When I was young, my dad used to say “Don’t be scared. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
Um, hello, there are *lots* of things to be afraid of.
Fear is a powerful gift your body gives you for survival.
So, it’s ok to be afraid. It’s great to be afraid.
My introduction to activism was through supporting survivors of hate violence from anti-queer, white supremacists in my small town. My friends’ home addresses were posted on hate groups’ web sites. Most nights, I didn’t think I’d wake up the next morning.
A mentor told me to suck it up and keep moving, because “It’s unhealthy and dangerous to let the fear take control of your life.”
To which I say, yes…and:
Sometimes it’s unhealthy and even more dangerous to suppress fear (or any authentic emotion).
The key is to pause, listen to the energy, and then use it as a compass to guide you to a place that better meets your needs.
Next time you’re feeling fear, if you’re in immediate danger, of course get to a safe physical/emotional/etc. place.
But if it’s lower-risk, try this:
1) Notice how it moves in your body initially. Does it wash over you? Stay in your shoulders as a heavy numb feeling? Feel like a sharp pain in the pit of your stomach?
2) Stay present with the sensations in your body. Take deep breaths in through your nose and out your mouth, with your jaw relaxed. Notice what comes up.
3) Look for the wisdom the fear is trying to teach you. Ask yourself what you are truly afraid of. If it helps, pose it as a statement of unmet needs: “I feel [scared/nervous/anxious, etc.] because I have a need [for harmony/ for personal health/for independence/ to be seen/ to be loved].”
I started integrating these things into my life slowly, with lower-risk situations. Now, they’re becoming more habitual and the process takes less time, so I can do it (sometimes) even when I’m in a higher-risk crisis mode.
How do you work with fear?