So many of us live at war with ourselves. We hate our anxiety or battle with fear.
We beat ourselves up or try to get rid of these parts of us. But this approach only makes things worse.
One of the most surprising ways to calm your anxiety is to stop waging war against it.
In today's episode we discuss how to honor your fear and soothe your anxiety so that you are in charge of them, not the other way around. Here's what we cover:
1. A picture of healthy internal boundaries
2. How anxiety tries to protect us
3. The surprising truth about fear
4. How to establish healthy boundaries with both fear and anxiety
5. Fear and the Bible
6. 5 Steps to work through fear and anxiety
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Music by Andy Luiten
Sound editing by Kelly Kramarik
While Dr. Cook is a counselor, the content of this podcast and any of the products provided by Dr. Cook are not specific counseling advice nor are they a substitute for individual counseling. The content and products provided on this podcast are for informational purposes only.
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- Inside Out Movie Trailer
- IFS Institute
- Find a Christian IFS Therapist
- Episode 39: Boundaries for Your Soul—How to Navigate Your Overwhelming Thoughts & Feelings
- Episode 40: 5 Steps to Healing Painful Emotions & Why Parts of Us Get Stuck in the Past
- Mindsight, by Dr. Dan Siegel
- Genesis 1
- Psalm 16:5-6
- Exodus 4:1-10
- Luke 12
- “The wildness is gentled out of a personality at war with itself.” Disciplines of the Spirit by Howard Thurman
The Best of You Podcast: Episode 41 16th Feb 2023
With Dr. Alison Cook
Boundaries for Your Soul
Alison: Hey everyone, and welcome back to this week's episode of The Best of You Podcast. Where we are in the third episode, in this six-week journey into healthy boundaries for your soul. And before we get started, just in case you haven't, yet, had a chance to go pick up those three, free resources. They are still there available for you.
It's a map of the soul, which we went through in episode 39. There's an 11-day PDF devotional that will take you through, basically, the biblical background for some of these key concepts, that we're talking about in this series. And then there's a guided audio reflection. It's a 10 to 12-minute guided exercise where I walk you through those five steps we talked about in episode 40.
You can actually extend the length of it. This is really helpful when you're first learning to pay attention to the contents of your own soul. To listen to what's happening inside of you, as I guide you through it.
You can just pause it if you need more time. Don't feel like you have to go at the pace of that guided audio. Just pause it, take the time you need, and then hit play for the next question prompt. Those resources are available for free on my website.
It's dralisoncook.com/ifsbundle. And you'll also find there that link to get both my books; Boundaries for Your Soul and The Best of You for essentially the price of one book. It works out to be 46% off when you buy them together. It's just a great bundle that my publisher has put together just for you.
So in episodes 39 and 40, we talked about what it means to have different parts of your soul. What are those different categories of parts are. We also talk through a five-step process of getting to know a part of your soul; to focus on it, befriend it, and invite God to be near it. To unburden it from any belief burdens, or feeling burdens, or messages all the way from the past that are still operating, often, outside of your subconscious awareness.
And then to reintegrate that part of you into your soul in a healthier way. And, today, and for the next few weeks, we're going to get into how to set boundaries with specific emotions. We're getting into this idea of internal boundaries and I'm going to talk more, in today's episode, about what that means. And then we're going to get into fear and anxiety, today. And then we'll move through some of the different emotions over the next few weeks.
Emotions are complicated. And I really like how this IFS model, that we're working through, it talks about emotions as connected to these parts of us.
Emotions are connected to beliefs that you hold. They're connected to memories that you have. They're connected to a whole narrative about your experiences, in this world, that go all the way back to childhood. They're linked to complex neurological systems inside of you. We don't just have emotions in a vacuum, they're complicated.
So, for example, sadness, when you experience sadness, usually, it's associated with a lot of things that you believe about sadness. Your own relationship to sad events. The ways those events have impacted you, in the present. The ways in which sad events have impacted you in the past. You may have created narratives around sadness, such as, "I've always been sad."
"I'm always destined to be sad. I don't know what happiness feels like."
Same with anger. Anger might be tied to certain messages you've come to believe about yourself. "People are never trustworthy."
"People will always let me down." And that goes back all the way to memories you have stored from your past. So these all tie into those burdens, we talked about in step four. Where these parts of us carry burdens, and often these burdens show up as emotions.
So emotions are complicated, and emotion is tied to a part of us that has a whole narrative about what's happening in front of us. And emotions are linked to each other as well. Anger often shows up as a way to keep pain or sorrow away. Sometimes we get mad at ourselves when we feel fearful or even when we feel sad.
