In the end, we'll only regret the chances we didn't take.
What stops us from taking chances? It's fear of course -- in all its wonderful glory. That's not to say that we need to dismiss the call of fear. Quite the opposite. We need to get to know it well -- very well, so that we can differentiate between real danger to our lives and wellbeing, and perceived danger that is based on the past, on other people's fears or on an over-stimulated emotional response.
This is important if we are to live lives of meaning and purpose. Internal fears keep us in the fight or flight mode that stops us from opening up to life with wonder, vulnerability, authenticity and compassion. Instead, we drain our mental energy in looking after our own safety, whether it's in obtaining approval, proving our competence or ensuring we're acceptable in other people's eyes.
Discovering ourselves and our place in the larger universe uses parts of our brain that are largely different to the emotional response of fear. Unless we find safety in feeling loved, competent, worthy and "enough," we'll struggle to step out of survival mode and connect to something larger and more meaningful than ourselves. (tweetable)
How do we find this inner safety, even if our earlier experiences have undermined our ability to connect with others and to feel secure in our relationships?
Recognize the feeling of fear
Where do you feel the fear in your body? Many of us may have numbed ourselves to our bodily signals in order to protect ourselves from hurt and painful emotions. A body scan meditation can help you get in touch with your body and sit with the feelings of fear that you're trying to avoid. As you become comfortable with the sensations, listen to the thoughts in your mind. Consider your desire to seek approval, be critical of others, or close down in shame.
Link it to the past
Your reactions are likely subconscious habits from the past. You're reacting in much the same way that helped you feel physically safe or psychologically worthy in different times. Perhaps it was early experiences, or perhaps it was trauma at a later stage. Can you think of what may have led to your current reaction? Can you think how you may be trying to protect yourself?
De-link it with the present
Sometimes old behaviors can stay with us because they turn into habits. Sometimes they stay because past events remain unprocessed and "alive" in our minds -- in which case its important to process them, often in the safety of a professional. In the meantime, its worth considering whether your reaction helping you in the present? Is it helping you live by your values? Is it helping you open up fully to life?
Pretend as if
A little imagination can go a long way. Step back from your reaction and think for a moment what if you weren't imprisoned by your fears? What if you didn't have to behave a certain (self-defeating) way? What kind of life will you live? What will you be able to achieve? What joy and fulfillment will you get out of it?
And once you've immersed yourself in your values laden future, and armed yourself with the guiding light of a purpose, step out of your fears and the "stuck zone," and do the very thing you'd do if this fear were no longer present in your life.
I'd love to hear back from you! What are the fears that hold you back? What do they stop you from pursuing?