How to deal with deep fears – even if they do come true
We all have fears. The art is to not let your fears hold you back from doing what needs to be done. Nor to confine them to the shadow of your existence by suppressing them. If you are living a whole-hearted life, your deepest fears will be triggered and that is a good thing, because it is only when they come to the surface that you can actually deal with them. But… What to do, when this happens? HOW to deal with these profound fears? This is an article I wrote shortly after my second miscarriage in February 2018, to illustrate how I dealt with my fear of losing also this second baby – and what I did when it actually happened. I added a few additional thoughts from 4 months later (June 2018).
These last few weeks I have been forced to face some very deep fears around loss and suffering. I found myself pregnant again, after having suffered a miscarriage just a few months ago. I still remember how in the midst of the 12 hours of contractions that proceeded the first miscarriage I asked my partner how we could ever dare to try for another baby, if there was a risk that we would have to go through the same kind of physical and emotional pain. How could we ever dare. Even when my wounds had healed and I didn’t particularly dread the idea of becoming pregnant again anymore, I would not have chosen to that quickly. But apparently the Universe was of a different opinion and sent us another soul against all odds. It seemed that after all, I was ready – ready for another soul, ready to face my fears – and ready to put to test something I have personally found to be the key in transforming basically all of my food and health-related challenges, and that in consequence I talk about a lot in my health & fertility coachings: Faith and Trust.
- Faith in a Higher Power, that I personally like to call “Universe” or just “Life”. Faith for this Higher Power to be on your side and to always have your best interest in mind.
- Trust in your own worthiness. Only if you are convinced that you are worthy of love and happiness can you actually accept the idea that Life is on your side and that it is working FOR you, not against you.
- Trust in yourself: Trust in your body and mind to be strong, healthy and your best friend. Trust in your ability to correctly perceive, judge and process information – through your mind’s intelligence and through your body’s intuition. Trust in your capacity to express yourself clearly and authentically and that the right people will hear and “get” you. Trust in your body’s ability to self-regulate, and that your only task is to make sure it has all the tools it needs to do so. Only when you stop looking at your body as your enemy who is failing you, can you start to be curious in what way your current challenge might actually be serving you. Only if you completely trust your body can you change the focus from how the body is failing you, to how you might be failing your body. Only then can you work with it, rather than against it.
Even though I strongly believe in these concepts, it is easy to forget when doubt and fear creeps in due to challenging life circumstances, such as a pregnancy after a traumatic miscarriage. I have been a control freak for a big part of my life, and even though over the years I have learned to relax and even enjoy uncertainty to some degree, feeling so absolutely out of control as I did when approaching the 9.5 weeks mark (the moment when I lost the first pregnancy) was a nerve-wracking experience. In order to prevent me from freaking out every time I had some discharge or every time I felt some pinching in my uterus or even every time I sneezed, it was thus of utmost importance for me to move those concepts from my head into my heart. I needed to not only know them to be true in my head, I needed to feel them to be true in every fiber of my body. Thus, from the moment I found out that I was pregnant again, I added a new ritual to my morning routine (which usually consists of some meditation, yin yoga stretching and strength exercises) to help me connect with and strengthen the feelings of faith and trust.
I usually started with Life and my own worthiness of deserving love and happiness. With my eyes closed, I connected with the Universe around me, which for me means listening to the silence always present underneath any noise (both outside and inside of me), and feeling the “emptiness” (or spaciousness) between all matter (again both outside and inside of me) embracing me. Once connected, I simply told Life that I trusted that whatever happened would be in my absolute best interest, because that’s what I deserve.
I did not plead for a specific outcome (i.e. a good ending of this pregnancy).
