I spent the past month with my family who was visiting me during my travels in Barbados. My nephew is currently 6 years old and a beautiful mirror to how humans could operate before they get moulded by society’s standards.
My sister is a great mum. Like most parents, she wants the best for her kid and she is doing the best she can with the knowledge she has. I overheard her the other evening telling my nephew that it is okay to show fear, and I loved that. She was validating his feelings as well as letting him know that there is no reason to be ashamed of being afraid. He has a lot of fears, and like many children, most of them are pretty irrational and can be quite annoying (like checking for the hundredth time if the tsunami reaches us in our accommodation).
But these are not my fears–they are his and there is no need to judge them. I have my own fears he may find quite ridiculous. The way to get rid of fears is not by telling him (or yourself) “Don’t be afraid” or, “There’s no need to be afraid.” Rather, it’s about trust in himself (yourself), knowing you can handle whatever that scary thing is.
The first step to building that trust is regulation. Can you sit with your fear? It is sure one of the most uncomfortable sensations in the body. It is visceral and makes you feel helpless, out of control. So, what can we do about it?
You can take a deep breath and ride the wave of the emotion of fear by relaxing into it. The more you push and the more you tense up, the harder it gets. (If you practice yin yoga, you know this all too well!).
It is all about accepting the feeling of fear without judging it or being ashamed of it. Just allow it to be there and welcome it. This kind of loving acceptance is something a good parent can provide when you are a child, just as my sister did. But as we grow up, this is something that we need to learn to do for ourselves.
Ease the sensations of fear by exhaling/sighing out through the mouth or by shaking it off – literally shaking your body. If you feel unsafe, you can bring yourself back into the present moment by feeling into very specific body parts (really specific- like your left big toe) or by bringing your awareness to your environment. (For example, pick 4 blue things you can see right now.)
The next step is acknowledging that fear without judging it: Yep, it is there. Yep, I am afraid of the tsunami/meeting new people/heights.
The last step is to work towards overcoming that fear not by invalidating it but by building self-esteem. Self-esteem is developed by doing esteemed acts. That is a long process and something that requires practice and consistency.
If you need more information on the regulation part of the practice, the latest offering in the School of Emotions focuses on emotional regulation and can give you more detailed tips and tools to handle the difficult sensations of being triggered or experiencing a difficult feeling.
Don’t forget to get in touch with us here at Centrd Life if you need help with feeling your feelings. We have free toolkits as well monthly workshops to help you navigate all your emotions. We’re here to help you find your centre.