September 4, 2012

Becoming Friends with Fear. ~ Alex Schlotterbeck

photo: Nikolaj F. Rasmussen

In my quest to ‘unstick’ myself—and my life—the emotion of fear has been in my mind.

In my mind, you ask and not in my heart? Yes, a little in my heart—but I also suspect that I’m one of those people who is habitually quick to suppress their fear.

Over the years, this means I haven’t really been in touch with my fear; I’ve made it ‘not real’ by pretending it isn’t there, until I actually wasn’t aware of it anymore.

Fear isn’t always tangible.

It is evident in your negative thoughts; behind the ‘I can’t be bothered to go to another job interview’ refrain or getting angry with someone for running into you; it can also hide behind ‘I don’t want to be in a relationship’ and appear with slightly aloof and cool persona.

Behind all of this can lurk cold fear. However, in my case, my mind does an amazing job of convincing me otherwise.

“Actually you don’t want to go to the job interview because it’s obvious you won’t get the job” or “ I really am justified to be over-the-top angry at this person that I don’t know because they bumped into me.”


It’s only through becoming acquainted with the feeling of fear in the body—in my case, cold feet, cold hands and a sense of hollowness/lack of substance in my chest—that I am able to recognise it.

I am also able to recognise it when sitting in meditation.

It’s a small wave of emotion ‘to-ing’ and ‘fro-ing’ around my heart, like the waves lapping on the shore of a lake. I can get a sense of it as being the driver behind my constant, grasping, compulsive thoughts—all trying to make things certain, to find solidity in the uncertainty of life.

Why this fear then?

Well, we could use a lot of psychological theories and explanations, particular to each individual—but, according to the existential philosophers, anxiety is part of life.

It is the existential angst about the fact that there is no certainty in this life and that we are, essentially, on our own. We come into and depart from our life, on our own. There are no guarantees about what happens after we die—and there are no guarantees about when we—or our loved ones—will die.

Depressing, perhaps?

Well, it depends on how you look at it; it also means that if you accept this, then it is up to you to make the most of your life in the present.

The terms ‘frozen with fear’ or paralyzed with fear, are good as it seems to me that if one is not aware of the fear lurking, then one can become frozen—or stuck—in how one thinks or behaves; this was behind my quest to become more acquainted with my fear.

According to Gestalt therapy theory, by being fully aware and in contact, change is possible.

Certainly, in some aspects of my life I have been feeling stuck—and so I have spent a lot of energy with getting better acquainted with my fear. Another emotion, which I personally link to my fear to, is impatience.

An example: my impatience to skip two years into the future, with my MA course completed—or being impatient in a relationship, wanting things to progress faster. Impatient for what? What happens if I sit with this impatience? What’s behind it?

Often, it is fear. This time, I can identify it as a curdling in my guts.

Fear of what? Fear that I cannot trust this present moment to give me what I need and therefore, I need to rush to the next present moment, where the same fear reappears.

Why have I been so avoidant of my fear up until now—and how do I deal with it? I think the answer to both of these questions is the same.

If I did not feel strong or supported enough in the past to feel the fear, then I would have preferred not to feel it.

So, the first thing to do now is to find ways to feel more solid and strong in myself so that I am able to feel my emotions…but not be overwhelmed by them. This has been my motivation for some of the body-work and body meditations I have done, experimenting with finding my core and feeling more grounded; some examples include soft belly meditation, Laban/Bartenieff classes and transformational breathing.

If you have a broad base in place, in terms of how rooted you are to the ground, then you are more able to be in contact with your fear without having it overwhelm you; this is another principle of Gestalt therapy: first thing to address is how a person self supports.

However, being the impatient person that I am, I decided to experiment with some more direct approaches around fear. This interest was sparked by a visit to a Thai massage therapist. She manipulated some points on my lower back that were very tender and this reminded me of a friend, a Shiatsu teacher, who had massaged the same points a few weeks earlier—and there had been the same soreness.

These points relate to the kidneys, which, according to Traditional Chinese medicine, are linked to the emotion of fear. A-ha! Another clue! It made perfect sense with the lower back- ache that I sometimes feel.

I have been reading about—and working—with acupressure points, which regulate the kidney yin and yang energy. Fear is due to a kidney yin deficiency; however both yin (feminine energy) and yang (masculine energy), can be thrown out of balance if one is deficient.

There are specific points on the back which, when worked on, are supposed to ‘de-ice’ stagnant fear; I work on the kidney points three times a day, for no more than three minutes. I have also given up coffee which apparently is big reason for kidney yin energy to be depleted and have started taking a Chinese herb called Rehmannia Six, which is said to help as well.

Interestingly—and as a side note—the kidneys are linked with the sign of Libra—and that is precisely in which sign, Saturn, the planet of fear—has been sitting on (my Libran moon) for the last two years.

In addition, I started to experiment with some flower essences, using one that is for getting rid of old emotions.  I started taking this before I discovered the Shiatsu points and wonder if in fact it somehow opened myself up to the acupressure.

Well, it is too early to say what the outcome of all this will be. Certainly, my aim is not to become fearless…that is just not possible. My desire is to be on better terms with my fear, so that it no longer ‘sticks’ my life; just being aware of fear and learning to recognize it (in its many disguises) is a start.

As I mull this over, I realize that this is the way to reclaim power; by coming to nose-to-nose with my fear, I have taken the power away from the situation, person or object, that ’causes’ me to feel fear.

It is more about me and less about them or that—and as a result, I feel more powerful.


In butterfly-like fashion, Alex has flitted through many incarnations from waitress to tour leader, telephone interviewer to charity project manager. She works as a counselor, astrologer and with disadvantaged kids, while training in Gestalt psychotherapy. Her eclectic path has led her to develop a compassionate, grounded and left of centre perspective. Passionate about all of us realising our full potential, she hopes that by honestly sharing her own journey, it will help illuminate your own path a little more. See if you agree!





Editor: Bryonie Wise

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