I do not believe that we actually hold the power to manifest concrete things with our thoughts – for example a baby, or a relationship with a certain person, IF THEY ARE NOT IN OUR BEST INTEREST OR SIMPLY NOT MEANT TO BE. This implies that we are not necessarily “failing at thinking positively enough” (as often suggested), if we don’t get what we think we want. For me, such a perspective lacks humility before a bigger power. Because maybe what you think you want is not actually what you need, or in your best interest, at least not at this point in time. In my opinion, we do play an important role in creating our reality, but we should not forget that we are merely co-creators. So even though I could see that my mind was so afraid that I might have to suffer again, that all it wanted was to cling to status quo and to wish for a healthy pregnancy and baby, I consciously made myself relax deeply into the only certainty I could ever have among all the uncertainty of what the future might hold:
The conviction that whatever happened would be in my absolute best interest, because that’s what I deserve.
Even if I would indeed lose the baby. I recited in my mind the holy words “Thy Will Be” (THY will be, not MY will be) alternated with “I surrender” and simply “I trust”.
Once I felt stable in my faith and deeply relaxed as a consequence, I moved on to my body. I connected with my body, noticing how warm and welcoming it was and how much I loved to inhabit it. I felt it as strong, vibrant and healthy. I smiled at all my different body parts, and could feel how they smiled back at me. I felt a very deep love and gratitude – and absolute trust in my body’s ability to grow this baby. In fact, contrary to the first pregnancy, I was not able to, nor felt the wish to, visualize the baby developing perfectly. This time it felt as too much “control”. After all, my body knows so much better what needs to be done than my mind ever could. So instead, this time it felt right to simply trust my body. I told it that I trusted that it was strong, healthy and in balance, and that it offered the perfect nest for the baby to grow in, IF in fact the baby was meant to stay with us. I promised my body that I would continue doing my utmost best to provide all the rest, nutrients and care that it needed to do its job right. I promised that I would listen to whatever it asked me to do, even if it went against my mind’s pre-conceived ideas (i.e. in dietary terms). And I could feel how my body trusted me on that one.
Last but not least, I turned to baby. I connected with it and told it how much I loved it and that I trusted that it was strong and absolutely able to deal with also “less than ideal” circumstances. After all, it chose to come now, so it surely could manage whatever “now” entailed. Even if it should decide to leave again, I trusted that it had come for a reason that would somehow be in my best interest.
This routine helped me to stay relatively calm. I repeated it whenever I felt fear taking over, which – I have to admit – happened regularly. Especially week 9-10 was such an emotionally challenging week, that I had to almost constantly remind myself to stay in trust mode and to not allow the fearful mind to take over. It helped to narrow down Life to the present moment, to live from moment to moment, from breath to breath, trying not to think too much about the future, because that’s where anxiety originates.
As such, going through this second pregnancy has been a great life lesson in mindfulness, applied meditation and detachment from any preconceived ideas of how things “should” be. In fact, the greatest gift of losing the first pregnancy seems to have been the obligation to face my fears and to strengthen my trust muscle. Note how I say obligation and not choice. Usually we can choose to avoid facing a fear. Or we can project it on other people. Being pregnant though, I could not run from my fear of suffering another miscarriage. I had to face it. The only choice I DID have was whether to succumb to the fear or to let go of it and choose trust every single time.
I realized that it was not just about the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. It’s illusionary to think that once those are past, we are safe and nothing can happen anymore. Anybody who has experienced miscarriages after 12 weeks, early child death or loss of a child even when this child was already grown up, knows that safety is always an illusion. Death is always around the corner. That sounds horrifying, but it doesn’t help to pretend it’s not true. The real challenge is to accept the constant possibility of death and loss as a fact of life, without allowing the fear of it to run our lives. If I allowed myself to be freaked out about losing my baby within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, I would likely live in constant fear that something could happen to my child later on, too. The only antidote to fear is trust. Trust not that everything will always be ok, but that I will be ok no matter what. Trust that whenever I lose, I will end up winning something that will eventually outweigh what I lose – at least from a soul growth perspective. Feeling the fear and breathing through it was the only option I had, if I wanted to keep my sanity now and in the future.
