Hello There Friendly Fear!

Being HSP comes with an instruction manual of sorts. Since we have super sensitive nervous systems we are perfectly equipped to spot trends and developments early and interprete subtle cues. However, it is precisely this strength that makes us prone to all kinds of anxieties and fears. Noticing differences in our environment is an asset but it also alerts us to subtle signs of potential danger. To avoid going into a near-continuous anxious state it is therefore imperative that we learn to consciously understand and handle our fear response.

I’ve tried various approaches so far. The Macho approach (just ignore them and push on!) the Blind Approach (just jump!), the Redefining Approach (‘fear is really just excitement in diguise!’) and the Talk to Your Friends Approach (don’t you find it scary too…you don’t? oh.)

I discovered that, while all those approaches work, they were going against the grain of my HSP qualities: noticing detail, reflecting carefully on possible action, taking a holistic view of the situation, honouring my intuition and wishing to avoid unnecessary stress.

So I slowly came to develop a different approach to handling my fear. Now, I take a deep breath, pause, find out exactly what the fear is, and then I figure out what tiny step I can take to find out if that fear is “right”.

“Would there really not be enough money to pay for that, would that letter really be too difficult to write, would such a product really be impossible to find?” etc. etc.

Most of the time, my fear can be dealt with by acknowledging the info it is giving me and “checking it out” like this. It’s as if fear is saying: “have you thought about this?” and then I say “no indeed I haven’t, lets go and see how big that issue is and whether I can resolve it”. Most of the time, if I can just keep taking little steps like this, I will keep moving forward through my fear. Because most of the time, fear will appear to be an alarming concern, but on closer inspection it is not really an alarming issue as long as I just consciously acknowledge it and deal with it. I find that dealing with my fears this way, most of my inner resistance just naturally and gracefully unravels.

It’s a lot like giving in to the need to check that the door is properly locked. No matter how much rational thinking you do, it’s likely that the unease you feel will never quite be resolved until you actually allow yourself to check that the door is locked. Many times it will actually be locked already, but sometimes your nagging fear is right, and you’re glad you checked!

I think it is like this with most of our fears. Instead of resisting them, reasoning them away or attacking them we need to put on our adult spectacles and say: “right, it’s probably nothing, but let’s check it anyway.” It’s an attitude that allows us to work with our fears step by step when necessary, and put them to rest gently when nothing is amiss after all.

And, when nothing is amiss after all, recognize that you have just received a precious gift. That is: a look into your own subconscious. For your fears might be the voice of a very young you that wants the assurance that things will be o.k. even though they are unfamiliar. They might be the voice of the internalized overprotective parent that wants to keep you safe yet unwittingly inhibits your growth and undermines your self-esteem. They might even be the fears instilled in you by ingrained respectable traditions that always served you well and that you now are about to challenge. Whatever they are, hear them out. When you listen carefully, not only will you be able to determine what they are saying and how to check whether they’re right, you’ll also be able to recognize what or whom they sound like…Your family, your parents, yourself when you were little? Yourself when you were a teenager? Societal norms? When you can hear the message spoken and recognize the speaker you are empowered to put your fears into proper perspective.

Allow your fears to serve you by pointing out the consequences you haven’t considered and by bringing forward the voices from your present and past that speak strongly within you. After listening carefully, you can decide. Is this a concern that needs to be considered, or is it a particular belief that needs to be undone? Is there, in fact, truly no problem, but rather a part of you that is stuck in expecting there to be a problem? Or is there a (tiny) bit of danger you overlooked?

Either way, I’ve learned to be grateful. Our fears are alerting us to external danger and/or internal sabotage. On either front, something is preventing us from being successful. We might need to deal with a particular situation or we might need to deal with a form of inner resistance…but ultimately, our fears are showing us how to move forward!

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