Healing Fear

How to Feel Safe - Shelley KlammerAnticipatory Fear

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face."

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Fear is defined in the dictionary as an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something dangerous is likely to cause pain or a threat.

Fear is a hardwired primitive emotion. Fear is like an alarm system, which warns us against threats to survival. Survival, in our ancestral past, meant staying alive in the face of threats that could cause death or serious harm. 

Fear can also habitually arise in the absence of a present moment threat. Anticipatory or objectless fear can turn into chronic anxiety related to nothing specific to your current life, and this can become debilitating.

*Anticipatory Fear - Shelley KlammerWhen you feel anticipatory or objectless fear:

  1. Stop and breathe. When you feel unsafe, your flight or fight (sympathetic nervous system) is activated. When you feel fear - stop and breathe deeply into your belly.
  2. Introduce Safety. Remind yourself that you are safe at this moment. Saying, "I am safe right now" will introduce safety into your body.
  3. Focus on love. Once you have shifted into your parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest), move your focus to an animal, person or activity that you love. Flood love through your body until you feel calmer.
  4. Invite your fear to speak. Once you are calm enough to witness yourself, ask your fear, "What are you afraid of?" A memory, a few words or an image might spontaneously pop into your mind.
  5. Soothe your fear. Say something soothing to your fear such as, “Everything’s going to be okay. I’m here for you. I’m never going to leave you. I love you.” 
  6. Stand up. At the root of fear is abandonment, shame or betrayal from the past. Stand up strongly for your right to be treated well - in your imagination or out loud to yourself. 
  7. Imagine strength. Imagine yourself as a superhero overcoming past harm in powerful and magical ways. This imaginative exercise can reinforce new feelings of empowerment in your body.
  8. Anchor safety. Take one small action step to anchor this feeling of safety into your nervous system. You might take a warm bath, lay on the ground in the sunshine, colour a mandala or listen to meditative music.