By Katherine Vilnrotter
Getting Curious About Fear
I can safely venture to say that you have probably experienced fear at some point in your life. Whether it was when a friend jokingly scared you on the playground, or when you were driving too fast and almost skidded off the road, or perhaps something more subtle like feeling emotionally unsafe in a relationship – fear is part of our human experience. Your fear response is what keeps you safe in times of extreme danger. Thanks to your limbic system (emotional brain), your emotional reactions take over in these moments and you automatically jump out of the way of a speeding bus or slam on the breaks to avoid a pedestrian.
There is another type of fear that I’d like to explore today that I lovingly call “stretch fear.” While it may feel similar to the fear I just described, it is slightly different. Stretch fear is the fear that keeps us small; it keeps us from stretching ourselves outside of our comfort zone allowing us to grow. We have probably all experienced this form of fear as well.
While the brain mechanism for both these types of fear is the same, our relationship to each of them can drastically affect our lives. In this article, I will be exploring our human fear response, how it can manifest in your life, and how it can even be useful for your growth and development!
Through the Perspective of Neuroscience (keeping you safe)
For the most part, the neurology of the fear response is straightforward. When the amygdala, the ‘fear center’ of our emotional brain, perceives that we are in a life-threatening situation, it sounds the alarm that initiates the fear/stress response. When this occurs, the central stress response system is activated. This system is known as the HPA, or Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenocortical axis and it regulates hormones connected to the stress response (such as cortisol and adrenalin) to allow for increased resources needed to get you out of danger quickly.
Once the stress/fear alarm is sounded, a cocktail of stress hormones is released into your bloodstream allowing for increased glucose and oxygen levels in the blood (for more energy) and increased blood flow to your legs and arms (your running or fighting muscles). This results in less blood in your trunk organs and is why many people experience digestive or tummy discomfort when they feel fear or anxiety.
Perhaps most interestingly, what also occurs during a stress response is that the blood vessels connecting us to our neocortex (our rational thinking brain) constrict. When this happens, we temporarily lose access to our intelligence, our morals, our personality, our contextual memories, and our ability for long-term planning and critical thinking. In other words, we lose ourselves and our ability to make calm and rational choices. We temporarily transform into emotional reaction machines ready to do whatever it takes to get ourselves out of danger. When this happens, our brains are literally hijacked by fear!
This response attempts to give us a short-term burst to tip the scales of fate in our favor, allowing us to escape imminent life-threatening danger and ultimately survive. The key there is ‘short-term’. This response is not meant to be a long-term solution for an overly stressful life, as many humans experience today. It was meant to help us outrun a lion so it didn’t eat us and chase down animals as we hunted for food – short, high-intensity bursts of energy. If you would like to know more about the fear response and what can happen during acute bouts of high stress, see my previous articles Trauma Explored and Triggers Explored.
This fear response has not evolved to understand that our fear of giving a big presentation at work or asking someone out on a date is generally not life-threatening. For this reason, even good stretching fear can feel like a life-threatening danger.
Through the perspective of Social and Experiential psychology (meeting your needs)
So you’ve just been startled and your fear response has been triggered – what happens next? For such a straightforward chemical reaction, there are nearly infinite distinct manifestations of that fear response. This is because we are each unique and therefore have our unique psychology, experiences, and makeup to help determine how each fear response will look for us. Sometimes you might get angry, other times you might want to run and hide, other times you might even feel completely frozen as if you can’t move or utter a sound.
Almost instantly once the fear response is activated, your brain makes a split-second assessment of your situation. In this analysis, your brain determines whether or not it thinks you would win in a fight with whatever is threatening you or if you would be able to outrun what is threatening you. The conclusion your brain comes to will determine what you do next: fight, run, or freeze. These are the 3 main buckets we use to categorize the types of responses to a threat. You may have heard of the ‘fight or flight response’, which was named after these categories.
Thousands of years ago (when our biggest threat may have been being attacked by wild animals), these responses were also fairly straightforward. If we were being attacked and our brain determined we had a chance to win a fight, we would fight our attacker. If our brain determined we had a better chance of survival if we ran away, we would do that. However, if our brain concluded that we probably wouldn’t win or outrun our attacker, we might have just stood there, frozen and numb – with the hopes of lessening the pain of being eaten by a hungry creature.
Nowadays when we are not being attacked by wild animals, these same reactions loosely translate to anger (fight), anxiety (flight), and disassociation (freeze). Think back to a time when you had an anger outburst. You probably felt safe enough in that situation to feel like you stood a chance of winning the battle… like you had enough confidence in your ability to take control of the situation and ultimately survive.
