You and I know this feeling very well and often run away from it. We sense it in our throats, sometimes our chests and sometimes our shoulders. When we feel it, our instinctual response is to turn around and run away from whatever is causing this feeling. As living creatures, this feeling is one of our greatest teachers. It can teach us discernment, it can sharpen our moral compass and even show us where we need to move forward.
The feeling I’m referring to is fear. When we feel it, we instinctually want to run away. Like when we were kids, we were encouraged by our mothers and fathers to turn the other way when we felt fear. Fear is an instinctual response that has kept us alive for, well, up until now. Fear has served us well, letting us know when predators are approching and when we are lacking vital necessities, like food and shelter.
Perhaps, though, not all fear can be treated equal. Perhaps, the fear that we were once trained to run from isn’t the same kind we should embrace and move towards. But is there such a thing as fear that’s worth moving towards? Am I supposed to tell my kids not to run away from a stranger who’s coming towards them? No, of course not. In that situation, there is an actual threat. That’s the kind of fear that’s worth running away from. But what about the other kind of fear, the kind that arises when we do something different, when we change a pattern or have the opportunity to go deeper into something. For example, going deeper into ourselves. This piece of writing is just as much for you, the reader, as it is for me, the writer. I notice how often I feel fear and how easy it is to be controlled by my instinctual response to it. Sometimes, I run in the other direction before I differentiate which fear is present. When I ask which fear is present, I realize I’m often dealing with the kind that is showing me where I need to move forward. Fear was what made me realize I needed to let that relationship go. Fear was the feeling that told me to leave Portland to travel to Peru. Fear was the feeling that encouraged me to go on that date. Now, fear is what’s telling me to go deeper into myself. So, perhaps, it’s not a matter of asking if we feel afraid, but about which kind of fear we’re dealing with. If we treated fear like a tool, one that shows us where to go, perhaps we could change our reaction to it and more easily go where we needed to. Instead of fleeing from everything that scares us, we could use fear as an indicator for change. We could celebrate when fear arrives to show us where to go.
~ Emilie Skladzien ~