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Aligned with fear, aligned with life and death

I work with midwives and social workers. So every week I have several clients coming to sessions paralyzed or in shock, because in their daily lives they have to deal with very difficult and sometimes life-threatening situations. Often, they are frozen in their bodies, with an expression of fear in their faces, not breathing well.

I see two ways they have learned to deal with fear: either they get stuck in their initial reaction to fear and freeze, or they avoid feeling that they are intensely afraid. In both cases, their thinking, talking, moving and action is limited. Their profession, however, requires action; they need to be able to help the people who need it. My job is primarily to show them a new way of dealing with fear so they have all their abilities available for these critical moments that require it.

Fear is an experience most of us try to avoid. But what if it’s a part of your daily job?

Feeling helpless and not knowing why, what and how is not appreciated in our culture. We are supposed to know everything all the time. And if we don’t, we pretend to act as if we do. We hide our fear. There is not much space for the very human experience of not knowing what will happen next. But in reality there are many things we don’t know and cannot predict.

„You need to know what you do and no matter what, you have to act as if you knew what was right.“ – Midwife, 28 years old

When midwives and social workers arrive at my center, they are often very tense and stressed. They got stuck in survival mode because they were in a difficult situation that might also have involved life and death moments. This mode might stay for a few days until the body slowly is able to relax again. Even after talking about difficult situations with close friends, colleagues or doctors, they blame themselves for not having acted differently, they find it hard to sleep well and rest on their days off. They maintain a certain level of ‘survival stress’ in their bodies, that doesn’t finish when the situation is over, that doesn’t allow them to rest and be quiet. This is where my expertise comes in.

How to get aligned with this intense experience of fear?

The essence of my work with people is to teach them to allow the intense experience of fear, of losing control, of feeling helpless or powerless. It is about trusting the body that it knows what to do and giving in to this experience. You consciously open the door and welcome  your fear.

What it takes is the courage to say yes and agree to feel it. The moment when a person agrees to the experience, the mind gets quiet and a dance starts to happen: the body balances itself. It might shake or sweat, the atmosphere gets quiet, the person starts to breathe and their body moves more freely. All by itself. It’s a wonderful relief, a beautiful dance. But for this dance to happen the mind needs to agree. This is also the moment the person has all her or his abilities available, they are able to do what is needed in the given situation.

The experience for many of my clients is that they feel free, silent, and rested once they allow their fear to be experienced.. It is a time where body and mind become one, are one.

Fear is a teacher and your body is a clever student.

Once a client’s body has learned to agree to fear, this has an impact on their day-to-day lives. Fear is a teacher that gives us clear signals about what is actually threatening and what life demands in a given moment. When we agree to feel it, we are able to become more efficient and simple in our actions. Fear is like a flow of energy that boosts our strength when needed.

Below is what some of my clients have learned about allowing their fear and the impact it has had on their work:

„The last time I was working with a doctor who never listens to what I say, I went into the situation full of confidence, knowing that it is important that she listens to me, and suddenly the whole atmosphere changed. The woman ready for birth could relax, felt very safe with us and for the first time I was working in a really good team with the doctor.“ – Anna, 32, midwife

„When I arrived at work there was a big fight in front of the center. This time I knew I needed a team who supports one another and I was no longer busy with being angry about the colleague who always hides behind the computer. I just told her straight away to move her ass and help me. I was clear about what I needed and the situation was far less exhausting than it used to be when I tried to handle everything on my own while being angry with my colleague.“ – Lena, 29, social worker at a center for homeless people

About the author:

Barbara Probst is a Qualified Practitioner of the Grinberg Method in Vienna, Austria.

Click here to see her IAGMP profile.

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