Empowered Change

What's Stopping You?

by Linda Maree
Article 2 in our series ETAIN
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Linda Maree is a freelance writer, editor and is the creator of Etain Workshops®. For information on workshops and presentations eMail:
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E M P O W E R E D  C H A N G E

What's Stopping You?

Fear is a shadow, and not a thing in itself. —J. Krishnamurti

There are times in our lives when change seems inevitable and the best we can do is to accept it and move on. At other times, change involves making a conscious choice, and even though it may be something we really want - the fulfillment of a dream or a goal - we may suddenly feel unable to come to a decision and step into our dream. Stepping into the unknown involves taking a risk and our resistance to that risk may show up in many ways: the inability to make a commitment, procrastination, low self-esteem, depression, perfectionism, poor time management, forgetfulness, anything that will allow us to step back from the brink without taking responsibility. When this happens, we use our resistance as an excuse for not dealing with change and moving forward. We use it to create an illusion of security. We use resistance to mask our fear.

As human beings we all have fears, some very real, but most unfounded. I used to think that being brave meant being fearless. I held that up as my ideal and then berated myself because I could not live up to it. Now I have learned that being brave is not being fear-less; it is feeling the fear - and then moving forward nonetheless. Fear itself holds no power. It is when we give in to our fear that it has mastery over us. When we surrender to fear it will stop us in our tracks and keep us from moving forward. It will prompt us to stay where we are because it seems to be safe - at least we know what the dangers are here. Giving in to fear will cause us to seek out security above all else; and security is always an illusion. We end up living shadow lives, stuck in a false sense of assurance and safety, and a feeling that if we are not happy, at least we have avoided the wolf at the door.

My daughter told me recently about a novel that she read that has helped her get past some of her fears. It is called "Invisible Monsters," and was written by Chuck Palahniuk. There was a line in this novel that made my daughter sit up and take notice: "Find that place where your deepest fear resides and go live there." (Paraphrase)

So, what is it that's holding you back? What is your deepest fear?

Is it fear of rejection? Not being good enough? Supporting oneself and one's family? Making enough money? Being overwhelmed - having too much to do already? Are you still holding on to a belief that you are too old, too tired, too stupid, too poor... and on and on? Avoidance tactics like procrastination, over-responsibility, and all those other reasons we have for not doing the things that we say we really want to do are the instruments of fear to keep us safe in our illusion. Often our fears are not so well formed. We feel the fear but it seems to be vaporous and vague; we know we're afraid of something - but what? This appears to be one of fear's most effective tools. We believe we can't fight what we can't see - the invisible monster. In the end, fighting fear is not the answer and may only serve to feed the monster, enlarge our fear and increase our sense of powerlessness. Fear itself is not really the enemy - that is another illusion. Remember, it is the giving in - the giving over of our power that is at the heart of our struggle. There is no need to fight, no battle to be won, no foe to be conquered. Thomas Jefferson defines an enemy as "an injured friend." Looking at it from this perspective, the key, then, to overcoming fear, our perceived enemy, is not to try to annihilate it, but to learn to soothe it and comfort it - befriend it. Go live with that fear. Don't avoid it or fight it, but get to know your fear - intimately. Get close; learn to be comfortable with fear; embrace it. Learn to have your fear work for you. Better yet, learn to work with your fear. And then it is time to move on in a new way - taking your fear with you as a trusted companion and partner on the journey.

ACTION: Collage your fear. Collage is a proven vehicle for developing self-awareness and uncovering subconscious barriers to living the life we choose. Arts Therapists often use collage to help clients deal with past physical and emotional traumas. I use collage to help me focus on my goals and remove the often-unseen stumbling blocks that keep me from achieving those goals. Collage is easy, it's fun, and you donŐt have to consider yourself artistically inclined to do it. (Though we are all artists in our own right.)

To collage your fear, begin by cutting out pictures and images (from old magazines, books, newspapers, etc.) that symbolize fear to you. Don't try to analyze your pictures or worry about finding the right ones. Let your intuition guide you and choose the pictures for you. (My intuition chose pictures of refugees around a fire in an obviously cold and snowy region; also pictures of houses on fire and other images which clearly showed my fear of being homeless, hungry, and alone in the world - circumstances I have never experienced in a real way, but that are nonetheless at the core of my struggle.) When you are finished cutting, arrange the pictures on a sheet of colored construction paper using a color that symbolizes struggle or suffering for you, and glue the pictures into place. (I chose red paper, as red, to me, is the color of deep feelings, passion and emotion, both positive and negative.)

After the pictures are glued into place, sit with your collage for a bit and allow it to speak to you. What kinds of pictures did you choose? What colors predominate? What emotions are stirred when you look at your collage? What does it say to you about your fears? Does it help to bring your fear into focus, making it visible and taking away the mystery, and therefore, the power of that fear? Now that you have found it, how might you, metaphorically or symbolically, "live with" this particular fear? How might you befriend it and, ultimately, embrace it?

Linda Maree

Writer and Editor

eMail: etainwrites@aol.com

© Linda Maree 2001    
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Editor's note:

Linda's Etain series offers an opportunity for Pathfinders participants to share their successes at meeting life challenges. The concept of Etain, the hero and heroine that is woven through the stories of all cultures, is the journey we all travel.

We wish you well on the path and look forward to your participation.

© dwij 2001
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