Children at play are pulled into fright and then run out screaming in pretend terror. Fear shows up in many places inviting some of us to pretend as we watch scary movies, and at other times, it forces us into an uncomfortable or even intolerable place.
One time I was scheduled to be with my spiritual director at the end of a particularly exhausting day. I called to cancel. He said to me, “Please, if you can drive safely, come. When we are tired, we are more vulnerable and open to honesty and growth.” I went and had an amazing and frightening time walking into moments of vulnerability and healing.
Our internal fears often come to us in vulnerable times. This is a challenge because being vulnerable is one of our fears. We fear it for good reasons. We live in a culture where we are expected to be “right”, to lead by giving answers and rarely if ever saying, “I don’t know.” Our first “go to” when we have been wrong is to blame another rather than to admit the mistake. When we are hurt we hold it inside. Showing our raw feelings makes us vulnerable. Being vulnerable is often seen as a weakness. Who wants to risk being seen as weak and incompetent?
What if they don’t respect me? What if they don’t want me around anymore? What if they don’t love me? I’m scared to be lost and alone.
After my husband died, I spent many sleepless nights wondering if I was going to die during the night. Part of me wanted to, but a deeper voice wanted to spare our children from the trauma of grief upon grief. Yet even the desire to protect my children, didn’t erase the deep fear of loss and pain and looking at my own mortality in the stillness of the night.
Heightened fear is within us and all around us. We can’t turn on the news or read articles or listen to the radio without hearing the realities of fear.
“ ‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.’ These words of FDR spoken to a Depression-era audience, sounded reassuring at the time. But on closer inspection, this statement exemplifies the fear of fear in our culture. Actually, life presents us with many fearful things. And it would be good if we learned how to experience our fears mindfully rather than to deny them.” p. 177, Healing Through the Dark Emotions by Miriam Greenspan
Naming and experiencing our fears depletes their powers. What fears do we need to name and experience?
Rev. Jolene Bergstrom Carlson