Curiosity will conquer fear
even more than bravery will.
~ James Stephens
Fear can be an overwhelming mental, emotional and physical experience. It can paralyze you, or push you into fight or flight mode. It often gets to the point that you may be afraid of fear, a vicious cycle that perpetuates the state of fear. It may reach the point that you are frequently in a state of fear or have set up a complex defense system of avoidance, where you aren't consciously aware of the fear, yet it is still effecting you.
I was fascinated by the above quote that suggests bringing curiosity to fear, rather than will power or courage to power through it. If fear could lose its stigma as the internal bogeyman, how might you relate to it differently? What might you learn from it?
If you try approaching fear with curiosity, you might ask yourself what the fear feels like in your body and where you feel it. If you keep your attention there, does it stay the same or does it shift? Is there a color, an image, a memory associated with the fear?
Can you trace back to the trigger of this feeling of fear? Was there a particular thought, or image, an interaction with someone or an imagined interaction with someone? When exactly did you become aware of the fear?
Does fear come up when you imagine a particular outcome in an interaction of some kind? Are there particular situations or imagined future situations or outcomes that tend to evoke fear?
There are many questions to ask yourself in an attempt to get to know, even to "befriend" the fear, at the very least to look behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz and see the little man behind the scary image of the Wizard.
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley