"Fear is here!" says my mother or father in the middle of an argument or an upset, and like magic a tension breaks. What felt like anger or hurt melts as these three little words in a row bring a ray of lightness and truth to the F.E.A.R., or False Evidence Appearing Real.
Whenever I'm acting less than loving I can always trace it back to fear. I know I'm not the only one who, when frightened, lashes out. I see it in my loving cats. They're brother and sister and they play and cuddle and normally are so loving to each other. But when there's a thunderstorm or they're both sharing the same crate for a trip to the vet... watch out! These loving animals turn into dangerous monsters with sharp claws and skin-splitting teeth. It's not that they're not still loving beings, it's that "Fear is here!" And when they are in fear I've learned to lower and soften my voice, keep a distance, allow them their space and their fear and simply stay calm, reassuring and loving. It doesn't take long for the cats to settle down and for them to allow me to share a loving touch.
The same is true with people. When "fear is here," we lash out and act in non-loving ways, and we also need our space and can be calmed down by a soothing, loving voice. Yet we've got one thing more than my cats seem to have, and that's the ability to laugh at ourselves and pop instantly out of our illusions.
The phrase "Fear is here" has been just that type of release for my entire family. I've watched it defuse an ugly argument. I've watched it slow down the sometimes-automatic response of anger and help us all break free from old patterns of reaction to hurt and pain.
I've even spoken this phrase out loud when I've been alone, and it's helped. For instance, a couple of years ago I found myself on a ropes course, pushing way beyond the boundaries of my own comfort zone. I had climbed a telephone pole and was standing at the very top, face to face with my fear of heights. As I felt the pole shifting below me in the wind and watched the horizon sway and my balance rock, I said below my breath, "Fear is here." With those words I found my balance and then, as instructed, dove off the pole and a team of people belayed me to safety. I was wearing a harness, a team of people was watching out for me, and at no time was I truly in danger... but at the top of that pole, the false evidence of danger was appearing very real, and had I not broken that train of sabotaging negative thoughts in my head, I never would have found my balance.
I've come to believe that who I really am is safe no matter what the circumstances. It's a powerful core belief that, like the honesty of acknowledging the presence of fear, keeps me sane. Yet fear has a very seductive power. We can see this in our children at Halloween. It is both the scariest day of the year and the most fun day of the year for many children. I think that deep inside we do enjoy scaring ourselves. We enjoy playing with terror and horror. Look at how popular scary movies are, and roller coasters and haunted houses. We crave the feeling of fear because of the opportunity to ride its rush and remember that we're indeed safe.
Have you ever noticed that excitement and terror create the same feelings in the body? The challenge comes when we forget, when we get so caught up in the fear that we don't remember it's not real. When we forget that we've got a harness on or that there's a safety net, and the fear leads to an unloving action. It's in this moment that someone who loves us can simply and kindly say from their heart, "Fear is here," and we might just drop it, let go, find our balance, and laugh.
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