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How seeing the beauty in feelings like fear can help you better understand and accept your whole self.

There’s this fear I have and it’s been with me for a while now. It mostly stays at bay, pacing quietly in the background of my mind. It allows other emotions to come up — joy, bliss, sadness, frustration, calm, serenity — but every now and then, it steps forward, whispering in my ear.

It tells me of things that can happen. It dramatizes painful, unbearable scenarios and wants me to play them out until the end. To see how truly awful things could be.

I usually push fear away

Sometimes I follow the imaginary play as it’s acted out. Get caught up in the anguish and the loss, the hurt and the pain. Other times, I hurry it aside, push it out of the way, in favour of easier feelings. It’s a constant dance. Fear creeps up and speaks softly to me. I deny her voice. Tell her what she’s showing me won’t happen. Fear slinks back into the dark corners, a little sullen.

I’m amazed she never yells. Never screams or carries on. Her voice is quiet and plaintive. Please, she tells me. Listen. Look at this. Feel this. Please.

It’s her constancy and her determination that made me wonder one day, why can’t fear say what she needs to say? Why can’t she have as much room and space to speak as much as all my other feelings?

I usually say, no. I can’t right now. Or I can’t ever. Why won’t you go away? Why can’t you see that what you’re telling me isn’t helpful? It isn’t necessary. It’s a story I don’t want to hear. One that takes me away from staying positive and focused, my heart open, my feelings where I want them to be. You’re taking me away from happiness and comfort. Security and balance.

But she’s quite insistent. Dedicated even.

It’s her constancy and her determination that made me wonder one day, why can’t fear say what she needs to say? Why can’t she have as much room and space to speak as much as all my other feelings? Why can’t she be accepted and loved as much as my contentment and my fulfilment? My gratitude and my peace.

That’s when I changed my relationship with fear.

Now I embrace fear and let her in

I understand now that my fear tries to protect me from hurt. She’s this amazing part of me that wants to warn me of terrible things. And it takes so much love and strength to do that over and over, when all she gets in return for her loyalty is rejection. So I told her how proud I am of her, how well she does her job.

Now instead of turning her away, I embrace her and let her in. I tell her how thankful I am for everything she does, all the times she’s kept me from harm, warned me of danger, led me to safer harbours. I give her my understanding and my attention. My love and my acceptance. And I allow her to live in harmony with my hope and my joy.

I listen, patiently, to everything she has to say and show me. I sit with her stories. Give her the space she needs to tell them. And I see the relief in her eyes.

She speaks to me less often now, still quietly and softly, but now she’s not so sullen. I see how her furrowed brows that for so long seemed dark and foreboding, reveal a devotion and a sense of profound purpose that is hard to ignore. What before was smudged and ugly, petulant and stubborn, as if she were a charcoal drawing, is now a light figure, with dots of colour. A smaller me, a younger self, complete with the straight bangs across my forehead I see in old photos, circa 1975.

Making fear part of my whole self

I smile at her and wave her forward. I listen, patiently, to everything she has to say and show me. I sit with her stories. Give her the space she needs to tell them. And I see the relief in her eyes. I see how the weight falls from her shoulders. How her brown hair shines and her fingers relax in her lap as she sits, reassured, a little shy of the spotlight, but still so brave, so … fearless.

And I realize for the first time that my own fearlessness, my own courage and capacity for braving tough storms and taking on dangerous paths is due in no small part to her. And I thank her for that.

Being ok with difficult emotions means accepting every last part of them. Finding the beauty in them. Seeing their varied colours. Living with them in concert with all the others. Not just saying I see my fear, but really seeing her, in every intricate detail. And respecting and honouring her as a part of my whole self.

Photo of Author, circa 1975

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