Sometimes we exile our anger and that's when anxiety can kick up. When we're overthinking, overanalyzing, trying to keep everybody happy. And really what we need to do is get to the root of some anger that will empower us to take action. So these emotions, also, have relationships with each other. And this is, again, why I love this movie, Inside Out, even though it's a kid's movie, is it shows those interrelationships. The way that these emotions compete for authority in our soul.
Sometimes these emotions are too close to us. Sometimes they are too far away when we exile them. Some of these emotions we wish we had less of, we want more space from. And some of them we've disowned, we've denied, we've shoved aside, and we actually need them to come in a little closer.
All of these emotions need our leadership from that place inside, where the Holy Spirit lives. Where we're the best of who we are. Where we can name what's happening in our souls and lead ourselves wisely. And this is where we get into internal boundaries.
So what do we mean by setting boundaries with an emotion? Because typically when we think about boundaries we think about our external relationships. "I need better boundaries with my parents."
"I need better boundaries with my kids."
"I need better boundaries with my friends, with my work." Almost always, when people come to me and say, "I need better boundaries." They are not talking about the contents of their own soul. We're talking about these other people.
The truth is we need both. We need healthy boundaries inside of ourselves and we need healthy boundaries with other people, and the two are very much linked. For example, guilt is a great example. A lot of us have a hard time setting healthy boundaries with other people. Because we have been taken over by a part of us that is a guilt-tripping part of us.
And, so, we have to learn to set healthy boundaries, internally, with a part of us that guilt trips us erroneously. Not the true guilt of conviction, but the fault guilt of always thinking that we need to do what other people want us to do. We have to first differentiate from that part of us, internally. Set healthy boundaries with our guilt. Learn to reintegrate guilt in a healthy way, so that we can set healthy boundaries with other people.
These two things, these two different types of boundaries, work in tandem. This idea of psychological boundaries is rooted all the way back, in the mid-20th century. With psychiatrist Murray Bowen, who was an American psychiatrist who really developed Family Systems Theory. And, again, we talked about the family as a system of interrelated parts. This is our literal family. If you think to your own family, there's a bunch of individuals who all work together as a system. And just as I said with our emotions, no one individual in a family exists in a vacuum.
Every individual in your family; whether it's your kids, whether it's you, whether it's your spouse. Whoever it is that lives in your household, is both shaped by the other family members and shapes family members. We both are shaped by and we exert influence over the other people in our lives.
This is the crucible of healthy boundaries. Families are a collection of individuals. And there are two things that go on in those early formative years, as part of a family, whatever your family look like. The first word is interoception. Interoception is all the perceptions, noise, and sensations inside of you, that you have to learn how to make sense of. It's the cues your body is sending. It's your fight/flight response in your nervous system. As a baby it was hunger; hunger is rooted in interoception.
How do you know you're hungry if you're not connected to your digestive system, and the signals it's sending to your brain? And that makes you cry as a baby, that's interoception and it also gets at our emotional cues. And then there's exteroception. Exteroception is how we take in data from the surrounding world, through our five senses. Through what we see, feel, taste, smell, and touch, both are important.
We need to attend to what's happening inside our bodies, inside ourselves. And we need to be able to read the cues that are coming to us from the people around us. And a lot of us, I talk about this in The Best of You, and I think, especially, women are over-conditioned toward exteroception, we read the room. We read the room. We know what's going on with everybody around us far before we know what's going on inside our own selves, both matter. And the family is the crucible for this.
And, again, getting back to Bowen, he emphasized the importance of boundaries as a way to create health. As we exist both as individuals and as part of a collective, it's both. And boundaries are the key to that, and this is what I want you to understand about boundaries.
So often in our current vernacular, I hear boundaries being talked about as this negative thing. "I need boundaries" is a way of saying, "I need to get that person out of my life."
"I need more space from that person."
"I need more distance from that person."
Now that may well be true, but the reality of boundaries is they're not negative. We need boundaries in all of our relationships. We need boundaries because we exist both as unique selves and as individuals. There is no one on this earth; this is both the good news and the frustrating news of existence. There is no one, on this earth, who is exactly like you. Who will see experience, feel, and understand the world exactly as you do. You are a unique individual and that's beautiful. You are as unique as every snowflake. God made every single one of us completely unique. We have a completely unique experience of the world around us.
