When my ex-husband and I separated a few years ago my biggest fear was loneliness.
Push me out of a plane (parachute attached of course); dangle me from a 2,000 ft tall building (knock me out first), but please God don’t let me be alone.
It seems God is messing with me though, because here I am, facing my worst fear, the one I’ve spent a lifetime avoiding.
Don’t we always eventually come to that place, where our biggest fears catch up with us?
So I made a decision. I decided I could stare this thing down, look it boldly in the eye and meet its acquaintance, or I could run and hide in a corner. Hiding in a corner won’t get me very far, and I imagine it’s pretty lonely over there too, so I’ve plumed for option A.
Staring down our fears
What exactly does that look like, to stare down our fears? If I feared spiders (which I actually do) I imagine I might be advised to handle one or, worst still, sit in a room full of them. And if I were to survive such a horrendous experience, I think I might come out of it even more fearful than before.
But emotions aren’t like that. When we face our emotional fears we climb a treacherous mountain, but then we make it to the top and get to walk back down again in freedom.
The truth about fear
Here’s the truth about fear: it isn’t real. It may look real and feel real but in reality, it’s a state of mind.
All of our stress, anxiety, depression (in non-medical cases) and worry, is rooted in fear. Our inability to be more and do more is rooted in fear. Even the decisions we make are often rooted in fear.
Fear is a big deal. It prevents us from living the life we long for and keeps us feeling small.
But here’s the good news: fear is an emotion that comes from a thought process, and we are not our mind and emotions, we are something far greater.
This is one of my favourite quotes of all time about fear:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us. ~ Marianne Williamson
The first time I read that quote it blew my mind. I had never considered that perhaps the truth about who we really are—strong, powerful, capable—could be something we fear. But consider this: if we truly believe ourselves to be powerful beyond measure that’s one heck of a calling to live up to, no? Sometimes it’s easier just to shrink and be small—to stay within our comfort zone.
Back to that loneliness issue
So if I’m going to face this thing—my loneliness—what exactly does that look like?
Well the first thing I did several weeks ago was to sit with the feeling and become curious. Where normally I would run—switch on the television, text a friend, go shopping—I didn’t allow myself to do that. Instead I made myself ask questions, which in turn, became a written dialogue in my journal.
Here’s an extract from that process:
Loneliness: You’re most afraid of me aren’t you…
Me: Yes. But I don’t want to be afraid of you. I want to get to know you intimately so that you become my friend, not something to fear. I want to turn loneliness into a contemplative, peaceful and positive energy where I can be my whole self and feel joy.
Loneliness: I want that for you too. I am not something to fear. In me you can be fully whole. In me you can be fully awake and present. In me you are actually never alone – you are with God.
Me. That’s where I want to be.
Loneliness: Why do you think you fear me so much?
Me. It comes from when I was a little girl. I felt so incredibly lonely most of the time. It made me so sad and caused me to think I was unloved. I looked at other families out having fun together and thought mine was so abnormal and boring. We never did things together apart from annual vacations and Christmas. These were the only times I didn’t feel lonely. I guess I hated the feeling so much and it brought me so much sorrow that I now fear it as an adult.
Loneliness: What does being alone look and feel like to you?
Me. It comes as thoughts and comparison. So thinking that everyone else, especially families, is out having fun together and loving one another. Loneliness has a lot to do with love for me. If I’m lonely I don’t have love. If I’m not lonely I do have love.
Loneliness: So loneliness = being unloved?
Me. Yes. So perhaps the deeper fear under loneliness is that I am unloved and unwanted. If I am sitting in my feelings of loneliness I am missing relationship and connection. And the conclusion I come to when alone is that I am unworthy of that love and connection, or else people would be with me. I also have a tendency to think that I drive people away.
Loneliness: How do you feel about actually being along – the physicality of it?
Me. I like being alone. I’m an introvert – I enjoy my own company. But often I miss conversation and touch if I’m alone too long.
Loneliness: How would you feel about being alone for the rest of your life?
Me. Terrified. I can’t stand that thought. I want to share my life and love with someone. I need a deep and loving primary relationship. And I need a family and close friends.
Loneliness: So it isn’t being alone that you fear, it’s what loneliness represents and triggers for you – that fear of not being loved, or being alone in the world without close connection to people.
Me. Maybe, yes. I always just thought it was about being alone. But being alone is just a representation of being without love for me. Loneliness is just a cover up for a deeper fear.
So there you have a picture of how your can use your journal to dialogue with your deepest fears. I honestly haven’t found a better way. The huge part about this process for me was that it uncovered a deeper root fear for me—the fear of not being loved.
What is your biggest emotional fear? Here are some really common ones:
- Not feeling good enough
- Not being loved
- The unknown
What is it for you? Perhaps your biggest fear isn’t on this list. Spend some thinking about what it is and then I challenge you to write a dialogue between yourself and that fear. You’ll be amazed at how much it will help you see your fear differently and begin to overcome it. When we bring something we fear into the light it begins to loosen its power over us.
Image credit: Justin De La Ornellas