Fear Revisited

This is not the first time I’ve written about this subject, and it won’t be the last.

I hear a lot in spiritual communities that we were taught fear.

That is not an innate emotion, but rather something foisted upon us by our family and society.

I could not disagree more. 

Respectfully, as I understand what they’re trying to get at.

Fear is our most basic survival instinct.

A baby is born in fear, confusion, hope, and trust.

A baby has no context for what is happening to them as they make their exit from the womb.

They are afraid, because it is normal to be scared of something we don’t understand.

Their entire lived experience until the point of labor has been warm, wet, and dark. 

Filled with the sounds of their host’s heartbeat and breathing. The rush of the sound of blood making its way through the womb owner’s body. 

The smell of their womb owner is all they’ve ever known.

Their womb owner’s voice is the one they know best. It is safe. It is home. 

One day, pressure builds and releases. 

Builds and releases over and over again as they are pushed farther and farther down the birth canal.

Until finally they are pushed out into the loud. Into the cold. Into the dry. Into the so very bright.

Into hands that have no smell, and they hear sounds and voices that are so unfamiliar.

And so, they cry.

That cry is an act of hope and trust.

That cry is them shouting with all of their tiny might “I am here. I don’t understand. I am afraid. I am cold. I am not safe. Please help me.”

Fear is second nature to us. It is why we are still here.

The fearless die too soon, while the fearful survive and create the next generation.

There is nothing wrong with fear itself.

But fear is, well, fearful.

It sees danger everywhere.

Fear loves you, but it can be a toxic love.

It is a love that doesn’t understand growth and change.

Fear doesn’t trust easily so it likes to try to control.

It wants you to survive so it tells you all the risks, all the pitfalls, all the worst case scenarios for everything you reach for in the hopes that you’ll see things as it sees them and fall back to the safety of the known.

It is still the newborn baby, desperate to be held, to be safe, to go back to how things were.

Do we punish babies for their fear? For their lack of understanding of the new world they find themselves in?

I mean, yes, we do. That’s exactly what cry it out, feeding schedules, and “self soothing” methods are; punishment with lipstick.*** 

But the correct answer should be no, of course not.

Because we know the baby doesn’t understand. They’re just doing what their instincts are telling them to do in order to survive.

So we love the baby. Soothe the baby. Show the baby they are safe. 

They are safe and everything will be ok as long as we’re here.

We don’t berate the baby. We don’t tell the baby to grow up. We don’t tell the baby they’re being ridiculous or pathetic.

We simply teach the baby they are safe.

Why can we not extend that same grace to ourselves?

Why do we as a society punish ourselves for our very natural reactions of self preservation?

It’s a perverse paradigm we have grown up in, but we have the power to shift it.

And it is shifting.

The toxicity is being called out in the open for what it is.

You know what happens when we do that?

We all become more brave.

Bravery is not the absence of fear – quite the opposite actually.

How can one be brave if one doesn’t experience fear?

Not possible.

Bravery is faith in oneself in spite of the fear.

And it is also an innate instinct. But one we must build like a muscle – much like a baby must practice rolling over, crawling, walking.

Until finally they can run. They can dance.

Bravery is no different.

We start with the smaller things.

Taking a new route to work. 

Fear says you’ll be late. You’ll be in an accident. You’ll get lost.

Trying a new food. 

Fear says it’ll be gross and you’re wasting your money.

Buying an item of clothing we love, but “could never pull off.” 

Fear tells you all the horrible things people will say about you for wearing it.

Yes, those things ARE all brave, because they can be scary.

Then we work up to the harder things. 

Setting and enforcing boundaries. 

Fear tells us everyone will leave (and at least one person probably will!)

Cutting toxic people out of our lives. 

Fear tells us we’ll be alone and bad company is better than no company. That no one could truly love us for us anyway, so why have standards?

Looking in the mirror and seeing who we truly are, seeing where we are toxic and deciding to do better. 

Fear tells us this is who we truly are. We cannot change. We do not deserve to.

Every time fear speaks up and we do the thing anyway – with love and gentleness – we are showing fear it is safe.

We are loving that newborn baby that doesn’t know any better.

One day, after thousands of these smaller acts of bravery, acts that we never really gave ourselves credit for, we find we’re different people.

We’re becoming who we always wanted to be.

We are not fearless.

We are brave.

***(This is not a judgement against you if you’ve used these methods. An expert told you they were the right things to do. The expert lied.)