I am scared.
What picture do you get when you hear that sentence?
I see a child.
And that says a lot. It says that in our culture, it’s OK to say I am scared when you are a child, but you are not really supposed to say it as an adult. As an adult, you are supposed to be angry, or sad, or grieve, or be frustrated, or happy, or ecstatic. And sometimes afraid, but that’s definitely more taboo.
Why is fear more taboo? Why does it feel more vulnerable to say I am scared? I am afraid?
My guess is because it’s more real. It’s more true. It’s more authentic.
When I explore anger, grief, sadness, and frustration in myself, I often find fear behind it. These are often reactions to fear.
My mind feels fear. It reacts to it. And that reaction can take the form of anger, frustration, sadness, or even grief.
I lose something or someone important to me. It brings up fear of being alone, of missing out. And my reaction to that fear takes the form of sorrow.
I don’t get what I want because of someone else’s actions, and I see it as unfair. I am scared because I don’t get it, and I feel out of control. And I react to that fear by going into anger.
When I explore emotional issues for myself, mostly through inquiry, fear is often at the bottom of it. (Along with my mind believing scary stories.) And the rest – anger, frustration, sadness, grief, even elation, happiness and ecstacy – come as reactions to the fear.
I can’t say it’s always this way, or always this way for everyone. But this is what I find. When I get close enough, I often arrive at fear. And that tends to dissolve the surface emotions and reactions.
My suspicion is that’s why fear is more taboo. It’s more taboo for adults to admit fear. It’s too intimate. Too authentic. It doesn’t allow for our usual ways of coping with fear through anger and sadness or various compulsions. Admitting to the fear and getting close to it allows the house of cards to fall. What’s left is just nakedness.
When I get close to fear, what then? It’s just like a scared child or animal. What it wants is to be noticed, allowed, respected, met with kindness and patience. Listened to. Often, that’s all that’s needed. (At least, at first.)