IntroductionAbout a year ago, I worked with a client who was going through an unexpected divorce and having to go back to work for the first time in a very long while to support herself and her three children.
Fear and anxiety were the two things that were fueling her to get up every morning, go to work at a very stressful job and then be there for her children in the evening. Her strength and courage were commendable, but each day she simply went through the motions of putting one foot in front of the other.
Her world seemed to be caving in around her. Her children were having problems, she was on the brink of losing her job and staying sober every day was a real challenge. She was sad, resentful and angry. Hope for a time when she could feel joy, or even manage a smile, seemed out of her reach.
Fear can be a gripping emotion and letting go of it can seem unfathomable.
Imagine that you are hanging high in the air and the only thing you have to hold on to is a rope. You see the ground below you, and you notice there is a safety net below, but the thought of letting go and jumping into it is paralyzing. You just keep holding on. Nothing changes and it's impossible to think of anything else but holding on to that rope as tightly as you can.
Then, from somewhere, you finally summon the courage to let go. One-by-one your fingers begin to relax around the rope until you find yourself freefalling toward the net. You hit the net, bounce up and down a few times ... And then what do you notice?
This is the process of letting go of fear. It happens one step at a time and it is through developing awareness about your strengths and resources (the safety net) that you reach that pivotal moment when you can finally let go.
For my client, this process resulted in amazing things. Once she let go of fear, she was able to be more present in everything she experienced. She became a better mother, better professional, and most importantly began to embrace and enjoy life with each little victory she accomplished. The most important lesson she learned was that problems will come and go and that taking a proactive, intentional approach to resolving them, opens space for creativity, hopefulness and a sense of competence.
If you are stuck in fear, the way to move away from it is by being proactive and intentional. Here are some steps to help you accomplish this.
Step One. It Takes a Village. No one is expected to have all the answers. And being able to accept this means being willing to reach out for support. The most important thing to realize is that you don't have to go through this alone. Begin to search out like-minded people who are empathetic and supportive, rather than critical and judgmental. Support groups can be very helpful in this respect. Friends, the kind who will listen and offer support, are wonderful to have. Therapy that focuses on finding solutions rather than dwelling on problems can also be helpful. If the expense is a concern, universities and agencies offer services that are affordable.
Step Two. Tap into your own personal resources. When your mind is chaotic, it's difficult to think clearly, let alone problem-solve. Practicing yoga, mindfulness meditation, or just simply taking quiet moments when you consciously allow your mind to not think opens space for clarity. Your inner voice begins to rise up and be heard. It's all there within you waiting to come forward. This also provides another opportunity to come out of isolation and feel more connected.
Step Three. All Roads Lead to Rome. Consider and embrace varying perspectives. Feedback from others that offers different perspectives can be invaluable as long as you know how to process it without judgment or self-criticism. Knowing there are other ways to look at things moves you away from being stuck.
Step Four. Be intentional. Plan for the future, but live in the moment is the best way to describe being intentional. Would you ever consider setting out on a journey without a map of where you are going and how to get there? Through all of the other steps, bring your goals and intentions into your awareness and then begin to plot out baby steps to achieve them. Being intentional creates a sense of balance and well-being in your life. It gives you purpose and direction. It cannot be overstated that you do not need to go through this alone. There are a variety of resources that can help you move from fear to hope.
Dr. Laura Richter is a licensed Marriage and Family therapist who works with individuals, couples, and families. Her specialties include: surviving infidelity, improving communication, beginning again after divorce and effective co-parenting after divorce. She is also a trained mediator, qualified parenting coordinator and collaborative law mental health professional. For more information, please call or text us today at 561-715-6404 to schedule a consultation to see how we can help.