When it comes to how we live our lives, we won’t get very far without feeling our fear. It might be different levels of fear depending on our experiences, but we are all going to have it. And while most people understand this intellectually, it is not really understood. It isn’t understood by the whole self. And that is by design: the trauma’s design. We have a built-in fear response and it does a great job when we are being chased by a bear. We shut down the cognitive mind and operate from our “lizard brain”. We react from adrenaline because we need to. There is no time to think. But when we experience repeated trauma, this gets a bit stuck. It doesn’t mean we don’t think. But almost anything we experience that reminds us of our trauma will be met with this response. And this response isn’t controlled by the mind. The fear kicks in. We respond. That’s it.
Unfortunately, this can cause us to make all of our decisions from fear. Our entire lives can operate from how we can best remain safe. We are living to stay alive. And sometimes, that is all. We will make decisions to spend the least amount of money. We will ensure we have approval instead of speaking our minds. We will refuse to take a step toward our purpose because it might end in failure (or worse). We will struggle to step out of our routine because the familiar, even the bad familiar, is better than what we don’t know. And I’ll be honest. This is no way to live. It is easy (if you don’t take into account the inner pain), but it is not worth it. But to live differently, we have to become aware of our fears, listen to our fears and overcome our fears. We have to stop letting them run our lives. And that may be the hardest work there is. But one of the most powerful steps we can take is to understand the messages behind our fears. These come from childhood and while they can be convincing in the moment, they are not often based on our current adult reality. Let’s discuss some examples.
I need to wait for permission. When we live through trauma as children, we learn not to trust our instincts. We stop listening to our innate wisdom because we are gas-lighted out of believing it. Our emotions are wrong. Our memories are wrong. Our decisions about what to do next are wrong. We learn that our judgment is not just wrong, but dangerous. We begin to rely heavily on others to tell us what is the truth and what isn’t. So when we reach adulthood, we will struggle to make decisions without the approval of other people. In reality, we can move forward on most decisions without the input or approval of one other person. Sometimes, the least approved ideas are the right ones.
I need to wait until I am ready. I used to think that when it was time to do things, I would feel ready. I used to think there would be no fear left when it was time to take that step. But I have come to understand that thinking as a defense created by the fear of taking any risks. Sometimes the only way to reach our inner resistance is to take a small step forward. If we take the time to process the resistance that comes up with each step, we will be able to move forward toward our goals and break through the fear which was often disguised under the surface.
I need to wait until it is easy. There is a popular concept in the self-help world that says we will know our path because it will be easy. It will flow. It will feel like home. While there is some truth to that, it can be highly misinterpreted by our fearful defenders who want to stop taking risks. In reality, there will be more obstacles in the way of our purpose. Our childhood abusers will often target our biggest strengths to make sure we don’t develop the confidence to fight back. So our strengths are hindered under a pile of resistance (fear) and we have to travel through it. That doesn’t mean our purpose isn’t easy. If we are artists, we will find it easy to create. If we are writers, we will find it easy to express verbally. But to take our purpose to the level it is meant to be, there will be obstacles. Don’t let them stop you.
Take some time to understand how you are being ruled by your fear. What does it tell you? How does it convince you this isn’t the time to move forward with your plans? Let it express. But don’t let it be the only voice running the show. Pick a step. Take the step. Do the thing you have been putting off because it was too scary. You will have to push through inner and outer obstacles. It will take longer than you thought. But don’t give up. You deserve to live life on the other side of these fears. You are meant to be more.