Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Watching the Fear Roll In

Fear is what we call a group of bodily responses that serve as a warning. It arises when something precious to you is at risk of being damaged or destroyed. A human incapable of feeling fear is missing an essential tool for survival and could be seen as having a defective nervous system. If it wasn’t for our fear response, we wouldn’t nearly be as effective in life or death situations as that we are now. Yet many people treat this response as if it were something bad.

One of the reasons for this, is that fear isn’t a very comfortable sensation. Your breathing quickens. Your heart rate rises. Adrenaline pumps into our bloodstream making us tremble. We sweat. And we feel like throwing up as our blood is directed away from the stomach. So, from a sensory perspective, it is very reasonable to dislike the fear response.

No wonder that the usual reaction is to try to get rid of it. Extract ourselves from the fear that we’re feeling. It’s at this point where the sensation of fear can become very upsetting. As we try to wiggle and squirm ourselves out of the experience, we come to the realisation that it can’t be done. You are completely engulfed by it, as if you were put into cement shoes and then tossed into the ocean. No matter how much effort you put into it, you cannot swim your way to the surface. In the same way, you cannot extricate yourself out of fear. All that can be done is to let yourself be dragged down to the ocean floor.

Luckily, unlike drowning, fear doesn’t actually end in death. Better still, it’s often nothing more than an uncomfortable sensation that does no actual harm. The greatest distress is caused by resisting fear. Resistance only creates a heightened sense of disorientation and turmoil. Further keeping you from understanding the experience and therefore from accepting it. To understand what fear is telling you, you must give it your undivided attention. Otherwise fear will increase its efforts to make sure you do.

When the resistance has gone on long enough and you realise that fear is inescapable, the inner turmoil stops. Now, all that remains is to sit with fear. Listen to it. And as you give it your attention, the fear will start to subside. Maybe some physical sensations will linger for a while, but as they are no longer seen as problematic, they’ll be far less intrusive.

Once fear can be watched as you would watch the wind in tall grass, you will come to understand it.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach