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Fear: An Interesting Character

Isn’t it true that every transition we move through in life offers us the opportunity to usher in something new?

Springtime, in general, is a time of renewal. The birds build nests, the bulbs in the garden begin to peak through the earth, we witness the signs of life reemerging from winter’s rest.

Nature remains our greatest teacher of the basic law of change and transformation. Isn’t it true that every transition we move through in life offers us the opportunity to usher in something new? There I was walking along. The trees were beginning to bloom, life was ‘business as usual’when suddenly it all came to an eerie halt. Rather than emerge from winter’s rest, it felt as if we were going back into the cocoon for winter's slumber. As we go inside, once a year, during the winter months and shelter in from the cold, for me, it has always represented a time to go inward, a time for reflection and contemplation.

Were we granted a “take-2” on this movie set of life?

Like most of us, I quickly pivoted my life. Much of what I do can be accomplished over our modern technology conveniences, yet, there was so much more to face than the logistics of business. As our world has swiftly shifted into a new reality, most of us have gone into a form of hibernation. I am looking at it as an opportunity to take a closer look at our lives. Here we are, maybe with a few loved ones around us, perhaps alone. The spectrum of human emotions is wide, ranging from love and ease to dis-ease and fear.

Faced with a fearful response, I have become accustomed to asking myself the question, where does this fear come from and what is true about this fear?

Staying in the question also reminds me of the first thing I like to remember about being in a state of fear.When in fear, the amygdala is activated, otherwise known as fight/flight response. This is the emotional/survival part of our brain.

When the amygdala is activated the other parts of our brain become impaired. This means that our prefrontal cortex, which is in charge of our executive functions like planning, judgement, reasoning, problem solving is not working at full capacity. When I remember that this is what is happening in my nervous system, my aim is to first bring myself out of fear for the simple fact that I want full use of my pre frontal cortex.

Once I have taken myself inward to discover what the answers are to my initial questions and brought myself out of a fight/flight state I am able to view the circumstances through a more objective lens.

Much of our fear as human beings comes from not knowing. Humans contend with something called the negativity bias. This means that we humans often give more psychological weight to negative experiences than to positive ones.

The kneejerk reaction to the unknown is typically resistance because the unknown poses a potential threat. This is because the amygdala is designed to save our lives, keep us safe, keep us from injury and harm, even if it’s just perceived. This is why stepping out of our comfort zone activates the amygdala, for this part of our brain function the rule is simple: safe is what we know, unsafe is what we don’t know. What if this happens, what if that goes wrong? The automatic response to unknown and uncertain situations in life isn’t typically ‘what if there is something great happening here but I can’t see it yet’. However, we can re-pattern our neuropathways to make that our default.

Fear is an interesting character.

I’ve never looked at fear like something to eliminate,I look at fear as a messenger and when fear shows up at my door, I have the opportunity to take a closer look at my belief systems which have a hand in my perceptions and responses to life’sups and downs. Physical disturbances felt in the body are one of my barometers for signaling that I have moved out of my natural state of peace.Typically this means I have had thoughts which lead to the biochemical reactions in my body, which lead to feelings that match the disturbing thoughts and so the cycle ensues. When we get stuck on the hamster’s wheel of fear, we lose our ability to sift through the emotions to regain a well-grounded footing. If you are swimming in the ocean and you encounter a shark, the danger is there in your face. You cut and run. You do not mull over your feelings and emotions for any period of time. We have a healthy fear that requires immediate attention and a self-made, or learned-response that immediately turns molehills into mountains. It can be helpful for us to keep that in mind.

I think Mark Twain sums it up pretty well, “I have spent most of my life worrying about things that have never happened.”

Anytime we are able to recognize our state of fear and transform our patterns;we have tapped into an experience of renewal. The choice is ours. xo -a

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