The beauty of my job as a clinician is that I am constantly inspired and surrounded by the most fearless people in the world. I meet amazingly resilient men and women who have survived trauma, abuse, life challenges… you name it, they’ve been through it, they’ve seen it all. And survived.
I still remember a conversation that I had several years ago with a young women who was in recovery from heroin use. We were sitting in my office and I introduced the concept of fearlessness to our conversation. To my surprise, she looked at me and said, “I don’t know anything about being fearless. I’m not fearless at all. I’m fearful all of the time.”
This conversation taught me that fearlessness can be loud and fierce or soft and subtle, or both at the same time.
This girl is an amazingly strong and brave human being, a total rockstar. She has conquered and survived all sorts of childhood trauma and abuse; and and even though life can be pretty messy sometimes, she shows up and meets whatever challenges come her way. It is incredibly inspiring.
So I looked at her, astonished, and said, “you are one of the most fearless souls that I have ever met. Fearlessness is not about the absence of fear. It’s not about being superwoman every moment of the day or never doubting yourself. And it’s not about doing everything perfectly all of the time. Fearlessness is about being afraid and then doing it anyways. Finding the strength within you to show up and face the day ahead. It’s about being vulnerable and open to healing, even though it scares you.”
I have thought a lot about this conversation over the years- Why is it so hard to embrace our own bravery, courage, and fearlessness?
Perhaps it is because if we embrace our own fearlessness than we are also acknowledging the adverse experiences that have happened in our lives that have inadvertently revealed to us our own true strength.
And it can be so easy to push down those challenging life experiences, or “forget” about them, or feel so consumed by them that you cannot possibly be able to see your own strength through them. We often need someone else to reflect back at us and point out our own strengths and resiliencies, especially when we cannot see them for ourselves.
But to even share our inner stories and adverse life experiences with another person takes a huge leap of vulnerability. And if you have survived hardships and trauma, this may not come naturally for you.
Here’s what I think happened. We experienced trauma when we were younger and we survived all of these years by being strong by whatever coping tools we had at that time. We had to hold it together. So whether that was by numbing out on drugs or by suffering in silence wondering if you are secretly crazy, we built an armor around us, to keep us safe. And it did, it served its purpose, we survived.
The problem is that what many of us want more than anything is love and connection. This is the challenge- that in order to create real connection with those around you is to experience real vulnerability. And to experience real vulnerability it means admitting that we don’t always have it all together. That sometimes we are scared. That we are imperfect. And that sometimes we are struggling and not okay.
Which is hard to do when we have spent an entire lifetime training ourselves to NOT feel those emotions. Or to stuff them away. Or to hide by telling ourselves that there’s something wrong with us. Something wrong with me. Who would want to know my secrets, anyway?
There’s a word for that, and it’s called shame. Shame lives in the dark, it tries to hold our wisdom and inner strength hostage. The good news is, shame cannot live in the light. And that’s where courage comes in.
Courage is the ability to transcend our fears. It takes courage to recognize that the armor we wear is outdated and no longer serves us. It takes courage to ask for help. It takes courage to show up. And it takes courage to heal.
That, is true fearlessness.
P.S. This Article was recently featured in Recovery Today Magazine!! Check it out: https://siteassets.pagecloud.com/recoverytoday/downloads/recoverytodaymagazineapril2017-ID-7009d41e-2a79-4ae8-ff27-12f2da41243d.pdf
P.P.S. Below is one of my favorite meditations of all time!
Fearless Horse Meditation
So let’s take a deep breath in and exhale. And then one more deep breath in, and this time as you exhale, already noticing horse. Noticing strength of body. Powerful movement. Horse. Black mane. Graceful movement. Powerful presence.
Horse, bold and powerful, because that’s who horse is.
Horse nourishing itself. At river, free flowing cool water.
And after horse is nourished, energized, refreshed, and clear. From waters and river. Horse sits out on horse’s journey. Each step bringing horse closer to journey’s end. Horse free. Noticing strong body. Powerful movement.
Horse graceful, unsparing, horse just being horse. As horse moves into space beyond powerful presence? Horse aware of its surroundings, but also knowing its job is to be horse. Bold, powerful horse.
As the horse becomes more aware horse’s own inner strength sourced from within.
There’s the freedom and peace as horse moves. Confidence and grace. Dancing, rearing, galloping.
Then perhaps this horse moves joyfully, happy, clear and peacefully. Bold, beautiful, joy, radiating from within. Perhaps horse comes across another grouping horses. That is what horse does.
Head up, radiant, bold, powerful, because that’s who horse is. Leader, light shining from within.
Notice as horse continues on horse’s journey. Bright, peaceful and clear, moving confidently on the road ahead. Watch how gracefully she moves. Confident, bold, and powerful. Source from within.
Mind organizing, healing light. That’s it. That’s you. Breathe in horse. One more time.
Mind already organizing whenever you want to feel this bold, powerful, confident, radiant, graceful, free as horse. Think of horse. Breathe in horse. Breath will slow. Mind will remember.
Now counting from one up to five. One. Mind-organizing horse. Bold, powerful, light, free. Horse. Up to two. Light, shining, soars from within. Three. Refreshed, renewed. Up to four. Alert, aware, powerful, radiant. All the way up to five. Our eyes opened and you’re back here with me.