I’ve heard the saying that “fear” stands for “False Evidence Appearing Real”. I know for me; fear and worry can interrupt the joy of whatever I’m experiencing if I let it. My mind starts racing and focusing on all that COULD go wrong in each situation. This is no truer than when on a boat with a potential hurricane headed our way! I’ve learned that the key for me is a multi-step process.
First, I get to recognize that what I’m feeling is fear and let myself experience it. I’ve learned that any time I try to fight an emotion, be it sadness, grief, fear…I end up just experiencing it as anger and it sneaks out at the most inopportune times! It makes me snippy and irritable. When I let myself experience the emotion fully, I can usually figure out where it’s coming from and find myself moving through it. It’s sometimes helpful to remind myself that there IS another side. The feeling won’t last forever and will generally pass faster if I allow myself to experience it fully.
Next, I look at whether the emotion, in this case fear, is about the current situation or something in my past conditioning. We all carry our experiences of the past into the current moment and it’s helpful for me to figure out the origins so I can choose my response. When I’m able to do that, it helps me avoid being reactive AND allows me to be responsive in the current moment. If the emotion is about something that happened in the past, it allows me to see where perhaps there are some areas that still need healing so I can address them and not get triggered in the future.
I had an instance of conditioning showing up this week. We were docked and Robert, in his wonderfully analytical way, had worked out exactly what to do to get us off safely in the presence of some pretty strong wind and wave action. I walked up, ready to push off and he basically told me to either stand on deck or sit down and that he was going to get off the boat, let one of the lines loose, jump back on and then release the stern line. A a HUGE emotion arose! I snipped back that it was my boat too and I could be part of the decision on how we were going to take off! I KNOW the reaction was big and once we got underway, I searched to figure out where it came from. It wasn’t about the moment; of that I was sure. Suddenly, my heart broke when I realized that the response was coming from a 9 yr old girl…A girl who had been told what to do and where to go. A girl who had been molested when she “followed orders”. That response was coming from a personal conviction that no one, nowhere, was going to tell that girl what to do, ever again and no one would ever get away with uninvited touch ever again. It allowed me to see that some more healing needed to happen…
We also had an instance of some fear arising out of what was happening with Eta. It was a crazy week, with the storm track changing repeatedly. We were feeling confident that we were in no danger but decided to stay put just to watch what happened. We made reservations at a well-protected marina “just in case”. When the track moved straight toward us, we headed to the marina.
Fear has an important job in keeping us alive! It’s important not to ignore it. Note the saying was “False Evidence”. We’re lucky to live in a time where there’s lots of REAL evidence. We are so lucky to have experienced professionals whose very job it is to study the things that might cause us fear and help us to navigate through them successfully. To ignore real evidence is reckless. We get to listen to the specialists be they scientists, meteorologists or medical professionals. While they may not ALWAYS be right, they sure know a whole lot more than those of us who don’t have their expertise.
The next thing I do is look to see if there’s anything I can do in the current moment. In the case of weather storms, there’s lots we can do to prepare. We can monitor the weather, look for marinas, find places to anchor that will break the wind and allow plenty of room to swing. We can hunker down in a good place to ride it out. If it looks too bad, we can do our best to get the boat safely protected and get ourselves to a safe place. Our lives are most important… In the case of emotional storms, we can “sit” with it, learn from it and connect with mental health professionals if we need support with healing. I love the saying “What we resist, persists”. If we don’t heal, the same storm will show up again and again. If we try to push the emotion away, we’ve lost an opportunity to learn.
Storms of all kinds show up in life. We can’t avoid them. We can only do our best to prepare, follow the experts, work together and keep reminding ourselves that the storm will pass. When the “storm” isn’t about the current moment, we can figure out what it’s about, heal and create some new self-talk.
The storm will pass. The clouds will lift. There will be another sunny day with calm waters and gentle breezes…Then we can sail on, wiser and stronger than ever..