I can have fear, but
I need not be fear—if I am willing
to stand someplace else in
my inner landscape.
~ Parker Palmer
When we feel afraid we usually say " I AM afraid..." By feeling it and expressing it in that way, we identify with the fear. It becomes our identity in that moment or possibly in general. Experiencing fear as an identity, as a part of who we are, makes it much more difficult to face and confront.
If we can separate from it a bit by seeing it as a feeling we have or are experiencing in the moment, we can often get a different perspective on it. We have the opportunity of relating to it in a different way, as it doesn't have the same weight as when it seems to be who we are. We may be able to watch it, observe it, feel it, explore it, be curious about it, with a bit more spaciousness than when it feels like our identity.
Sometimes it feels impossible to separate from it, to feel that it is not who we are, especially when the flight or fight response has been evoked by something inside or outside of ourselves. But we have the opportunity in each instance to practice taking a breath and recognizing that it is not who we are, but a feeling we are experiencing in that moment. This doesn't mean to avoid or push it away and not deal with it, but to not allow it to take over your sense of yourself.
Call me if you would like help
dealing with your experience of fear.
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley