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Holy Everything: Instead of feeling fear, have a ball

Emily Carson, life@postbulletin.comMay 26, 2019

Fear is an curious companion. It shows up with some regularity for most of us. It’s defined as “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger whether the threat is real or imagined.” It is estimated that as many as 97 percent of our fears are exaggerated and won’t happen at all.

My fear is often a persistent whisper saying something like, “Yikes, Emily. Are you sure you really want to share that thought in front of all these people? They will all probably be disappointed.” Other times its a booming voice yelling, “Bad idea! People might be mad if you do that!”

That’s my fear voice. The majority of my strong apprehensions relate in some way to people being disappointed in me. Your fear voice is likely different than mine. What kinds of things does your fear say?

As of late, I’ve been making a shift in my relationship with with fear. Instead of resisting its presence at all costs and trying to squish it with optimism and willpower, I’ve been approaching this unique emotional state with curiosity. I encourage you to be inquisitive with your fear, too. A good first step is to put a gentle space of awareness between you and your fear.

The next time you notice unease and apprehension inside yourself, take a deep breath and imagine a safe, little bubble expanding around you. Envision the fear on the outside of the bubble. Now you can examine it with the full awareness that you are not your fear. It’s definitely a very real emotional experience to be afraid, but that emotional experience is not you. It’s separate from you.

Integrating this step alone can transform your life and your relationship with uncertainty. Building your capacity to pause and acknowledge fear’s presence when it arises can reframe your perspective.

Have you ever seen or played in a ball pit? They’re often constructed like a large, inflatable pool full of hallow plastic balls. They are a familiar site at restaurants geared toward children, county fairs and special birthday parties. Within the pit, there are usually balls of many different colors; imagine all these balls as different kinds of difficult feelings. Underneath all the throwable plastic orbs is the bottom of the pool.a

Fear can be imagined as the bottom of the pool. It’s a kind of foundational feeling. Often it’s the feeling underneath a lot of other challenging feelings. Angry? There’s probably fear under that anger. Sad. I bet if you do some digging in the emotional ball pit, you’ll encounter fear at the bottom. Frustrated? Yes, you guessed it! There’s fear found underneath a lot of experiences of frustration and helplessness.

As you become more curious about your own fear, you can ask questions with sincere interest. These questions aren’t the kind with a perfect answer. This is not a multiple-choice test or short-answer essay. Instead, you’re just trying to get a sense of why fear is visiting so that you can acknowledge and release it in a healthy way. As you observe your fear and other related emotions, you can ask:

• What is the emotional experience I’m currently having?

• What other factors might be contributing to this feeling?

• What might my fear/sadness/anger/frustration be trying to reveal to me?

It’s really normal to experience fear. It’s part of life. But it isn’t all of life, and it certainly shouldn’t be our main motivating force. Learning to live in right relationship with fear can open new possibilities. It can also empower us to courageously lean into a more wholehearted way of being.

Be gentle with your fear and know you’re not alone.

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