What if the worst fear does become reality?
It actually did in my case. Exactly at 9.5 weeks, and just a day before the first pregnancy would have been due, I also lost the second one. It was hard to keep the Faith at first, of course. It was hard not to feel punished. It honestly did not make any sense to me, why we would have to face that pain again, why the baby did come, just to leave again, when we had not even asked for it to come in the first place. Yet this is exactly what TRUE Faith and trust is about. Trusting the process, even if it is painful and you cannot see any meaning in it. Trusting that somehow it does make sense in the bigger picture of your life. Just a few days later I was already able to see some small and big ways this second pregnancy has affected our lives, that would not have happened without it. As weird as it sounds, but it even felt as if by losing it as well, the first pregnancy finally came full circle, because it allowed me to realize a few important things about the first loss. Even if it remains of course a challenging and uncomfortable experience to lose a baby, there is a lot of potential value in the realization that even if your deepest fears do come true, you still make it through somehow, you still survive and even get out stronger and wiser on the other side. The fear then loses a lot of its power over you, and you gain confidence in your own capacity to deal with whatever Life throws at you, which basically means increased self-esteem, especially if paired with the notion that this experience is somehow working for you, not against you. I still feel loved by Life, despite it all, even MORE than before. Life will simply give you whatever experience is most helpful for you to learn a certain lesson at a certain moment in your life. It does not really “think” in terms of “good” and “bad”, “positive” and “negative” as we do. It just always acts from a place of love, aiming to allow your soul to grow in exactly the way it needs to grow, so always keeping your soul’s (not your ego’s) ultimate best interest in mind. So basically the way to deal with the fear once it comes true, is the same as dealing with the imaginary fear. Knowing that you are worthy and loved, trusting yourself, and trusting Life.
So face whatever fear you have and trust that you, too, will be ok. You can practice this concept slowly and consciously with some smaller fears. I still remember how during a 4 week therapy in 2010 I had to create a list of fears, from smallest to biggest, and then start tackling them one by one. This is a great way to learn that the fear of the fear is usually bigger than the fear itself. Looking at what we are afraid of is also a great way to learn about ourselves and to take back projections. Being afraid of the opinion of other people for example, can teach me a lot about my own lack of confidence and self-esteem. It can make me aware of how I might myself be judging myself and others. This realization then lays the power back into my hands. The ultimate biggest fears that most small fears eventually come down to are the fear of physical or emotional pain (suffering) and the fear of death. Rather than trying to escape those by playing it safe or small, which is futile anyway, let the possibility of suffering pain and death inspire us to have Faith again, and to live our lives to the fullest. Because ultimately “Fear does not prevent Death, it prevents Life”.
Additional thoughts 4 months later:
I want to emphasize that the process I describe above is not meant to suppress the fear. It is important to acknowledge the fear for what it is and to ideally allow it to move through the body and express itself fully from time to time, i.e. through unstructured dance, crying, journaling… before trying to calm it through breathing or getting into trust mode. In fact, allowing it to express itself fully will strongly diminish it just by itself. It is a voice that is part of us and wants and needs to be heard, and even though we know it is often irrational or belongs to our inner child, it needs us to see and accept it for what it is. So instead of trying to simply tell it that there is no need for it to be there, our adult self should attend to it, like we would attend to a real child. Feeling the fear, holding its hand gently, while doing anyway what needs to be done, is very different from simply pushing through a fear by forcing it to shut up. So today I would probably modify my “fear” routine in the sense that I would first put some music and allow my body to dance it all out, before sitting down to meditate.
I also want to mention that losing this second pregnancy has indeed been in my best interest. Things evolved in a way that would have made being pregnant and becoming a mother very challenging at this point in time. Likewise, not being pregnant anymore allowed me to live other highly valuable experiences instead. Thus the whole process only reinforced my trust and faith and will make staying in it throughout challenging situations even easier in the future.