One bold aspect of the shadow is fear. Beneath every conscious apprehension is a wellspring of subconscious fear. Each fear is like a small subpersonality inside of you demanding to be heard. One "fear-being" might chatter, "Don't go outside. It's raining. You'll catch a cold." Another might be constantly whimpering in your ear, "Don't fall in love. You know you'll get hurt. It's better to be alone than be hurt!" No wonder it's hard to move forward in life when you have all these frantic voices jamming your thoughts.
Each fear-being will act as if it needs attention, and as if, if you don't listen to it, terrible things could happen to you. When you allow fear-beings to dominate your life, you live in reaction rather than living by choice. Sometimes, even if you don't think that you have any fear, your life is still being dominated by it. For example, "stress" is just a codeword for fear. Anytime you're "stressed out," you have been listening to the fear-beings. If a woman is stressed out about not finishing her project on time, at a deeper level she's probably afraid of being rejected by her coworkers, of receiving a poor evaluation report, or of letting people down.
When you clutch your fears tight to your breast, suppressing them with bravado or denial, they become stronger. We cling so closely to our fears that they begin to become part of our identity. It becomes scary to let them go because it can feel like part of us is dying. We hold our fears captive and even justify them, declaring, "That's just who I am." Remember this: you have fears ... but you are not fear. You are larger than your fears.
Taming Your Fears Makes Them Manageable
The road to releasing your fears is to first acknowledge that they are there. "A fear named is a fear tamed" describes what happens when you begin to face fear. If you can name it and understand its effect on you, it becomes manageable rather than wild and unwieldy.
Begin by taking a huge piece of paper and writing down every fear you have. Big ones. Little ones. Everything. Even some that you are not sure of but which you might have. Be specific. Keep writing until you are exhausted and then find some more. As soon as you can see them listed on paper, they will begin to lose some of their hold on you.
Once you have listed your fears, take one and examine it. As you examine each fear, ask yourself if it is a fear that serves and supports you. For example, if you are afraid that you will get out of shape if you don't exercise, then this fear-being has some value in your life. You can thank it for its presence but ask that it doesn't judge you so harshly on those days you don't exercise. Your fears need your love. The more you acknowledge and embrace them, the less they affect your life.
Feel The Fear and Face It Anyway: What's The Worst That Could Happen?
When you discover a fear on your list that does not serve you, allow yourself to feel it. For example, if you are terrified of public speaking, imagine that you are in front of a group of people who are waiting for you to speak. Feel the fear and at the same time observe yourself. Notice what you feel physically in your body. Be aware of any emotions or memories from the past that come into your consciousness. The more you resist experiencing your fears, the more they will dictate your life.
The next step in this process is to intensify your fear. I mean really feel it. For example, imagine that the people in the audience are laughing at you and nothing is coming out of your mouth. Some of the people are rolling in the aisle laughing at you, and you can't move or speak because you are so frightened. Imagine feeling your fear as fully as you can. An amazing thing happens when you do this. The more you try to intensify your fear, the more it diminishes. When you stop resisting your fear-beings and give them expression, they begin to dissolve.
An exercise that I have found to be extraordinarily helpful is to imagine the worst that could happen in a worrisome situation and see how I could gain value from this potential future. This simple act has helped me overcome some hefty fears.
For example, many years ago I had financial problems and was in serious debt. I was so scared. Then I thought, "Hey! What's the worst that could happen here?" I have a pretty active imagination, so I imagined that I got thrown in prison for years for not paying off my debts. (I didn't realize that in the United States, we don't send people to prison for debt.)
Then I thought, "Okay, if that is the worst that could happen, how could I gain value from it?" I'm a good teacher, so I thought, I could give classes to the other inmates. I could even write about the experience of being in prison. I discovered all kinds of ways that "the worst that could happen" wasn't so bad. I felt more relaxed and less stressed about my financial situation.
As outrageous as this exercise sounds, when you can really confront and accept the most terrible outcome, your fear will subside. Fear paralyzes you and limits your ability to see other possible answers for your problem. When I let the fear go, I found a multitude of creative ways to change my financial situation. I was then able to get out of debt fairly easily.
Taking Baby Steps to Release Specific Fears
To release a specific fear, begin by taking "baby steps." For example, I used to be afraid of heights. Whenever I was on a cliff, hill, or mountain I would get vertigo and feel faint. I wanted to overcome this fear, so I started by visualizing myself standing on a cliff. It took a while until I could actually visualize this, but I just did it in small chunks. First I imagined myself near the cliff, then closer to the top, until finally I could envision myself right at the edge. Then when I was in Australia for a few weeks, I actually went to the top of a cliff near Manly Beach in Sydney.
Every day I would walk to the top of the cliff and go a little closer to the edge, until one day I stood near the precipice railing without fear. Since that time, I am no longer afraid of heights, and just a few weeks ago, on another trip to Australia, I climbed to the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge. It was exhilarating!
