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Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

We Need Fear in Our Lives

I’m no stranger to fear.

It just might be the emotion I write about the most. I’ve written essays about fear coming up as my mother died, when I do my taxes, and as I run my private practice. I’ve written about fear’s tie to courage and intuition. I’ve even written a letter to fear.

So basically, we’re buddies.

I’ve learned that fear holds a purpose. It points us to what we value and need in life. It alerts us of potential threats to those things.

Art Therapist Jackie Schuld shares a continuous line drawing of a woman's face with an expression of fear
"Fear" Continuous line drawing by Jackie Schuld

So I’m grateful that fear exists.

But fear can be an unruly bastard. It can quickly take over my mind and squash creativity if I let it go unchecked.

The answer isn’t to banish it. Many self-help books simply want you to act as if it doesn’t exist, with mantras like “I act without fear.” Bullshit. That fear is there and smiling at you from the closet.

So what’s an alternative?

To tend to the fear. To acknowledge it exists and understand why it is present.

For example, sometimes fear comes up with publishing some of my essays. I fear they’ll be taken the wrong way or that I’ll be criticized.

In those moments, I tend to the fear by admitting fear is there and then digging into why it is there. The fear is there because I value my reputation and tranquility. I value how I am perceived. I want to be liked and belong.

Releasing an essay that ruffles some feathers might compromise some of that.

So then I sit with my motives for writing the essay. I make sure that my words are in line with my values.

If I need extra reassurance, I check in with people closest to me and relevant to the topic I am writing about.

Once I know that my actions are indeed in line with my values, I then directly examine the fears. I give them a reality check. How often do I really get criticized? How often does it actually go well and people are supportive?

I acknowledge that the fears are possible, but they do not outweigh the good I am trying to spread in sharing my essays.

I also remind myself that if what I fear comes true, I can handle it.

It’s then time to thank my fear for its message, say goodbye, and move on to my intended action

So the process, boiled down into simple steps:

  1. Acknowledge the fear is present

  2. Understand what values or needs are in jeopardy

  3. Check that your intended actions are in line with your values

  4. Seek outside support if more reinforcement is needed

  5. Give your fears a reality check

  6. Remind yourself that your intended actions are more important than fears

  7. Acknowledge that you can handle it if what you fear comes true

  8. Say goodbye to the fear and move on to intended action

This process doesn’t guarantee that fear will not return. We wouldn’t want that anyways. We need fear in our lives. Sometimes we need to know if something is not a wise choice for us or that if a particular person or situation is unsafe.

Instead, we can tend to fear as it arises. As I’ve done this process, I’ve found that I experience less debilitating or irrational fear over time. It becomes a happy medium where we can let the fear move through our lives instead of keeping us stuck.


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