How To Reframe Fear And Allow Yourself To Embrace Joy

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How To Deal With Fear & Find Joy

During these dark times, finding joy seems impossible.

The COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic has created a world full of suffering, fear, and grief. We didn’t ask for this, but here we are.

It has been said that we cannot appreciate the light until we have journeyed through the dark. Few take this journey voluntarily — most of us are thrust into it.

So, in the midst of "I didn’t ask for this," can we learn how to deal with fear and maintain hope, connection, faith, and vision?

How do we recognize the validity and reality of our fears, but not be led by them?

How do we honor them, acknowledge them, but not let them be in charge of us? How do we tell fear, as the kids would say, "You’re not the boss of me!"?

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When you open your heart and gladden your mind, you'll see two sides to the coin.

Psychologist and author Tara Brach tells us that there are two paths to equanimity and balance.

One path is to touch into the fear and suffering with an open heart of compassion. The other path is to gladden your mind.

Sometimes, we have to allow ourselves to feel our own pain and the pain of the world community, as well. Sometimes, we have to do just the opposite.

I sat, virtually, with a client who sobbed as she told me that while she was grateful for her own health and relative well-being, she was also overwhelmed with the sadness and pain of how many she knew who were suffering.

Her heart was so open and her boundaries so porous that she was simply flooded.

We sat together in the companionship of shared sorrow for a few moments. I put a hand on my own heart and invited her to do the same.

After we sat together for a time with the fullness of our hearts, we then moved on with a softening and a lightening of the pain.

Take a moment now, if you like. Put your hand on your own heart and breath into it. Feel it soften as you stay with whatever is there.

Be gentle with yourself. Be soft with yourself. Bring your compassion, not only to the world outside of you, but to the world inside yourself as well.

On the other side of the fear/joy street, Brach reminds us to gladden our hearts.

Rabbi Ruth Gan Kagan advises us to give ourselves permission to rejoice — there is a time to grieve and a time to rejoice. Sometimes, even on the same day and even now, especially now.

Emotions are contagious.

We have been using the word "contagious" to talk about the virus and the fears we feel.

When we read the news and hear someone else’s fears and anxieties, they can become catchy. We pick up on that energy.

But, there is an upside to the word "contagion."

We can also use this word when we talk about contagious laughter, contagious joy, or contagious hope. When we look for the pain and suffering, surely we can see it.

But when we look for the bright spots — the joy, the beauty — we can see those, too.

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I see and hear the cardinals every time I take a walk on a sunny day. And to be honest, I scan the trees and the skies for them now, so it is not simply a coincidence.

We see what we are looking for and, sometimes, we can call to ourselves what we want or need.

So, remember to look for the things you want to see.

The supermarket worker's smile (you can tell by the eyes even if their mouth is covered by a mask), the orange tulip that makes you catch your breath for the beauty, the old friend who just showed up on Facebook after a long absence because they have the time, space, and the need now to connect more in any way they can.

Delight in these things. Let your heart gladden and fill with delight.

This is grace, and we can have moments of being touched by grace as we let our hearts open to joy and beauty and love.

Let yourself be surprised by the coincidences, your dreams, and the synchronicity you encounter.

Be curious rather than afraid.

Use all of your senses — see, hear, taste, touch, smell the spring and summer unfolding around us.

My friend Julie taught me to touch the newly unfolding spring leaves — they are softer and more delicate than later in the summer. Whisper "grow" to each green thing as it pushes up from under the ground.

Spring always emerges from winter eventually, and each of us has a role to play in that.

Here is hope, faith, and joy. Go ahead and laugh out loud, gladden your heart, and rejoice.

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Linda Yael Schiller, MSW, LICSW, is an international speaker, psychotherapist, author, and dreamworker. Her book Modern Dreamwork: New Tools for Decoding Your Soul’s Wisdom 2019, Llewellyn Worldwide Publishing, is available in both ebook and print. Learn more on her website.