Last winter, I had the gift of facing a deep seated fear within me that was both irrational and inexplicable. My thinking mind could tell you a thousand reasons why the fear made no sense and yet I felt the fear and resistance with every cell in my body. Sometimes fears make no sense and yet the experience of them is completely real.
I had an overwhelming fear of skiing and snowboarding and a crippling resistance to going on a family ski trip. I had participated in this same activity in the past and enjoyed myself. This time, however, there was no embodiment of this recalled “joyful experience”.
The gift of this experience was the ability to see myself spun up in fear, know that it didn’t serve me, and learn to feel my feelings anyway. I was called into the fear. I was challenged to honestly share my trepidation and trust that love wins in the end.
It was the kind of fear and resistance that was felt throughout my body. It was as if all the yogic breathing in the world could not quell the storm within.
I often say “you cannot reason with an amygdala” and I got to experience this first hand.
The amygdala is the part of the brain that is responsible for our emotional responses and when it is active we cannot easily access our prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is the part of our brain that deals with reasoning. Therefore, when we are overly emotional we cannot access reason; when the amygdala is “inflamed” we cannot act rationally until we feel the feelings and soften the emotional response.
I cannot control my emotions but I am learning to feel them and control my emotional response. I’ve heard that an emotion lasts only 90 seconds. I’m learning to let go of the stories that keep the emotion cycling and lean into the raw feeling. Although fear is still quite uncomfortable, I’m learning to breathe in, feel it, and take open-hearted action in the face of fear.