Diving into Fear to Find Freedom

I originally wrote this article for the Mountain Mirror. http://www.mountainmirror.com/

A counselor once asked me to tell him about my earliest memory. And so I told him the story of my family’s home being flooded when I was four years old. I actually don’t remember much about the flood, but I do remember my mom taking me to a daycare at a local church during this time. The church was offering free daycare to victims of the flood. My parents did not have flood insurance and they had so much to do to rebuild our lives, and so they took the church up on their magnanimous offer.

I had never been to daycare and I was petrified. I cried ferociously, and did everything in my power, to try to convince my mom not to leave me. But she justifiably had so much to do and so I was left to cry in the arms of a stranger, I did not know or care to know.

My next memory of my first day at daycare was nap time. We were all told to take a nap. I resisted sleep and was still feeling scared to death. I was so full of fear in this moment that I scanned all corners of the room with my eyes repeatedly, like a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

I recognize my anxiety must have been sky high, because I was absorbing my parent’s anxiety from the many ramifications and pressures of the flood. Additionally, the balance and structure in my life, which are vitally important to a child, was greatly upset by the flood. All of a sudden we were living in a different house, sleeping in new beds, and my brothers and I were attending daycare for the first time in our lives.

After I told my counselor, the story of my very first memory, he asked me to consider what I had decided about life back then. And so, as you might imagine, I told the counselor this experience must have profoundly constructed my view that the world is not a safe place. I believe this early experience became a prescription for me on how to live life. The trauma of the flood and the cortisol pumping in my body, told me to FEAR the world.

My very first memory is one that invited me to fear the world. Perhaps you can also pin point some experiences early in your life that taught you to live life from a place of fear. What is your first memory and how did it inform your own view of the world?

However we pick up our narratives of fear, it is important to recognize their existence in our life. In life we fear losing our financial well-being, failing professionally, getting sick, aging bodies, being rejected by loved ones, ending up alone and dealing with the fundamental vulnerability of death. What is it you fear most in life?

Sometimes in both platonic and romantic connections, fear can keep you in unhealthy relationships, or conversely, it can lead you to build a wall around your heart that keeps you from trusting and loving others. How are your fears keeping you from living?

I want to be clear that being cautious and fearful is not necessarily a bad thing. Fear is an intuitive feeling that can literally save our lives and help us to set important boundaries with people. Living cautiously can keep us from having a wreck or hurting ourselves in innumerable ways. And yet, if we stay stuck in fear and choose it as our life mantra, we can live life so carefully that we really aren’t living life at all.

I am learning that life requires us to have an insurance manager on one shoulder and a professional scuba diver on the other one, and we are at our best when we allow these two parts of our self to dance with one another. Our insurance manager may warn the scuba diver that there are dangerous sharks in the sea, but the scuba diver convinces the insurance manager that the beauty, joy and freedom we will experience when we dive in the ocean will be worth the risk. The scuba diver listens to the insurance manager’s wisdom and promises to be careful, but reminds the insurance manager that diving into life is worth it.

You have the choice to let fear paralyze you, or you can recognize its presence in your midst and choose to step out of it and take a risk in your life. Perhaps this means choosing new career path, stepping out of an abusive relationship or doing something the spirit within you has been asking you to do for a long time. What would it look like for you to confront your fear and take a risk? Freedom, joy and life are waiting for you on the other side of fear.

Let’s dive in and move to the other side of fear,


Meditations for your mental, physical, and spiritual health