Now think of a time when you felt intense worry or anxiety… like you wanted to back into a corner and disappear. In this situation, you may have not felt capable enough to be able to get yourself out of the situation. You may have felt less in control in this instance than other times when you got angry. If you have experienced ‘numbing out’ or disassociation in a moment of stress, you probably felt so out of control and helpless that your brain, in a sense, gave up and tried to make your imminent demise as painless as possible.
Sometimes if people feel so out of control in their situation and incapable of being able to better their circumstances, they may find themselves getting stuck in this ‘freeze’ response. If prolonged, some people may start to self-harm so that they can feel in their body again and experience some of the good feeling side effects of a cortisol spike (excitement, motivation, pain relief, etc). If you find that you disassociate or numb out a lot, or know someone who does, please consider professional help.
Through the Perspective of Vibrational Energetics (finding balance)
Have you ever wanted to do something so strongly that it almost hurt NOT to do it, but at the same time it was the most terrifying thing you could imagine? This sounds like quite a complicated set of emotions that might even directly contradict each other. This fear is the ‘stretch fear’.
Sometimes when you discover the thing you most want to express (your most authentic feelings or thoughts), going after it can be the most intense fear you ever experience. Manifesting our deepest and purest self-expression can feel very vulnerable and unsafe – almost as if we were being chased by a hungry lion! When you tap into the core of your vibrational system, your essence, that deep knowing inside of you, when you hear what it has to say you may want to share it with the world!
Have you ever created something that came directly from your heart, like a painting, poem, or song, and then didn’t want to share it with anyone, even those closest to you? It may have felt too vulnerable. What if they don’t like it? What if they don’t see or feel what I feel? What if they don’t understand it and judge me!? This can feel just as dangerous as being chased by a lion!
As we grow up and experience more and more life, many of us develop hard protective shells around the most vulnerable parts of us – physically, behaviorally, and vibrationally. Perhaps from being hurt in the past, scared, or rejected in various ways, we may learn that it is safer to hide the most vulnerable, personal, and sacred aspects of ourselves. Many of us learn not to trust those around us with our deepest feelings, thoughts, and creations. Sometimes we may even protect these parts of us so well that we even cut them off from ourselves. We lose connections and cannot access those deep parts of ourselves easily anymore.
I see this quite often in many of my Energy Harmonizing clients (my vibrational wellness practice). Many times when I work with someone’s vibrational system who has done this, I notice when I take the initial measurements of their system it will look mostly very balanced and harmonious… except for certain spots which are extremely out of whack. It is apparent in these cases that there has been pain, trauma, or fear of some kind that was too painful for the person to allow themselves to process. So instead, they pushed it down, covered it up, and buried it deep down so they never needed to experience that much pain again… So they thought.
Very often I will have people come to me not knowing why they are not feeling well. They may feel unfulfilled with their lives, or depressed. Sometimes there are even mysterious physical symptoms that they experience that no doctor can explain. In many of these cases, they have this same energetic configuration. They have sealed off parts of themselves so that they can no longer access those parts anymore. They have cut themselves off from parts of their true self. They are fragmented. After some exploration, we usually find that there is stuck energy connected to some experience in the past when they were openly vulnerable with their inner self and got hurt. They learned that it was not safe to share those parts of themselves with anyone, even with themselves.
Our work together then includes working through the vibrational blocks in various ways and discovering how they can feel safe experiencing and expressing those vulnerable parts again. Connecting with your vibration and expressing it can be the most rewarding experience of your life!
No one else has your exact perspective. No one who has ever lived has had your exact vibration. The world needs you to express your truth with love and compassion. Your voice is valuable and important.
Through the perspective of Spirituality (separation)
In my first book, The Love Cure: Connecting Back to You, I share with readers my experience of about 8 months of my healing journey. I connected with (or channeled) various consciousnesses holding specific vibrations that resonated with messages I needed to hear to help me through that process. It documents my process of reconnecting with myself after some traumatic experiences (causing me to seal off parts of myself). I felt so strongly about sharing these messages with the world because they helped me so much. The messages in this book made me feel empowered and hopeful. Because of that, I felt it was my responsibility to publish them with the hopes that someone may find hope, understanding, or empowerment from it.
