Marj at Survivors Can Thrive is hosting a Carnival Against Abuse for October and the topic this month is fear. That’s something everyone is familiar with. It’s what drives all conflict and keeps people from doing the things they want to do. Healthy fear protects us. It keeps us from being reckless. Unhealthy fear stifles us and becomes a prison as real and damaging as any metal bars and concrete buildings could be.
So the question becomes how to deal with fear that works against us. Many of our fears grow out of secret, deeply buried fears and sometimes the best way to go is to face those fears—but not alone. If we do this, we need someone we trust to help us through it. But there is an immense reward for taking that risk and facing those fears. What we run from gains power over us, what we are willing to stand and face often dissipates in the light of day and even when it doesn’t, we’re far better able to cope with it if we face it than if we try to run away.
But that’s the biggie. What about every day fears? On a more mundane level, how do we overcome, get past, get rid of, or otherwise keep fear from disabling us and preventing us from creating the lives we want to have?
You just knew I was going to mention lists, didn’t you? I am because I believe that lists can be concrete talismans that help us cope with fear and self-doubt.
So...here are some useful lists to make and other things to do to overcome fear:
1) Everything you’ve been able to accomplish in your life.
2) All your strengths and capabilities.
3) People you can turn to for support, knowledge, training, protection, etc.
4) 20 things you can do in 2 minutes or less (each). (On a day when you’re feeling scared or overwhelmed, do 3 things from the list right in a row, as fast as you can. You’ll be amazed how much better, stronger, and capable you feel.)
5) Go through your closets, jewelry boxes, etc. Put where you can easily find them those things you have worn when you felt strong, overcame a challenge, etc. (These are positive triggers that can enhance your courage when you need it most simply by wearing them.)
6) If you’re scared, see if you can separate the part of the fear that belongs to the reality of the situation NOW and what belongs to the past. If you can figure out how the situation resonates with the past and recognize that part of the fear, imagine boxing it up and putting it on a shelf in the closet (or in some way separating it from the fear that belongs to NOW).
7) Do what you’re scared of anyway. Often we build up the fear in our own minds but when we do what we’ve been fearing, we realize it wasn’t so hard or scary after all. We discover a new strength, skill, larger comfort zone, etc.
8) For any challenge you are going to undertake, set up a reward for after you’ve done it.
9) Celebrate the courage it takes to do something—even if that thing would be easy for someone else.
10) Visualize yourself successfully accomplishing whatever it is that scares you that you want or need to do.
11) Practice deep, quiet breathing. This is even more powerful if you can hold a peaceful, safe image in your mind as you do it.
12) Collect empowering music. This can be music that evokes a feeling of being strong and capable or it can be music that is so soothing it replaces fear with a feeling of safety and calm.
13) Find an affirmation that works for you. It could be something as simple as: NOW I am safe. It could be something as complex as: I can figure this out and if I can’t there are people who can help me do so. They key is to find something that gives you a feeling of strength and courage.
Gee, can you tell this is something I’ve thought a lot about? Hey, I’m a slow learner! I spent much of my life being terrified of pretty much everything. Didn’t stop me from doing a bunch of stuff but still, it wasn’t a pleasant feeling.
I don't think fear is uncommon for survivors of abuse. After all, if you're in a situation for years, especially growing up, where at any moment, someone might lash out at you or hurt you, it's hard not to be afraid. The good news is that we can undo that conditioning. These days I’m pretty happy and rarely find myself afraid. Thanks to the ideas listed above.
Wishing for all of you that you find what works for you and that you are able to overcome your deepest fears and create the lives you want to have.
Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs)))))))),