Learning How Crushing Fear Can Become Our Best Friend
In this Healing Chronic Illness blog series, author, Gupta Program Coach and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome survivor Jen Evans shares how she turned toward crushing fear to find the keys to long-term healing, and where moving into circles of others on the healing path helped to catalyse her recovery
“What’s your gift,” he asked. “I transform pain into power,” she said. - Qasim Chauhan
Learning to trust myself was, and is, the hardest work I’ve ever done. A voice was with me from birth: “you’re not good enough, you’re nothing, they will always bludgeon you no matter what you do”. It was the voice of fear. And it was lying.
I trusted that voice and listened to it everyday though. I had no influence to teach me otherwise, and the ones that did cross my path I dismissed as crackpots and dullards. I cultivated strategies to calm and please the ever-present voice (over-achieving), got angry at it (blame and victimhood), went along with it (please pleasing) and escaped it completely (addiction, dissociation, illness).
I had to confront the fear that I am wrong, broken, worthless, disrespected, lonely and unsafe every single day. And no matter how hard I tried, the strategies were not working. In fact, they depleted me so completely that by the time I turned 30 years old, I had nothing left in the tank.
Chronic illness came and stayed, pinned me to the floor, screaming at me to listen to the fear and find a different way to be with it.
It’s been a process, a healing journey that I wouldn’t wish on anybody, but at the same time I do wish for everybody. Unless we question the assumptions that puppet our behaviour and outlook, we are not in our power. And if we are not in our power, we are under someone else’s.
The question I had to ask myself was, “Do I want to live my life, or their idea of what my life should be?’ The idea of living my own life the way I wanted to felt so unsafe and impossible that as much as I wanted to live my life, I could see no way of making that happen.
How to work with crushing fear
I can still feel that fear now, but when it arises in my day, it is no longer a call to the battlefield; it’s a curious and friendly meeting (mostly, I’m not perfect!)
I respect that fear. It came along to keep me alive at a time when I was under threat and very vulnerable. It saved my life. But then it stuck around, convincing me that it is safer to assume the worst than to be open to anything else.
Things started to radically change when I started to listen to the fear - not to buy into its stories, its assumptions and generalisations - but just as the non-judgemental, curious observer, I found I had a choice. I can believe it blindly, or I can look around for different possibilities.
Fear at base is an arrogant dictator, excluding all other possibilities in life other than the most feared outcome. “I will be rejected, I will be hurt, I will be made to feel a complete failure, I will be crushed and beaten and abandoned.” In a universe of limitless possibility, focussing on only one, and one that may be a complete falsehood, blocks all the good that is available to us in any moment.
Just because a painful thing happened before (or at least we perceived it to happen) does not mean it is now the default way things are. The one certainty that fear excludes is that change is possible. And not only possible: INEVITABLE.
Everything is changing all of the time. It is the nature of us, beings, planets, universes. We are always in motion. Our resistance and fear is an attempt to control the unknown of this natural order and reordering, but inevitably it is futile. Going with the flow of change, indeed counting on it in times of fear and strain, will allow us to move through struggles. Resisting them and fearing the unknown alternative outcome will only serve to keep us stuck in the undesired state.
Where trust comes in
At the core of this is trust. It starts with learning to trust yourself to meet with, and build a relationship with, the wounded parts stuck in fear. The next step is moving into trusting the part that is in fear, listening to it and understanding that it has all the answers and wisdoms and keys to your growth.
Trust is a relationship. Trust is developed with others, and on the inside trust is discovered, developed and honoured between all of the different parts of ourselves.
Right now, which parts of yourself do you trust? Are you listening to and acting upon your hearts whispers? Do you trust your strength and ability to take care of your needs and desires? Do you trust the boundaries that you have made for yourself to protect against toxic people and places?
Or is fear a constant companion? Are the whispers from your heart frightful and unrealistic? Are meeting your own needs impossible?
Who are you in relationship with? In illness I can see I was in a monogamous relationship with the hard shell of fear and self-criticism, protecting myself from feeling the pain of old unhealed wounds. Through the healing journey I have learnt to chose a different companion and build a new, open, trusting relationship with love, with the universe, with my true self. The true self has been sent here with gifts, talents and passions that bring the body, mind and soul into balance and vitality.
Does it seem impossible to change the relationship you have with fear? Just like any relationship, it requires your input and your presence. Lets break it down into simple and achievable steps:
* Meet your fears - the thoughts, patterns, sensations, symptoms - wherever they are
* What form does the fear take - is it a voice, a person, a memory, a sensation, an energy
* Sense, don’t tell it what it is - open yourself to how it appears to you
* Ask them what they need - and listen deeply
* Lovingly and creatively provide what the fear has asked for
If this feels overwhelming or terrifying to do, reach out and ask for help. We are social beings, we are meant to be in relationship and there are wise guides available to you when you ask for the help you need. If you are already a retainer with the Gupta Program, the coaches are always available to support you in this process.
Whatever tools you have, gather them close and when you’re ready, turn towards that voice that keeps you stuck where you are. The result will be change. And it will be good.
How group healing work can be pivotal in this personal process
So what has this got to do with group work? How does joining in with other people on their journey of liberation from suffering help me to trust?
It was through group work in the early stages of my healing journey that I discovered the magic that comes in a safe space, where an experienced guide shares how to tred this path of self-discovery, healing and empowerment to live the life we always dreamed of.
Stuck in my own head, where the same set of thoughts and old survival strategies repeated over and over, producing no new outcomes, the inspiration and sharing in a group opened my eyes to unknown worlds of possibility. I saw the variety of ways people can speak to fear and take the time to understand what that fear truly needs to heal the dis-ease and tight grip on our behaviour.
One of the most frequent comments from participants in the group coaching I do with Gupta Program retainers is, “I just didn’t know I could do that”.
Another common pattern I’ve noticed as a coach has been the compulsion to tell fear (or whatever part has come forward) what to do. We think we know best and we think we have a solution to fix the distress of a part in fear. But in that moment, are we speaking from the loving heart or from the wounded child? Are we trying to fix when all we needed to do is listen?
If we haven’t connected to a loving part of ourselves in this healing work, telling a part in fear what we think it needs to hear is like reciting the highway code to a child when they have asked us which way is north - we’re not truly listening and we are not providing the resources, skills and support they are asking for.
So stop. Listen. Hear with no judgement. Take it in with no agenda. Offer help. Be creative. And find inspiration from others on how to do this. The more creative the process becomes, the more fun, joyful and liberating our tools and techniques for healing fear, distress and illness will be (see the Gupta Program’s central hypothesis on how chronic illness develops).
Crushing fear can become our best friend, if we extend our hand out in friendship.
If your unique self wants more inspiration, support and accountability on the healing path with the Gupta Program, join our wonderful small group coaching series here.