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Facing What Scares You

confront fears“You can’t change what you refuse to confront.”

I stumbled across this quote on Pinterest recently (you poke around Pinterest, too? Come find me!).

I have to admit it felt like a bit of slap in the face. My first thought was, “crap.”

See, I’ve been having resurgence of old nightmares lately. I’ve had them on and off for years but in recent weeks, they have become a near nightly occurrence. I’m talking jolting awake in the middle of the night on a surge of fear, waking up sobbing, thrashing around, and other not so fun stuff kind of nightmares.

Despite the intensity of them – and the fact that one of them has been popping up for 19 years – I’ve never really taken a good look at them. As soon as I’m awake my sole focus is on forgetting them and moving onto something to distract me from the emotional upheaval.

For all the years that I’ve been having these various nightmares, I have battled them back upon awakening. I have soothed and calmed myself in various ways. I have rationalized them and dismissed them. I have ignored them and turned away from them.

I never talked about them. I never took a good look at them to consider why they continue to come again and again. I never looked them in the face to see what was there I could learn from.

I refused to confront them.

And, unsurprisingly, they hadn’t changed much. My responses to them hadn’t changed much. They just continued and I continued to tolerate and pretend to ignore.

Now, I get why I haven’t wanted to confront them or look at them. They aren’t pleasant. They bring me, who is generally a strong and feisty person, to a puddle of emotional goo – at least temporarily. It’s not any sort of fun to have these nightmares or to remember the memories that they stir up in me.

Yet, when I saw that quote, the second thing that popped into my head was “how long are you going to let fear run the show?

Clearly, trying to ignore or dismiss these nightmares wasn’t working – and hasn’t for 19 years. (yeah, I’m a little stubborn….)

You can’t change what you refuse to confront.

So, I started to confront them. Every night for a week, when I  woke up from one of these nightmares I refused to run from it. Instead, I sat down with my journal and wrote it out – every detail, every feeling, every memory. I checked in with my body and what was happening in it. I let myself feel and observe the emotions moving through me. I let myself shake and cry and experience all of it. Once the physical and emotional effects of the nightmare had moved through me, I took a deep breath and went back to bed.

And, for the first time, I talked about these nightmares with a trusted friend. I told her about them and shared some of the descriptions of them I had written out. I observed and noticed how my body responded to the fear of doing this and the emotions that moved through as I shared for the first time.

Then the nightmares started to change. They haven’t disappeared or stopped. Perhaps they never will. But they are different. My response to them has changed. My physical and emotional response is less intense. I’m able to breathe through and move past them more easily and more quickly. I am no longer reduced to a puddle of emotional goo. I no longer dread going to bed and what might happen when I do.

The changes are subtle in many ways. And they are profound.

I faced what I was afraid to confront and it lost its hold on me.

What are you refusing to confront?

How could facing it change your life?

(Believe me, I’m asking myself these questions in other areas of my life now too!)

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