I am supporting a very dear friend through some very hard things. The type of hard thing most of us don't speak openly about, except with the most trusted advisers. Experiences all of us can relate to. In her case, her relationship with her husband, in your case - a relationship with your mother, sister, friend. My friend has deep loss, and a sense of betrayal and sadness, but also an opportunity for truth and growth and learning. If she takes it.
What I know for sure, is that the things that we fear the most, are the hardest to do. That’s what makes them fears. As we move through life we must face our fears and grow and mature into adults. Otherwise we may grow old, but we never grow up. My friend is working to grow up. This means that she is facing her fears and having difficult conversations in places she has never had them. Growing is stretching and hurting until the tension is relieved and she feels bigger, stronger, more robust.
My friend and I talk about how growing older happens to everyone, and that growing up is a choice. It requires you to continually stretch into new experiences, resolve past hurts and make choices about who you surround yourself with. Often tackling these issues unlocks others, and it can feel like a rabbit warren of learning. However, this is the work that must be done in life. It is in these moments that we can feel acutely alive, terrified, liberated and later (sometimes much later) - joyful, peaceful, powerful. The reward.
Facing into fears requires a toolkit of self-belief, support and good coping mechanisms. Without these pillars, the journey is made harder.
Here are my tips to build your toolkit.
1. Self-Belief – Many of my clients come to me because they are ready to make a change. But they aren’t sure how to do this. Firstly, it is ok to not know how to start. The beginning of change is the consciousness of something that needs to change. Secondly comes practice. Facing into hard things requires a lot of practice, evaluation and then another go at practicing. This is a life skill set. The more you practice, the more you will realise that you can do it. The more you deeply know you can do it, the greater the self-belief.
2. Support – We need a team. Everyone needs a team. Teams are constructed differently depending on the person. Typical examples of teammates include partner, friends, parents, family, therapist/psychologist, a team of natural health practitioners, your doctor etc. When we are facing our fears and doing hard things, we need people to notice what we are doing and bear witness to it. When our people see us we feel a tension relief. When you are doing hard things, make sure your team is in place. Whatever that team looks like for you.
3. Good coping mechanisms – Ultimately your team can’t do this for you. You must do it. This is your hard thing. As a direct result of facing into your fears, you will find yourself experiencing a swirl of emotions. Sometimes sleep will be disrupted, as will feelings of being safe and secure. This is normal. Self-belief and support will help, and you will still need to know how to soothe yourself. Make sure you have Above the Line (taking personal responsibility for yourself) behaviours to re-balance yourself when it feels hard. These include doing things that give you energy such as reading, walking, nature, cooking/creating, yoga, fishing, hiking, art and gardening. You will also need an outlet for your emotions, journaling, singing, laughing and crying along with a movie are all positive ways of processing and supporting yourself. Finally, do your best to limit maladaptive coping mechanisms such as shopping, drinking, self-medicating (alcohol, cigarettes, drugs etc). These are all temporary fixes and do not allow you to grow up.
How do you face into your fears?