The other side of fear … that’s where we left off. I think we decided it’s a lot more complicated and rich with information than it may seem.
In terms of the Hero’s Journey, once we walk through the cave, we face greater challenges and obstacles before finally coming upon the ultimate battle, what Campbell calls “the ordeal.”
I feel that word deeply, by the way. Sometimes I feel like whole sections of my life could be classified that way.
- Like, when I was fresh out of college and had no idea who I was.
- Or when my husband walked through his fight with alcohol and I had to address my codependency.
- The many months that my 3 year old girl and my 1 year old triplets still weren’t sleeping through the night.
- And now, as those same triplets each practice driving.
But what is my ultimate battle? What is my ordeal?
It is to accept and love my Self through it all. Unconditionally. Fully. Radically and without reserve.
Because with this battle won, I can walk through the darkest cave, manage the toughest ordeal, and lean into the lessons I learn along the way with curiosity, no judgement, and lots of perspective.
What do you think your ultimate battle is? And how can you prepare for it?
I think first we need to get more comfortable with the cave. Here are some actions to take and things to consider as you move toward your ultimate battle and gather strength to fight it. I encourage you to journal about these suggestions, or use them as meditative prompts. Then, talk them through with someone you trust.
Do what you need to … just know that getting your responses and thoughts outside of you and into the world in some way makes them more tangible and much easier to see. And visible battles are much easier to fight.
- Ask yourself these questions in a situation in which you feel fear (and use that image at the start of this post for inspiration here):
- What am I afraid of right now?
- What’s making me afraid?
- Why is that so scary?
- What would happen if my fear came true?
- What would that say about me?
You might have to cycle through these questions to keep digging deeper and deeper. And you don’t have to do it all at once. But perhaps looking at the “underneath” will help you see the need that wasn’t met, the place where you learned to feel fear. And giving that place some light, some vision, can offer you a starting point for healing.
- Look at your fears with this new information.
What have you consistently carried with you? Where and how did you learn to be afraid? In other words, whose voice is speaking those fears into your head and heart?
What might your life be like if you didn’t carry those around?
One concrete way to increase awareness when you feel fear and the resulting resistance: replace “I should… “ with “I want to …” and see if that changes anything. Do you feel more or less fear? Do you gain clarity on what’s really at stake?
- Don’t “be fearless!”
Your fear is telling you something. It’s there for a reason. Why throw that away or condition your Self to ignore your inner voice?
Elizabeth Gilbert taught me this when I read her book, “Big Magic.” Fear is part of the equation. Like a backseat driver on a road trip telling you over and over again where not to go and pointing out all the hazards up ahead. Well intentioned but kind of a pain, right?
You can either give up control of the way you get to your destination – even though this trip was all your idea – and tell fear it can get in the driver’s seat … or you can politely tell it to shut up.
Yes. It has a voice. You can allow it to talk because maybe it has something to say. But it doesn’t get a vote on where you’re going. This is your trip!
Here’s another way to see this: think of your root fear, the ordeal, the ultimate battle that we’ve been talking about. Imagine it inside a cave, and take a moment to approach the edge. You don’t have to go inside yet, but you can get acquainted with the idea that you’re being called to that cave for a reason.
What is it? What is it trying to tell you? What is pulling you toward it and pushing you away? Can you just stand there and observe – let it offer its information and allow your Self the time to decide whether you want to listen or not?
Fear is built in to our survival systems. But it is not enough to survive, is it?
You deserve so much more. A lively, fulfilling, accepted existence, with deep meaning and connection. This is the life you can have. This is the life on the other side of fear.