When we try something new, or sense that change is on the horizon, or when we’re in a murky transition period that seems to have no end, it’s not unusual to feel varying amounts of fear.
Sometimes, though, the amount of fear we experience, well, scares us. (I’m reminded of the title of a song by Bauhaus: “In Fear of Fear.” That’s how it is sometimes!)
So I like to look at fear in two different ways (there are probably infinite flavors of fear, but this is a general distinction that is often helpful when fear’s got us confused or shrinking).
One kind of fear is what is sometimes referred to as “rollercoaster” fear.
You’ve got butterflies in your stomach, and your body is braced for an intense experience — but there’s a definite thread of excitement there. You want to go where the rollercoaster is taking you, even though sometimes it causes your stomach to drop to your feet or your heart to spring to your throat.
The other kind of fear feels different. You’re expecting an intense experience, but instead of butterflies in your stomach, you feel cement.
This fear weighs you down; it feels impossibly heavy; you don’t anticipate the rollercoaster, but even if you did you wouldn’t have the lightness of step to get on. This fear is entangled with a palpable sense of dread, and sometimes a feeling of “ick” or revulsion. You don’t want to go where it’s taking you.
We can become confused when we don’t take time to make a distinction between these types of fear.
How many movies have you seen where a character is about to get married, and confides to her best friend that “something doesn’t feel right,” and the ever-helpful friend says, “Oh, you just have cold feet. It’s normal to feel that way before taking such a big step.” And either the bride turns and runs back up the aisle and out of the church in the middle of the ceremony, or she goes ahead with the marriage and it’s a disaster.
This is a good example of that second type of fear, which can be an indication that something isn’t right for you on the road you’re about to take.
Now, here’s the tricky thing: It can also be an indication that something isn’t right in the way you’re thinking about the road you’re about to take.
So, it’s not necessarily as clear-cut as, “Oh, you’re experiencing a side of dread with your fear? That means you definitely shouldn’t get married!”
What fear combined with dread actually warrants is further inquiry into what is going on for you.
It could be that you don’t want to marry this person — ever. He’s wrong for you and that’s the awful truth.
But it could also be that you love this person deeply — but you don’t want to marry him.
Or, it could be that you love this person AND you want to get married — but not until you’ve gotten in contact with your estranged dad, because your heart sinks at the thought of ever being married without your dad in attendance.
We always have a good reason for feeling the way we feel (even if the reason doesn’t seem valid to our “logical mind” or our inner critic). When we hit on that good reason, we usually feel true relief, sometimes accompanied sadness. If your fear feels heavy or “icky”, this is a sign to stop and investigate before moving forward.
If your fear feels like you’re about to get on a rollercoaster (and rollercoasters thrill you rather than making you want to throw up), this is a good sign that you’re in for a wild ride and your essential self is up for it.
(It’s worth noting, though, that if, like me, you are highly sensitive, “good fear” can feel overstimulating, so make sure you have solid support and self-care as you embark on your journey.)
Speaking of support, I have a two new one-on-one coaching programs I’m excited to share with you (and yes, I do feel some of that “rollercoaster fear” in putting these programs out into the world!). There will be more to come on these programs soon, but for now, you can hop on over and learn about Light Up Your Creative Self and Stellar Self-Care Foundations, here.
What do you notice about the different “flavors” of fear, for you? How do you deal with them? I’d love to hear from you.