Embodied Transformation & Evolution

Transforming Our Relationship With Fear ~ Meeting the Dragon at the Threshold

Posted by on Jan 9, 2018 in Featured Writing, Lifeletters & Articles | 0 comments

Transforming Our Relationship With Fear ~ Meeting the Dragon at the Threshold

Our relationship with fear is at the heart of our human journey. Fear can so easily paralyze us, stop us in our tracks. But the fear is not the problem; it is not what stops us. What stops us, what ties us up in knots, is how we relate to it.

If we look at the big picture, we’ll notice a lot of fear moving around our world these days: fear of very specific things and also a lot of free floating anxiety. Fear is one of the most difficult emotions to stay present to: our nervous system feels it and immediately wants to freeze, fight or flee. We engage in a lot of activities to freeze and numb the feeling of being afraid–some of them even look very healthy and productive. But we are still running, trying to escape the feeling, convinced that if we stop and feel what is here, it will be worse.

Fear is all tied up with our need for safety and security. We get stuck with recurring waves of existential fear when we have looked in all the wrong places for the safety that we need. We do need a root feeling of safety—I’m not suggesting a spiritual bypass here, where we turn to the spiritual dimension as our only source of safety. We are human beings, and we live in a nervous system that needs a certain kind of safety. That safety does not come through a huge bank account, or a home in a gated community, or membership in a group of people who think just like we do. Our sense of safety comes through connection. Connection to the body, to each other, and to the reason for our existence. When we have access to those basic resources, we can deal with the natural anxiety that comes with being human, being alive in a wildly uncontrollable universe.

It’s very natural to feel fear whenever we face the unknown. And we are all facing the unknown right now, as our whole civilization crosses a threshold. We don’t know what is on the other side—we do know that things are falling apart, collapsing at quite a speed. I was speaking with my 95 year old aunt in Florida a few days ago. She has been living in Florida all her life and saw snow and freezing temperatures there for the first time ever this week.

“The weather is so strange.” she said.
“Yes,” I replied, “Things are very strange right now, and we don’t know what is going to happen.”
“No,” she said, “we really don’t know what’s going to happen; and it’s not easy.”
We sat there together, feeling the truth of “it’s not easy.” It felt good to share this with each other, in a very simple way.

We may or may not be conscious of the global transition we are passing through right now, but our body knows what it’s like when we are crossing a threshold. You can fool the mind, but you cannot fool the body. Every single time we enter into new territory, we have to meet the dragon at the door, which is fear. And often sorrow, rage, and shame. But the one we meet first at the threshold is often fear or anxiety. Sometimes the anxiety escalates because it is trying to protect us from other feelings underneath, that feel even more threatening than anxiety. For some of us, it’s easier to be anxious than angry, easier to be scared than full of grief. So we stay tangled up in the vibration of anxiety and the spinning thoughts and images that anxiety generates.

Transforming Our Relationship with Fear

This dragon of fear is not going anywhere. This anxiety is waiting to be met, in the body. And in good company. Fear is nothing but a cry for connection. If we curl inwards when fear comes, if we isolate, then we are alone with our thoughts. Alone with our thoughts is not where we want to be. Alone with our thoughts is not a safe place. In the body with our feelings, sharing those feelings with another, that’s where our safety lies. The movement that fear asks us for is not a curling inward, it’s a reaching out. Learning to be vulnerable, learning to be real, reaching for connection, taking this up as a practice—this is what creates a new kind of resilience.The strong, heroic journey is over. Everything has its time–the time for the heroic way of being is going the way of the dinosaur. A radically new kind of power is ready to emerge on our planet.

As we learn to create these different pathways of connection, the ways in which we try to avoid our fear will fall away. And that is a great relief and a blessing. Our addictions to work, technology, and all of the various substances we use to numb and distract ourselves—we cannot heal from these through any kind of willpower. As Johann Hari said so brilliantly, “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety; it’s connection.”

There’s another resource we need in order to face this dragon. This is the connection with our true direction in life, the reason for our existence. I call this the deep drive of the soul. I’ve noticed that people who have a reason for living that is bigger than themselves, who are moved and inspired by this energy each day, are much less subject to fear. I do not mean that they are immune to fear and anxiety. To hope for that is to leave the sacred ground of our human existence. The experience of fear is a core part of what it is to be human. Learning to share it gives birth to love, hope and deep resilience.

This movement towards fear rather than away from it is counter instinctual. I know this because I’ve practiced this. In the beginning it was very difficult. Sometimes it still is. I had to listen to voices in my head telling me I was crazy to turn toward what I had been trying to avoid for so long. But I persisted, because I had good company. I think it’s our time now, to embody a new relationship with fear. Just as time’s up for sexual violence, harassment and inequality, time’s up for running away from our fear. Let’s support each other, in turning to face it, together.

with love,

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