Facing the fear

Dreams, what are they? Are they part of our subconscious mind or fantasy? Do they serve a purpose? Or not?

I dream vividly and frequently. As a child, I terrified myself with recurring dreams of separation or failure. Some nights, I ran from one reality to another and another again. I’d wake exhausted happy the night had passed, hung over from fatigue.

warehouse

When I learnt to meditate, my dream life stabilised, the frightening scenarios ceased over a period of time. My mind explored other options. I became interested in my dreams and explored the possibility of actively entering my dream space, a real-time player.

It happened one night.

On a cold dark night, I found myself alone in an industrial estate. The neighbourhood consisted of warehouses and buildings with round corrugated iron roofs, similar to aircraft hangers. A child alone, I crouched against the wall hiding under the window sill so I couldn’t be seen.

Planes flew overhead. Noise cut the darkness, and bright lights looked for a target, somewhere to drop bombs. I held myself, a small ball of fear, paralysed and unable to move. My consciousness watched the protagonist, me and entered the dream.

I watched fear’s paralysis and convinced myself to stand up and look out. A small voice deep inside forced me upright. ‘Face the fear,’ it said. I stood holding my breath, waiting for disaster to strike . But it didn’t.

As I looked out through the louvres into the night, relief washed through me. Stars punctuated the heavens, the planes had vanished. I felt safe and empowered. As I woke, the dream still touched my reality. Grey wisps of the hangar, swirled nearby. Yet the peace stayed with me, a pleasant change from the adrenaline dump that usually left me jittery and breathless.

Where fear had eroded my confidence, stopping and facing the fear, empowered me. It led me to question whether this experience might be a metaphor for life? The past laden with memories provides ample fodder for incubating uncertainty and the future, pregnant with catostrophizing  potential, allows it to build. There came a point in my anorexic adolescence when the grip of the past loosened and the fear for the future shrank. No longer did it dwarf me, terrifying me into cooperation, keeping me small and exhausted by countless self-imposed rituals.

Stopping terrified me, ‘what ifs,’ like bill-board advertising loomed over me. Fat. blubber, ugliness … I had to redefine my truth and let go of the things that strangled me. Ironically letting go tightened their grip, the moment of realisation, the final conquest. I let the ‘shoulds,’ go one at a time. Whilst liberating, it took diligence and courage, persistence and patience.

There is no magic bullet. In my experience freeing myself from the misconceptions took time. Piece by piece, I had to let the toxic friendship with anorexia go but each small victory brought me closer to who I really was replacing the chaos with a sense of self-love.

Don’t be scared to reach out.

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