t even true? Here is the medicine for your fear-fueled thoughts.

  • Pay attention to your mind so you can learn how it works. Become an expert in recognizing your fear-driven thoughts.
  • Take the intelligent approach. Don’t believe them. Realize what is actually true – that you don’t know what the future will bring.
  • Feel the freedom of being released from a gloomy future that hasn’t even happened yet. Life is now full of possibility. Can you feel it?

The Courage to Act

Now, you understand how essential it is to befriend your fear.

  • You know how fear shows up in your body.
  • You see how fear invades your mind.

This is where the rubber meets the road. The choice is yours. With fear no longer driving you, what do you really want? What do you want your life to be about?

Harness the power of fear by knowing it fully. Then find your true voice – the one that is alive inside you, the one that can’t be squelched no matter how afraid you think you are. And, when you are ready, step out and sing a note of your glorious song.

How has fear held you back? How have you learned to work with it? I’d love to hear…

Photo by Kevin Tiqui

Gail Brenner

Gail Brenner, Ph.D. is a psychologist and author who joyfully shares insights about discovering that suffering is optional. Find more from Gail at her blog, GailBrenner.com and on Twitter. Her work offers a bridge between psychology and spiritual understanding and brings clear seeing and compassion to everyday human challenges. She is the author of the forthcoming book, "The Way of Yes: Finding Peace and Happiness Right at the Heart of Your Messy, Scary, Brilliant Life."

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