Stalking your fear is chapter one in my book, Fierce Medicine, because we need to deal with our fear, first and foremost. We are all affected by fear. Whether we push it away or deny it, the reaction to fear is usually toxic and unhelpful, numbing us out and making us our least resourceful selves.
We have this old technology for dealing with fear that helped us survive – freeze, fight, or flee. But stalking your fear is a quantum leap that helps change your relationship to fear. Choose instead the brave-hearted path of stalking, tracking, studying, and allying with your fear. How would that feel, how would it free you and change your life for the better?
Stalking your fear teaches you how to respond quite differently. By re-patterning your behaviors, you re-pattern the way your brain and nervous system work. You change your neural connections and neurochemistry. It is really fun to be able to turn your response to fear around and come into a position of power with it, whether in the boardroom or the bedroom.
I’d like to share with you an example of changing my own reaction to fear. I was walking in the mountains in California and came around a cliff edge and around a tree and then, BOOM—I came right up on a cougar. We were six feet apart. That is far too close to a cougar. That is one jump for a cougar. I was very surprised, then a wave of fear started to wash through me that was quite insidious.
I started thinking “I can’t outrun this, I can’t outrun a cougar, I don’t want to be prey!” I think the cougar reacted to my fear, to the smell of it. Both of us sat there and stared at each other. The cougar’s green-gold eyes widened and began to narrow. The cougar’s hair started to come up and its lips curled; it was showing signs of coming into attack mode.
I thought, “alright, here we go….”
So I made my biggest yowl and ran at that cougar with my hands extended into claws. And it ran off!
This was a number of years ago, and I might have had a different response now. I was a new medicine girl at the time. Today I might be able to hang out with the cougar, reach into its mind soothingly and let it know I would pet its head and scratch under its chin. But at the time, that was my response: to surprise and to out-alpha the big cat. I didn’t try to hurt the cougar, just made it look like I was going after it for lunch. I knew if I turned my back and ran, that’s the action of a prey and I’d be lunch. Even if the cougar wasn’t hungry, the opportunity for the “game” would be irresistible; cats love to chase. So instead of choosing to be prey, I went directly in that moment from prey to predator.
Understand: there will always be fear at different points in your life, but you can choose to respond differently. You can respond in a way that makes it into a dharma joust, which is incredibly exciting. If you choose to make every time you encounter fear into a chance to dharma joust, that is a huge quantum leap. It’s changing your relationship to fear, which is changing your relationship to a big force in the world. That’s very empowering. You shift the experience so it becomes exciting as well as scary. This excitement gives you a window to respond differently. You become more resourceful and have a response that builds your courage and that you are proud of, rather than being swamped in fear.
When we follow the dictates of fear we frequently get slimed again in shame. Stalking your fear is such a brave-hearted task. It is an act of courage, which transmutes the shame by giving you the chance to take actions that make you proud of yourself, building your self-esteem. You step onto the warrior path, the hunter path, instead of the victim path, of being prey. That is something to be proud of. Get this: Fear is a signal. Fear needs you to respond. The challenge is to respond differently.
Identify the fear: Sometimes we don’t even quite recognize that we are in fear and instead get antsy or twitchy or want to run away. Get curious about what, exactly, you are afraid of and where the fear came from. Start down the path of discovery because fear always has an origin.
Turn around, hunt it, stalk it: Stalk your fear the way you’d stalk an animal, looking for tracks. Keep going until you get close to what is generating the fear, even if it tries to scare the hell out of you the nearer you get. You’re not going in for the kill, though. You’re after insight. What’s creating the trail, what kind of critter is your fear? Where does it live within your life story, and within your body?
Stop making decisions based on fear: Stop doing what your fear says to do. Disobey the dictates of fear. Once you’ve located your fear, take a look at how it’s made your life smaller. Fear brings with it tunnel vision that makes it seem like our options are very narrow when in fact it’s just our fear blinding us. How does acting out of fear hurt you? When you figure that out, you become more open to making different, better choices.
Find the healing within the fear: Go inside, feel the habitual internal fear response. Then get steady and interact with the fear, seeking after a creative solution that makes you feel worthwhile rather than terrified and ashamed. When you feel the fear bubbling up, ask yourself instead, “What is the most healing response that will bring me to a resolution I can be proud of?”
Snuggle up to your fear: You do this by connecting to the area where you feel the fear. Breathe into it. Get friendly. Keep a fear journal. Write down each time you hit a fear, large or small. What triggered it? How did you respond? What healing step did you take? The more you write down your experiments with fear and keep tracking of them, the more you’ll zero-in on what works and what doesn’t.
In my next article, I will give you some very specific examples of my own experiences stalking fear and some actions for you to take right away. Let’s go hunting together!