I will always have fears,
but I need not be any of my fears,
for I have other places within myself
from which to speak and act.
-Parker j. Palmer
Fear is often an overwhelming experience. It may feel like being possessed by something outside (or inside) yourself, paralyzing your ability to think, act or feel anything else. When this level of fear is present, it's hard to remember that any other experience may be possible, hard to imagine feeling anything else, hard to find the path out of this particularly dark and treacherous forest. To paraphrase a concept of Carl Jung, the problem is not when you have fear, but when it has you.
Fear is part of being human; it's your relationship to it that determines how much it runs (or doesn't) your life. The work lies in finding ways to acknowledge and feel the fear as it arises, without allowing it to swallow you up. Or when it has taken over, as it often may do, finding ways out of the thicket and brambles that obscure the path back to yourself (meditation and mindfulness are excellent tools for that!).
As the quote above states, you have places (and feelings) other than fear within you, from which to speak and act. What are those places? How familiar are you with them? There may be memories of other times when you have been fearful and then the fear has passed; simply the memory that it DOES pass can give you the strength to endure the fear and finally set it aside.
There are probably many other places within such as strength, determination, curiosity, enthusiasm, intention, connection ( to yourself, others and spirituality however you experience it), passion, and love to name just a few. Which of your inner places have I named and what other ones can you add to my list?
Your task is to not deny or suppress fear, but to find ways to tap into any/many of those other places within yourself that can guide you in your next step, and the one after that, and the one after that. Can you have the fear yet not identify with it, setting it aside, putting it in brackets or parentheses, allowing other places within you to guide your actions, at whatever pace you need to go?
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley