During what felt like a particularly messy time of personal & spiritual growth for me a few years ago I kept wondering why it felt like things were just getting worse, instead of better. I felt like things were falling apart rather than healing and falling into place.
I kept asking my coach Gina, when will this be over? Shouldn’t I feel 100% happy and wonderful all the time now? I mean, I was meditating like it was my job, working to release judgment of myself and others, trying to face and overcome my fears....you get the drift. I was doing the work, but I still felt stuck.
She painted a great visual that has gotten me through many a day of doubt ever since, and when I thought about it recently it reminded me of the one big thing that has helped me face and heal my fears and kept me on the path to get to where I am today. And that thing is willingness.
When we're opening up and working on releasing and healing our fears it all depends on our willingness, and for me, it came down to being willing to do these three things...
1. Be Willing To Go Deep
During that messy time I mentioned, Gina told me to visualize a dirty pond that hadn’t been cleaned out in years and to think about what I was going through as the time when you’re dredging the bottom of the pond to bring all the trash and muck up to the surface so it can be removed.
And she also importantly reminded me to take a beat and reflect on how much progress I had made in those past few months getting from the "cleaning off the surface stage" to this deeper depth.
Thinking about it that way created such a strong visual for me that totally mirrored the process I was going through, and helped me remember that I was not doing all of this work to get somewhere, but rather to clear out the muck (aka fear) that was making me feel stuck where I was.
I also like to think of the importance of delving beneath the emotional surface in another way. Just because everything looks ok on the surface doesn't mean there isn't clutter underneath it all that you're telling yourself doesn't exist because no one else can see it.
It's kind of like if you’ve got stuff crammed in drawers and closets, but have convinced yourself that everyone will think your house is spotless and perfect because every surface is clean, while you know you're actually just hiding all of your clutter under a false veil of perfection (anyone remember when Monica’s secret junk closet was discovered on Friends?).
As we all know, cleaning off every surface in our house does not mean that your drawers are in KonMari method order. Amirite?
I say all this to remind you that the emotional stuff you may have been pushing down for years has to come up so you can get it out. If there were any other way, trust me, I would have found it by now.
You might be thinking, whatever, that’s not me. The old crap from the past I haven’t dealt with isn’t impacting me now. I’m fine.
The thing is, those feelings are likely not just resting quietly and not bothering anyone below the surface. Even if you can’t pinpoint exactly what they are right now, they need to be brought up to the surface so you can clean out your pond.
2. Be Willing To Witness Your Fear
Sometimes I forget just how powerful simply witnessing your fear can be. This is one of the main themes I’ve learned from studying and teaching the 40-day mindset shifting practice in Gabby Bernstein’s best-selling book May Cause Miracles and it is truly life changing.
And when I say "witness your fear" all I mean is to observe when your fears get triggered.
We can get tripped up thinking what we're feeling is all different kinds of things like anxiety, doubt or panic, but underneath all of that is fear and by witnessing it we can start to tell the difference between our intuitive and fearful voices.
Your fear voice looks at everything through the lens of judgment. Your fear voice does not want you to rise up, be great, or step in to your truth and confidence with conviction. Fear wants you to believe that its illusions are real.
The witnessing step is so important because if you think about how this plays out in life most of the time, the fear of judgment, rejection, criticism, the unknown, etc is usually more destructive than the actual judgment or rejection that may never even happen.
But we stress out our bodies and let our minds run wild playing out the false story of what might happen over and over again until it feels real. Our body thinks it's real and reacts and when that happens over and over again it's easy to see why you could feel panicked and anxious more often than not.
I mean, whenever I feel fear creep in my mouth runs dry, my heart races, and any eloquence I might have had expressing my thoughts out loud disappears. And that is just at the thought that something bad or uncomfortable might happen.
An acronym often used to talk about F.E.A.R. is False Evidence Appearing Real, which is spot on because even though we can sometimes fabricate fear in our minds we are definitely experiencing it as being real. But when you start to practice just witnessing it, the way you react and respond to those fears can shift dramatically because you can see them for what they really are.
If you acknowledge the impact fear has had and is having on your life you can begin to peel back the layers to figure out why it’s there in the first place. You can investigate why you believe the fear is real.
3. Be Willing To Feel Your Fear
I pushed my fear feelings down for years so I wouldn’t have to experience the crappy feeling of actually having to be with them. But that is like putting a bandage on a deep gash without even bothering to clean it out first and expecting it to heal infection free.
Think about when you were little and skinned your knee. It hurt like hell and then your mom or dad poured some hydrogen peroxide over and it hurt A LOT more, but by being brave enough to feel the sting and sit with it we’d end up with a cut that healed better than it would have if we'd just let it be.
If you transfer that analogy over to the emotional hurts and fears you've had in life it’s easy to recognize that those things are simply wounds that need to be healed.
If you’ve been pushing down any feelings that are uncomfortable, as most of us do, what you may not have learned is that you have to feel it to heal it. This is not the answer we want to hear most of the time, but it is true.
Everyone is different of course, but I've found that sitting with those fearful feelings for a while and letting them wash over me can often be the quickest way to hear what they're trying to tell me. I know the unconscious inclination many of us have is to numb the fear, to hide from it and push it down, but that just gives it strength and keeps it right below the surface.
When we feel what it feels like to be afraid and uncertain without pushing it away we give it the chance to flow through us, instead of giving it the power to keep us stuck and scared.
And if you make space for those thoughts and feelings to come up, you can also get them out of your head and reality check them.
The next time you feel fear rising up, try this practice I learned from Gabby. Sit in stillness for 90 seconds, breathe through the fear, and identify where the fear crops up in your body. Does your heart start to race or your neck start to hurt?
Next, put your hand on whatever part of your body is triggered by the fear and sit with it while you take long deep breaths and allow yourself to feel what comes up.
Simply observe your thoughts, notice how you feel, and take note of how you're speaking to yourself. What is your fear voice saying to you? Is it true?
This is a powerful, yet simple, practice because your only job is to sit with whatever emotions come up, breathe deeply in and out, and let the fear wash over you without running away from it. It always helps me to do 5-10 minutes of free-writing after I sit too.
Just let whatever comes up flow out on to the page. You don't have to show it to anyone else and you don't even have to read it if you don't want to. Just get it out.
What you'll come to see as you do this is that the voice telling you to be afraid because you're not good enough, not worthy, a huge failure, out of your league and so on is not actually your voice. It's fear speaking. And you have the choice whether you're going to listen to it and believe it, or hear it and choose a better thought.
I can speak from personal experience when I say that being willing to dive deep, witness, and feel my fear has totally transformed how I think about everything.
And I know if I hadn’t been willing to go deeper and face the fears hiding beneath the surface I wouldn’t have been able to bring them to the light.
I'd love to hear what you think too! Feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com and let me know any comments or questions you have.
And If you’re interested in going deeper and doing 1-on-1 coaching with me just click here for more details and you can also set up a FREE 20-minute consultation call so we can chat and make sure we'd be a good fit before you commit to anything.
I’ll also be doing a 6-week group coaching program online to take a small group through the the mindset makeover process in Gabby's book May Cause Miracles soon, so stay tuned for that!