Battling Fear

Every Wednesday night, I attend a writing group. I look forward all week to this event, excited to read my pages and hear the feedback from my peers and advisers. Every week, I am nearly late, frantically pulling together my pages, my final edits, my nerve-- and heading off to work.

And it is work. I am writing down some difficult memories, to be picked over as a stranger might do a cold plate of french fries after lunch. It is hard for me to visualize some past events with enough clarity to write them down so others can vicariously experience those events, too. Hard because I don't want to relive those times. Hard because old wounds heal slowly, and my flesh is still tender. The critiques are always helpful-- but sometimes they still hurt.

Driving home tonight, I realized I was shaking with the after-effects of fight-or-flight adrenaline. That primed response of our bodies in a state of sudden fear. It is scary to remember a time we never want to repeat. It is exhausting, and emotionally draining, too.

Why do I do this? Why do I keep writing, editing, returning every Wednesday night for another dose of dread? Well... I thought about that on my way home. I realized that the truth I share with my clients also applies to me. If I want to find the lessons that will help me move beyond a bad memory or experience, I have to work through the experience. I have to be willing to go piece-by-piece through my past, and throw out what isn't useful. Claim the lessons. Claim my inner strength, my integrity, my changes and the personal growth that I've experienced since those events occurred.

I am lucky. Writing is, for me, cleansing. Putting down on a page all the things I didn't want to forget, but hate to remember-- It lets me rest from the burden of remembering. It lets me put down the memory without fear of losing or repeating the lesson-- I can re-read it any time I feel a need. I am literally lightening my load at each Wednesday night Writer's Group. Freeing up mental and emotional space one jaw-clenching page at a time. Making room for something new.

Just after a car accident, we are in trauma. When the danger has past, and the person stabilized, there is often a long and painful period of physical therapy. A time when we re-learn how to inhabit our bodies, and work through the pain of healing. And so I look forward to these sessions, knowing I'll be exhausted and in pain at the end. Knowing that it's a good kind of pain, and not a punishment. Knowing that I am re-learning how to inhabit my emotional landscape, learning how best to lean forward into my life.

I have seen friends in crisis who were so scared of the pain they might feel if they acknowledged the hurtful situation they were in-- that they simply refused to get therapy. The fear of the healing process was bigger than the ugly situation they were actually living in. We seem, intuitively, to know just how painful it will be to work through our injuries and our traumas. And yet, so often, we turn a blind eye to the trauma or the situation that we live through every day instead.

Getting help, asking for someone to hold your hand and help you move through the pain toward a healthier life, it's a big deal. I have great respect for anyone who can battle their fear enough to ask for help-- to keep asking for help until they are well. Who uses that extra bit of energy that allows us to learn from old hurts, and old patterns, so that we don't repeat them. So that we understand our own personal process of healing, and are able to fully embrace our individual presence in the world.

Driving home from my Writer's Group tonight, I appreciated all over again the courage and the energy my clients put into their own healing process. I honor their victory and their commitment to becoming fully themselves. Their willingness to come back to the table every couple of weeks, ready for more hard work. And then I sit at my computer, and write another chapter in my own story, getting ready for next week's healing critique.

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