How to handle fear (and darkness)

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I start with fear, that tricky creature.

We need it, but we’re programmed to avoid it of course.

It’s extremely useful to us. It helps us survive and become motivated, yet manages to ruin everything of value if it takes over – even a little. Because really good things should scare us; yet fear also serves as a warning for bad things, so really bad things scare us too. Deciding which is which becomes, as you well know, quite the dilemma.

One thing that’s certain is that  for a life that means anything, we need to deal with our fears.

Psychologists and gurus often tell us to ’embrace’ them, which is very misleading, because we normally embrace those things we wish to keep. And the fears they’re talking about are not keepers.

We’re also often told to ‘not listen’ to our fears, which is again wrong. We have to listen to fears (however absurd they may be) before we push them away or walk through them. We need to understand as much as possible about what they are; and they’re usually not very complicated, although our avoidance makes them appear so.

Fear is very much like darkness. We fear darkness and avoid it. And who can blame us? Happiness is light. Love is light. Healing is light. Everything blossoms and connects in light.

And yet… “Sometimes, in order to know what to do, we must make ourselves in the dark.” (Woman and the Owl Project)

Darkness too is useful. We plant seeds in the dark so that they may grow. We need darkness and winter. Everything must rest and wait in quiet contemplation before it can come out and dance. Like fear, darkness needs to be listened to…understood.

For the past year, I’ve been learning quite a bit about a certain spiritual tradition while continuing my psychology studies. I can tell you that from both perspectives, handling  fear and darkness is a bit like experimenting with some very unpredictable and dangerous substances in a lab.

If you’re not wearing gloves and a mask, you can get sick and hurt…by which I also mean waste a lot of time…as in a whole lifetime. But, if you’re prepared, you can discover some amazing things that will greatly expand your understanding and life experience, and truly set you free to grow into your highest potential.

I’m not going to make this long and complicated as is my tendency. The ‘protective gear’ I’m talking about is very simply a sense of purpose…a clear intent.

We can’t just drift, mess around and see what happens. If we seek to handle fear or whatever darkness means for each of us in a way that benefits us, we need to be very clear as to why we’re doing it. Otherwise we’ll get lost in the labyrinth.

Besides, we need purpose in light as well. Try sitting for days on end on a sunny beach where the light shines brightly: you’ll burn to a crisp and worse.

As for what to do with fear (and darkness) after understanding them…AND realizing the consequence of letting them take over, look no further than Paulo Coelho and his Alchemist“Don’t give in to your fears. If you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart.”

Can you imagine not being able to talk to your heart?

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