Fear Factors

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Whenever I have a ‘bad’ dream, it’s never about things like being in a car accident, giving a poor presentation, or getting mugged. Strangely, those situations don’t seem to antagonize me (although I’ve experienced the first two and remain vigilant against the third).

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Sleeping through a wake-up call and missing a flight does. During recent travel I heard the 3:30 a.m. Call as if it was part of a dream. At the end of my trip, I was completely exhausted and, having finally adjusted to my new time zone, was in Deep Rest that felt like a coma. I finally woke at the second call, but was so disoriented that I’d confused my shuttle-departure time and barely made it to the hotel’s lobby, where I was literally shoved onto the shuttle by two bellmen.

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Last night I dreamed I was in northern India, traveling with two friends and our guide. When we arrived at our new city I realized that I’d left my travel bag (passport and money), as well as my cell phone, in the previous hotel – a two hour drive behind us.

As a rule, awareness and sensations in my dreams feel visceral:  heightened or exaggerated. Even my physical abilities get amplified. (I used to dream – a lot – about being able to swim and breathe underwater, like a fish. In another dream, I could fly like a bird.) When my dreams are pleasant, they feel like an amazing escape into another world. When they’re fearful, however, the same rule applies and the terror is something that I want to escape from.

Last night’s dream about having forgotten my travel essentials was crystal clear and so real that its intensity woke me with a pounding heart and breathlessness. When faced with the travel-horror of ‘no documents and no money’, my Reptile Brain simply reacts and recoils:  there’s no reason or logic.

I’ve come to recognize (with resistance and resentment) that fear-based dreams are helpful indicators of what still lingers in my subconscious mind. I picture geology lessons from my childhood schooling on volcanoes:  that stream of molten lava, lying horizontal deep in the earth until a seismic event buckles the layers of rock, pushing liquid fire to the surface. Exposed to the air, it eventually rests and cools. But not before causing mayhem. So it is with the fears that still linger deep below, in the most primal regions of my psyche.

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Like many people, I’m engaged (most of the time) with the Personal Work to address and rid myself of my typically-irrational fears. It frustrates me that I continue to review and re-hash themes that echo with vulnerability and powerlessness: they present themselves in such contrast to who I think I am in my waking hours.

The every-once-in-awhile (not often, thankfully),  nighttime-jolt of how my Reptile Brain  really perceives things – despite what my Intellect might be telling me, on the surface of my Life – is a stark reminder. Not to think, but to feel into what I’m still afraid of, and why. It may be that I really don’t want to know, because my fears don’t fit with the Image I have of my Self at this moment in time.

Spiritual teachings remind me that I embody the essence of Light and Dark, the Lion and the Lamb, Yin and Yang. Instead of seeing Fear as an enemy to be vanquished, maybe it’s time I just let it be what it is, and do what it needs to do. Maybe it just wants a seat at the table, inclusion and harmony, as a natural part of Who I Am. Can I be the Gracious Host and allow it?

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