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Sunday, April 6, 2008

Don't Be Afraid to Follow Your Fear

We commonly look at fear as an obstacle that prevents us from actualizing the life of our dreams. We’ve been told that fear is the opposite of love, and living fearlessly is an ideal that we are encouraged to embrace. In over twenty-five years in law enforcement, however, I have learned the value of fear. More often than not, I've witnessed instances when a person's instinctual sense of fear prevented a more serious outcome.

By discovering our fear’s origin and purpose, we can evaluate whether it’s serving or hindering us. Armed with that basic information, we will be able to identify the positive role fear can play in our lives.

Fear is an important, instinctual survival mechanism that can lead us in the direction of our higher selves; only by honoring our fears and respectfully analyzing their value can we achieve new understanding and advance the practice of loving self-care.

It is important to “check in” with ourselves occasionally and learn to separate baseless fears from our inner intuitive guidance system. In this way we can examine the message our fear is conveying and learn ways to ascertain its validity. By learning to trust our “gut feelings,” intuitive signals, and internal data processing, we will recognize when fear is realistic as opposed to a limiting belief or a groundless message we’ve internalized from our early years.

When we practice various relaxation techniques, we can lovingly approach our fear and gain new understanding. From this safe place we can ask, “What am I afraid of?” Only when we understand the fear can we ascertain its true purpose (and be able to express healthy gratitude for the fear when appropriate).

We can demystify fear’s message by deciphering and listening to it; we eliminate fear’s negative power by taking concrete steps to understand the genesis and purpose of the fear. Gut feelings, intuitive signals, and processing existing data contain a more powerful message than phobias and the mixed messages they bring with them. The first step in harnessing fear’s power lies in our being able to tell the difference.

Journaling is a viable technique. As we write about the various ways in which fear guides us, we learn about a third alternative to the “fight or flight” mechanism. When we heed the intuitive discernment carried within our fear, we can separate our emotions from our instincts. Our valid concerns can then be honored and separated from our baseless anxieties. And only when we understand the strength inherent in fear can we be fully empowered as our own best advocate.

In my work with clients--understanding personal experiences and examining the results of guided meditation--we develop individual techniques for challenging or honoring fears, as warranted.

Fear can be power. Through practice we can learn to trust and rely on our ability to discern real threats from faulty perceptions or the paralysis induced by not challenging our sometimes limiting beliefs. Enormous breakthroughs are possible when we recognize and realize the potential and practical applications of fear. Understanding the personal message of our own “fear factor” provides us with an additional avenue of breakthrough in our lives. Fear is a formidable tool in our creative arsenal.

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