Are you ruled by your fears? Are the boundaries of your world, your possibilities and your dreams hemmed in by your fears? If your fear is keeping you from living a full life, it’s time to get serious and get busy.
For our purposes, there are three types of fear, the first is fear of your potential, then fear of pain, and finally the fear of aging and death.
In fact, one measure of how important something is to us, is the amount of fear that accompanies it. For example, you wouldn’t have any problem walking up to that nice old man and asking for directions, would you? Yet, if you had to ask the most stunningly beautiful person you’d ever seen, you might hesitate, stammer, or wander off silently. Fear can make the most ordinary things seem insurmountable. As a result, people often avoid things that trigger a sense of fear. Over time, they can almost forget what exactly they’re afraid of, and extend a habitual avoidance over anything that triggers discomfort.
Fear of Potential
There are many who have hidden dreams they’re just too afraid to acknowledge, never mind, pursue. This will usually show itself as a nagging sense that somethings not right, that you’re impatient and wasting time, and feeling chronically slightly dissatisfied but not being able to quite put your finger on what’s bothering you. It’s a neglected dream sending up vapors and wisps of discontent from just below conscious awareness.
If you see a box of paints, or hear a song, or look at a photo of an ancient ruin and feel your heart lift and then get a shuddering sense of disappointment – that’s your dream piping up and your fear knocking it out.
To deal with this type of knock out fear, it’s best to trick it. Decide on the smallest possible step you could take towards it – say buying that watercolor set. Then continue with small steps until your fear begins to adjust to the presence of this creative interloper in your daily life. Eventually, your fear will diminish as your enjoyment and exploration of your creativity grows and you’ll have successfully tackled the fear of your shining potential.
Fear of Pain
Next up is the fear of pain. Obviously, pain is uncomfortable and in its throes we can think of little else than it ending. Later, it’s common to recall that pain with ever increasing dread, to embroider it and thereby magnify it. This then can lead to avoiding pain and become a habit of mind. Too worried about those dizzy spells to go to the doctor? Too afraid of being burned again to date someone who might be able to hurt you (which means not dating anyone worthy of you). Fear has a nasty way of proliferating and soon your life couldn’t be safer – or grayer. Choosing not to work past our limits almost always means creating an unsatisfying life.
Even if the fear is of physical pain the way to minimize it mentally is to go deeply into it, to breathe it in and to relax into it as much as possible. Then once you’ve settled into it, let your mind go to a compelling obsession, maybe your love life, maybe an interesting work problem. Acceptance allows the mind to divert its focus on the pain giving the impression that it has lessened. It takes real strength to shift from avoidance to acceptance but this is how to defeat the fear of pain.
Fear of Aging/Dying
What of the fear of aging and dying? Again, acceptance is the key. This is the one thing that no one escapes so the question is how to live with it? Many people who’ve been diagnosed with a fatal illness find that life becomes vivid, moments are as full again as they were when they were children, purpose and meaning aren’t something sought after but become who they are. In other words, they live fully in the moment and from that place are able to handle and process their fear and their anger while living fully.
Oddly enough, all the varieties of fear have one thing in common, they can be mastered by acceptance and living in the present. If you want guidance in living with acceptance and in the moment, there is a great body of literature by Buddhists, Hindus and many others, all on the subject of living in the present.
Fear…well to be truthful I don’t live with fear myself anymore. I tend to be one of those people who thrives on it instead. These days fear is a jet fuel for me, I dab a little behind each ear in the morning, and run with it. If something gives me the willies, I do it. I know when this changed for me, I can remember the day exactly. I was sitting in my house painting away, and my Mate Man came into the room where all my stuff was starting to stack up, and said “these are really good, what are you going to do with them all?” I felt like the world had opened up under me and the thought that I should do anything more with my work just seemed so huge and daunting…I just said, “I don’t know.” I thought about that all night, I mean what was I doing really? I was very sick at the time and painting had been a stress reducer…now all of a sudden because of one little question, I was stuck and scared. The next morning I had a moment of crazy, I mean I had to “do” something to make the creepy crawlies go away, I had to fight fear back into a hole… so, I piled my work into my beater of a car and started driving around from store, to gallery, to consignment place. I got out asked who was in charge and then showed them a piece of work. I had 10 rejections in a row, and a few people educate me on sales tact…I had no idea people didn’t just walk into galleries and ask to see the manager. I thought after about 6 hours of this that I had my answer and was going to go home, when I drove by a small shop and thought “what the hell, I might as well make it 11 No’s!” I walked in and the woman that owned the place was very nice…we talked, she looked at my works…and then she asked me to sell some of my work on consignment in her shop. She took three works there on the spot and said we would see how it went. 1 week later, all three works had sold and she asked for more. That was when I learned that fear could be a good thing. Because of my work being in her shop, I was offered my first solo show three months later…the rest is history. After 20 or so shows both solo and in groups, and more than a 150 works sold…I feel ready to take on anything these days. I have art in 8 countries and 25 states. I have been told NO by some large galleries and art agents. I have had my worked picked apart in public venues by art professors. I have been embarrassed. I have been scared every time I go public. I have also survived, developed a thick skin and found my ultimate muse. Fear. Now when I get scared I think to myself… is this a risk worth taking? The thought that I am not good enough or some other such rubbish does not enter my brain usually until I have already begun. I use fear as fuel now…how does fear use you, or do you use fear for some some kind of powerful kick in the pants?
Tell me I really am interested in this subject…and I wonder how fear interacts with other peoples lives these days.
Yours in courage and fearlessness!
PS. I really need some paint supplies, I mean really, really! The gift giving holidays are fast approaching…consider supporting living artists today…yes I mean me…but if not me then some artist that resonates with you. Buy Art!