Befriend your fear and invite it to join you

When I was in my 20s, I was in a relationship with a singer-songwriter musician. He wrote a few songs for me, some to me, but there was one song he wrote about me. He called it “Fearless”. When he told me, I thought, “Wow, he really doesn’t know me at all. I live in a constant state of anxiety and fear.” But he saw me differently than I saw myself at the time.

I was with him through a significant part of his life’s journey as a performer. What started being just him in his basement bedroom with a guitar progressed to late nights in a recording studio with a producer and his band, then onto an arena stage singing in front of 20,000 ardent fans. What most people wouldn’t have guessed from his persona was that he was wracked with fear throughout all of it.

It is not uncommon for someone involved in that glitz and glam scene to lose touch with what’s real. And because a musician’s work is so intertwined with the adoration of others, they can also lose connection with themselves. What my then partner appreciated about me was my ability to stay grounded and true to myself while living in the midst of that frenetic and adulatory industry. I think he feared losing himself in it. I’m not going to pretend that in my 20s I had some handle on fear, but looking back on my younger self, I can see what he saw. But just because he perceived me as fearless, certainly does not mean I was. Plus, I had not yet taken any steps to put myself in front of a crowd.


From foe to friend

Fear and I have been in a close relationship since I was young, though I did not see it as an ally in my earlier years. I had always been an anxious teenager and in my 30s when my anxiety was at its peak, I struggled with crippling panic attacks. I could experience as many as 20 or more in a single day. At its worst, I remember one morning standing with my feet glued to the sidewalk at a crosswalk while on my way to my “ninth floor corporate job”. My mind was convinced that if I crossed the street, I was going to die. I stood there for 45 minutes, my heart pounding so loudly in my ears I couldn’t even hear the rush-hour traffic. When I finally forced myself to move, I broke into a shuffled run. Once I arrived at the office building, I slipped passed colleagues chatting in the lobby and hurried to the elevator. The doors slid open. I couldn’t get in. So I dashed up those nine flights of stairs. I emerged from the stairwell sweaty and pale, but instead of making my way to my desk, I beelined to the washroom to hide. Yeah, it was bad.

You would think after 23 years, I would find this story funny. I still don’t. For sure, I can laugh at myself for how ridiculous my behaviour was, but I have so much compassion for the struggle I endured. Back then, it took me several years to understand both the physiology and psychology of what was happening, and even longer to learn how to befriend my fear.

Through experience and self-awareness, eventually what became evident was that my panic was the consequence of me not allowing myself to feel fear. This might seem contradictory, but panic and fear are not the same beast. Fear is the mind’s natural response to a threat, whether perceived or real. Panic is the resistance to having the embodied experience of our fear. Whenever I felt the early sensations of fear rising in my body, instead of welcoming it, I would shove it back down into the darkness where I didn’t have to look at it. So my mind gave rise to panic instead. My panic was an effective way of distracting myself from what I didn’t want to face. Sneaky, right? The mind is so cunning. Eventually I got smart to my mind’s shenanigans and figured out that to prevent my fear from escalating to panic, I had to allow myself to fully receive the fear in my whole being.

To prevent my fear from escalating to panic, I had to allow myself to fully receive the fear in my whole being.

When I finally started to invite fear instead of banishing it, I discovered something useful. I learned I had a fear of desire, meaning I dreaded the sensation of life-force energy flowing through my body. In other words, I resisted the feeling of being fully alive. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Well, it is. And it isn’t. Many people I work with now struggle with something similar. When we open ourselves to receiving creative life-force energy, our body’s nervous systems must acclimate to streaming ever-increasing amounts of energy. This is not easy, especially in current times when, as we enter the new paradigm, energies are running faster and higher than ever before. Taken to the extreme, some even fear their own obliteration. It turns out my panic attacks were a training ground to learn how to expand my capacity to receive and flow energy.

To accept that it was safe to be in my body and open to more energy wasn’t an overnight feat, it happened incrementally. I had to:

  • Reintegrate disassociated aspects of myself 
  • Rebuild trust with my body’s signs and signals
  • Repattern my mind from thinking energy to be “scary” to it being “natural”, and furthermore, to being “vital”

Having had this experience is essential to the work I do now. I know firsthand the subtle tricks we use in an attempt to bypass fear.


Your fear is real, in a way

Throughout the process of creating our inspired work, we will bump up against our fear. It becomes even more acute when we begin putting our work out into the world. People will tell me they are haunted by thoughts of being rejected, abandoned, humiliated, or judged by others. And I believe them, their fear feels real. However, it’s not based in their current reality. It’s a story of what might be. Most fear is developed because of an association with a past event. We then project our past onto our future and believe the threat is real.

Every person has their own unique fear imprint and it shows up in a multitude of ways. I’ve heard worries as varied as the people I work with, such as:

  • Exchanging the comfort of their job for the discomfort of the unknown and then disappearing into nothingness
  • Being ostracized by their peers or their family for defying convention
  • Proving themselves “right” that they are worthless and have nothing of value to offer the world
  • Being perceived as “woo-woo” or “flaky”
  • Causing harm in another’s life
  • Not surviving a financial loss
  • Being accused of plagiarizing someone else’s work
  • Leaving this lifetime never having fulfilled their life’s purpose

The list goes on. And there are deeper layers to all these fears. But instead of allowing themselves to feel them, most people will berate themselves and either try to “conquer“ or “overcome” their fear. But our fear actually serves a noble purpose in our lives – its role is to keep us safe. However, if we don’t acknowledge our fear’s intention, what was intended as protection will eventually become a prison.

Our fear serves a noble purpose in our lives – its role is to keep us safe.

The real reason why most people don’t move forward with bringing their work into the world is not because they are afraid, but because they want to wait until the fear “goes away” before they take action. So they wait. They study more. Or they seek therapy, believing something to be “wrong with them”. The sad story is if they wait until the fear disappears, they are going to die before their work ever lives.


There’s no such thing as “fearless”

It’s not a coincidence my work now centres around the idea of “inspiration”, which is the flow of creative life-force energy through our bodies into the world. I teach people how to tap into their own creative capacity and use it to bring their work to life. My own fear had been trying to help me learn how to do this from an early age, but my panic attacks delayed my tutelage. If I had paid attention to fear sooner, I may have been able to prevent so much suffering in my life, and perhaps in the lives of others.

What I offer now from my own real-life experience is a simple practice to help build a mutually beneficial relationship with fear.

Four practices to befriending fear:

  1. Breathe it in. Open to the sensations in your body. Feel its location, its intensity, its shape, its colour.
  2. Allow it to be. Meet it without resistance. Look it in the eye. Welcome it closer to you.
  3. Honour its service. Acknowledge it wants to keep you safe. Find out what it wants you to know. Understand how it’s trying to protect you. Thank it for its insights.
  4. Assign it a new role. Advise it how to be in service to you. Give it a task so that it can fulfill its intention.

The fourth practice is key to having your fear serve you. Let it be part of your journey. Give it something to do that helps it fulfill its role as a protector. You might be pleasantly surprised by the good it can bring to your life and how it may inform your inspired work.

Now with my work, I am putting myself onto a stage. Not one with 20,000 screaming fans, mind you, but it’s vulnerable nonetheless. I still don’t perceive myself as “fearless”. I don’t believe there is such a thing. What I do believe is that we can harness fear to access the greatest good in ourselves and in others. If we invite fear to be our friend, it can actually become in service to us all.


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