Here I would like to share the final message from that book. In my eyes, this message is the culmination of that cycle of healing and is now the goal of everything I do from here on in my life. I hope this message touches something in your heart that allows it to want to be a little freer, to soar a little higher, and to love a little more.
Whenever I am fearful about sharing something inside of me with the world, or even just with someone I love, whenever I start to judge myself, or my thoughts, or my feelings, or my creations, I read this again. There is no wrong way to express your deepest essence, which is pure Love. When Love emerges, in all of its glorious and beautiful ways, it is perfect. Even if it is off-key, out of tune, outside the lines, or beyond the box, it is all perfect and pure and has the desire to be expressed!
Exact dictation of channeled message:
“Expression is the reason you’ve all come together in exactly this specific moment. Every single specific moment. Why does a consciousness agree to forget everything it knows, forget who it is, the nature of the universe, and of existence? Yes, to remember, to change, to grow, to transform, but ultimately, to express the unique path of transformation and realization it has experienced! The ultimate Joy is the fullest most authentic expression of self in all the resonant ways possible! It is a beautiful thing to experience the process of self-transformation, a beautiful thing. It pales, however, in comparison to the full expression of one’s truth in unison with the Universe, who always sings with you. Each expression of your truth, of your true self in whatever way lights you up, is your part of the song of the universe.
Perhaps think of the universe as a giant stage. In a giant theater with amazing acoustics. If no one sings their truth, their song, you can hear the deafening emptiness of the space – almost sad. It just takes one voice to bring life. It takes just one being to sing the song of their soul, to take their stage and shine the light of their song out into the universe, unafraid and unashamed! With each note resounding the beauty and strength of the essence of that soul’s journey into the space, the theatre comes alive. The space is full of life, of experience, of joy. Even if the journey was challenging, its expression is always pure joy. And the universe sings back the reflections and harmonies of that journey, the beautiful dialogue of dancing notes, melodies of truth entangling and entwining as they travel through the space! This is with just one voice.
Now, imagine the theatre full of voices singing the exquisite song of their journey into the space. The reflections of joy and Love flowing back to each voice from the universe itself, accepting, embracing, encouraging each voice to sing louder – like a proud parent! Pure Love. Pure Joy. Pure Awe. The Universe can only know itself through us. All of us, in all dimensions. Physical and non-physical. Harmonious and cacophonous. There is only Love.
Our expression is our voice, and our voice is the greatest gift we can give to the universe. The ability to know and experience itself in all the ways possible, devoid of any judgment. When you sing together, no matter what it sounds like, your voices are dancing together in a way that bonds you forever.
My message to you, and all who read these words through your hand is this. Please sing your song, you are why this world exists. You literally are a song from the universe. A song that is never sung is the saddest thing one can experience. Sing your song. Your song is perfect. Your song is beautiful. Your song is the greatest gift you can give. Sing your songs together – hearts with hearts, hands in hands. Dance to the harmonies of the melody of your heart. And when you do, the universe is full of the purest joy and Love. The universe always sings back to you. No voice is ever alone. So, sing your song loud and proud out into the world. And always listen for your response. Be open to all the joy and Love that comes rushing into your life. Listen for the Songs from the Universe in every moment.”
Reflections on the channel:
Wow – my truth is a song of the universe. I love that imagery. I can feel what it feels like on that stage with so many mouths closed, with no one singing. That emptiness is what I feel when I don’t sing, when I don’t express what I need to express! Let us all take Thoth’s advice and sing our songs, express our truths!
Shifting your experience – what you can do
To sum up,
Fear is normal and an important part of our brain makeup. Remember that fear can also prevent us from being and expressing our truest self:
- Remember your brain and body are on your side – they are not the enemy!
- Take some nice slow and steady breaths with slow and steady exhales through your nose to calm your brain and body
- Do something that you used to find fun as a kid
- Laugh, play and be silly!
- Find things, people, and experiences that help you feel expansive
- It is always worth it to connect with yourself
- Sing your song!
About Katherine (in her own words):
I’m Katherine and I am a psycho-vibrational explorer. Through my wellness practice, The Love Cure, I help my clients navigate their healing journeys to heal themselves through exploring the many facets of their experience and finding balance. I do this by sharing tools that helped me heal from a life-shattering trauma almost 11 years ago. These tools originate from a wide range of perspectives: from neuroscience to social and experiential psychology, all the way to vibrational energetics and spirituality. I hope you enjoy this exploration!
Connect with Katherine:
The Love Cure website: www.love-cure.com
LinkedIn: Katherine Vilnrotter