What can we learn from our fears
We, at Wild Communion, had a post on Instagram a few days ago by Joseph Campbell. It said, “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” We had a comment from a sweet follower and very short conversation ensued. I began to think of the way that fear had forced its spindle-thin fingers into nearly every facet of my life at one point. Those were nearly impossible years.
It was September 11, 2001. I was pregnant with my 2nd child and extremely ill. I had no idea what was wrong. The doctors did not know what was wrong. My cervix had tilted so much so that the growing little one inside me was crushing my organs, more and more each day. Malabsorption was a way of life and weight loss, weakness, and a hyper-emotional almost neurotic worrying state were just part of the deal. It started out as a beautiful day. I was living for the time with my parents in the rural farmlands of Indiana. There were horses down the road a ways and they were a welcome distraction for me and my then almost 2 year-old Josef. On sunny days, the horses would run along the fence line and play with each other in the pasture. We both loved to watch. However in the same moment, I ached for my life back in Prague that we had just left behind and was waiting for the day we could find a place of our own here in my hometown, even though it was the place I never wanted to come home to.
We walked up the lane, only to see my mom run out or the front door and scream something, very distressed. I ran with the stroller, grabbed Josef and headed inside where we watched the replay over and over of the planes entering the buildings, the bodies of people falling from the twin towers, the smoke rise and the chaos reach ever greater heights with every minute. I felt my body melt, weeping and desperate for something or someone to come save the day. Of course, we all know how that ended, as if anything like that could every truly end. 2,606 people tragically died that day and we as a global community, stood by and watched. There were so many heroes who sacrificed their lives that day among that number and we cannot begin to imagine the grief felt by their families and friends.
That day, something changed inside me, as it did so many others. The paranoia and terror that we felt continued and seemed to grow exponentially with the scare of anthrax through the postal system and additional bomb threats. I felt so paralyzed by my sickness, having a 2-year old, living in my parents home, and now, in a world that I felt was unsafe. I was unsafe going to large venues. I was unsafe simply getting the mail. I made a lot of false assumptions, but my mind was not about to be soothed. This is where the climax of fear was felt in my life thus far. Fear and its accompanying chemical consequences had been my drugs of choice for many years.
As a child, anxiety was the norm. After the occurrence of abuse, I became a hypochondriac, paranoid, anxiety filled, and in a state of being alert to an extreme that a 12-year old should never be. My ability to take in information increased in order to keep myself safe from unknown. Although at this point, I feel that this is a pretty great quality to have in life-calculating and mindful planning and choosing-a child should not be doing this. The neurological patterning in my brain had depth and breadth. I found myself able to be afraid of everything. During one rather manic phase in college after getting married, it was so bad that I was afraid to open the door when people would come to visit. The complication of extreme loneliness in my marriage was icing on my many-tiered cake of fear. The only times I felt a release from this was when I performed my music. I played piano, violin and sang. I accompanied and immersed myself in a life that just felt safe and good. I played some fiddle, but Bach felt good on the violin, Beethoven was my favorite on the piano and Puccini, Verdi and Mozart were my voice’s preferences. I had found my comfort zone and place of sweet rest. The performing arts were my life and I knew it. It had chosen me. I had hardly chosen it.
Over time, I noticed that there were places I felt a relief from the fear. They were always away from home: college until I got married, Austria as a nanny, and Prague, teaching English. Home represented something I had not been able to come to terms with. In many ways, healing has occurred, but in others, I have had to find to help me continue down the path toward healing.
We don’t always get a location change to do a reset. We often don’t get to choose the people we live with and work with to do a reset. We have to work within the parameters of what is present. After 10 weeks of deep trauma therapy and a couple of years of integrating the new patterns, I found the practice of forest therapy. This practice gave me a whole new skillset, with the accompanying side effects of understanding the role of the sense and the body in accessing and storing information. I have also learned to honor all feelings, that there are no good or bad feelings. They are simply ways we are responding to certain challenges in our lives, and each of these responses need to be observed and validated. Fear, after many years has become this: a bodily awareness that there may be struggle or growth ahead. I also learned my body has an ability to teach me about myself in ways I had never been able to acknowledge before, because of strict ideologies and the socio-cultural norms of my homeland. This knowing has allowed for a release of deep shame and an increased understanding of my intuition and its power in my life and the life of others.
I still have fears. Most of my fears now are around our ability as humans to misunderstand each other so greatly. I try to work within the parameters of what is present. I attempt to see life as a gift daily, struggles and all. I want to learn and stretch, see success and learn from failure, allow old ideas to become memories and make new and exciting goals and work toward them. Fear is now not a way of life but has been a learning tool that has helped form the life I live today. I am not angry for the stolen years, because they were not stolen if I continue to choose to see what was being taught. Because of fear I know I am strong and determined and I hope to use what I learn to serve in any way that is presented to me. My learnings from fear have been shown as a wisdom that only could be revealed by entering the cave. And that cave had many tunnels; having children, homeschooling, going through therapy, doing my forest therapy training, going back to school, starting a business, and working toward healing the many past and current relationships I have had in my life. What are your tunnels? How has life offered a way to escape from and see your fear in a different perspective. Please leave your thoughts and comments below. We look forward to learning from you.