Fear occurs when you don't feel that you have the ability to cope with a situation. The more means you have to deal with fear, the less impact it will have on your life. Be willing to take action to minimize your fears. For example, if you are a single woman living in a dangerous neighborhood, it is justifiable to feel frightened walking alone at night. But don't allow your fear to overwhelm your life. Take action to minimize your fears. Take self-defense courses. Learn to walk boldly, with confidence. Pray, meditate, and ask your allies for protection. Get a friend to walk with you. Take steps to cope with the situation and your fear will lessen.
Walking confidently through a dangerous area is acting as if you weren't afraid. Some people might call this "faking it until you make it." No matter what saying you use, this technique works. If you act as if you are courageous, strong, and powerful in a fearful situation, you will become so. I have often felt shy and nervous when meeting new people. To overcome this fear, whenever I am in a new social situation, instead of trying to be invisible and hiding in a corner, I act as if I'm not afraid. I courageously introduce myself to strangers and get to know them. And after a while, I don't feel fearful at all. Not only is it satisfying to get over an old fear, but I have met some wonderful people this way.
Whatever you focus on will expand in your life. If you focus on what you love, you will have more love in your life. If you focus on what you fear, then your fears will expand. I knew a woman who was frightened that her young son would fall. She was constantly saying, "I'm so worried that he is going to fall," and warning her son, "Be careful that you don't fall down." One day this child took a frightful fall off a neighbor's veranda and was unconscious for a number of hours. This event only justified his mother's fears. She focused even more on her fear of her son falling. As her son grew, he was constantly falling. He fell off his bike numerous times; he fell out of a tree and broke his ankle. I believe that the mother's extraordinary fear actually precipitated some of his accidents. A better strategy would have been for her to focus on her child's grace and balance.
The Causes and Effects of Fear
Whenever I am irritable with someone who is acting less than nobly, I remember that all bad behavior comes from fear. If someone you know is being selfish, rude, boorish, unkind, angry, bitter, or any other negative emotion, it's because they are afraid. They might be worried that they are not lovable, or frightened of not being accepted, or concerned that they won't have enough. The individual motivating fears may be different, but whenever someone acts badly, it's because they are afraid. The man who looks down on others does so because he is afraid that he isn't worthwhile and valuable. Realizing this helps me have compassion for others, rather than becoming upset with them.
We get upset and frightened when we think that we don't have any options. You always have options. Sometimes your option is to change your point of view about the situation. Even if you can't change the situation, usually there is another way to look at it. Shift your perspective of the situation and you can shift your fear.
Sometimes the best option is to leave the situation. You do not need to stay in a situation that does not empower you. When my daughter was young, I told her, "Meadow, if you are ever in a situation that doesn't feel right, get out! Say to yourself, 'This sucks. I'm leaving.' Trust your intuition. If you are with a group of kids who are going to do something that doesn't feel right, leave. If someone asks you to do something that you don't want to do, get out of there." I had her repeat the words "This sucks. I'm leaving" until I knew that they would come to mind whenever the need arose.
Fear Can Be Good When It Acts a Warning System
Fear isn't necessarily always a bad thing. Sometimes it acts as a warning system. It is true; females do have intuition. It is one of our gifts. If you are in a place that doesn't feel right, leave immediately. If you step into an elevator and it feels strange, get out! Forget about being polite or nice. Female victims when telling their stories usually say that they could sense something was wrong beforehand but didn't act on that feeling because it wouldn't have been polite. Always listen to your gut instincts. Your fear can be a warning system giving you immediate information about a situation or person.
Roberta is a strong and capable woman who leads hiking treks in the lower Himalayan mountains. One morning, as her trekking group started out, she began to have an uneasy feeling, which expanded into a full-blown fear. Rationally there was no reason for her anxiety. The skies were clear, the mountain reports were good. Instead of listening to her mind, though, she listened to her fear. She took an alternative route to their destination. When they arrived, they heard that another group had been caught in an avalanche on the trail they had intended to take, and several people had been killed. This is a dramatic example of listening to your fear; there will be times when you'll never know the reason why you chose one road instead of another in life, but have confidence that there is always a reason.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Hay House Inc.
Secrets & Mysteries: The Glory and Pleasure of Being a Woman
by Denise Linn.
The Glory and Pleasure of Being a Woman! Secrets and Mysteries will give you a profound understanding of what it means to be a woman. Full of passion, mysticism, and practical information, it will tap the source of your power at the depths of your soul.
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About the Author
Denise Linn has researched healing traditions from cultures around the world for more than 30 years. As a renowned lecturer, author, and visionary, she regularly gives seminars on six continents, and also appears extensively on television and radio shows. She is also the author of: If I Can Forgive, So Can You: My Autobiography of How I Overcame My Past and Healed My Life; Sacred Space: Clearing and Enhancing the Energy of Your Home; The Secret Language of Signs; Space Clearing A-Z: How to Use Feng Shui to Purify and Bless Your Home; Quest: A Guide to Creating Your Own Vision Quest; Feng Shui for the Soul plus many more. Visit her website at www.DeniseLinn.com.