If you've heard that phrase people will say "No two children grow up in the same family." And it's true., everybody's perception of their family is a little bit different because we're all just so unique. And we're processing all that data, both internally and externally, in slightly different ways. This is our individual selfhood. This is what I talk about in The Best of You.
This is not a bad thing and, simultaneously, we are a bunch of selves that are intrinsically connected with a bunch of other-selves. We do not exist in isolation. We do not thrive in isolation. We need other people. Other people influence who we become.
And, so, we are also part of a whole, we are part of a collective, and boundaries are what help us navigate that. Boundaries help me understand where I end and you begin. Your emotions are not my emotions. You do not read my mind. You may not even understand how I feel or what I think, and that does not make you a bad person. It makes you a different person. We are different. We are differentiated from each other. And, again, this is both the joy and sometimes the frustration of relationships.
I mean, wouldn't it be nice if someone just completely stepped inside your own skin and saw the world as you did? But in a way, also, it wouldn't be nice. The reality is there's beauty in the different parts. There's beauty in the whole, in the harmony, in our relationships with other people. Your perspective helps me understand my perspective.
Even our differences; even where you see something slightly in a different way than I do. When we have that conversation it's like "I don't see it exactly as you do, but that was helpful to me because now I understand my own perspective a little bit better. And, now, I hope you understand your perspective a little bit better." This is Psych 101. This is foundational. And when you think about all these problems we're having in our world today.
It all gets back to this fundamental reality that there's a me, there's a you, and we are different. We have different perspectives. We have different experiences.
We have different lived realities. We have different ways of interpreting both our internal world and the cues that are coming at us from our external world. And the beauty of a relationship is we need each other to arrive at increasing degrees of truth, of reality.
I do not have the full take on truth, on what is real. I need your perspective to help me enlarge my perspective. You need my perspective to help you enlarge your perspective. This is the beauty of relationships. We need to be firmly rooted in our own perspective and how we are seeing the world, and confident enough in that to understand I also need to hear your perspective. Your perspective is going to help enhance mine.
It's not going to take me over; it's going to help me see the truth, and to see reality, and to see what's going on more realistically, more honestly, more accurately. This is the way God made us, and boundaries are what help us delineate those differences.
And this comes from the work of Bowen. Bowen believed that healthy boundaries are essential for individuals to develop both a clear sense of self and to avoid getting caught up in what psychologists call enmeshment. Which means, "I lose track of myself and, so, I just take on your identity."
And we see this happening in relationships. When you don't have a strong sense of self, you start to just like what other people like. There's a movie, from the '90s, with Julia Roberts, it's called Runaway Bride and you see this played out in that movie. Where she just takes on the identity of all her different fiancé. And then she ends up getting to the altar and she freaks out because she's like, "I don't even know who I am; I've just taken on your identity." And it's a funny, cute romcom, but the truth is it happens to us. If we don't have a sense of ourselves.
We just take on the identities of the people around us. And then the other extreme is also true, where we just are so full of our own perspective. This is where we get into narcissism or counter-dependent, where we don't care what anybody else thinks. We just don't care because it's just all about me. Neither of those extremes is healthy.
Healthy boundaries help us delineate relationships where you get to be you, I get to be me. And then together we get to negotiate a way forward that's more beautiful, that's more whole. That gives us, together, a combined, a shared experience of reality that's actually more complete.
So in this work of setting healthy, internal boundaries with emotions, with parts of ourselves, we're really getting into this interoception. And, again, so many of the people I see, especially women, this is where we struggle. The internal life, the contents of our own souls are foreign to us in so many ways. We don't know how to read the cues that are coming to us from inside our own souls. So this work of establishing internal boundaries is exactly the same as that of external family. It's this family of parts that you have inside of you.
And, oftentimes, emotions are the best first line of how we begin to understand we have a part of us. It's like, "Oh, there's that anger. There's that sadness that I can't shake. There's that fear." These are connected to parts of us.
They're our first window, our lived experience, of these parts of us that we need to begin to get to know so that we can differentiate from these parts of us. They are not all of who we are and establish these healthy boundaries.
So these different emotions can exist within healthy boundary lines, within our souls, because we need these emotions. None of them is bad. We need them, but we need to be able to navigate through them. So that they stay within healthy boundary lines, within our souls.
I want to just pause here and remind you of this beautiful truth, that God is the originator of boundaries. And just to underscore this idea that healthy boundaries are not a negative, they're not a bad thing. Sometimes they're frustrating and it's hard work, both internally it's hard work, and externally it's hard work. But if you think about the creation story, the very first thing that God did was to establish boundary lines. He delineated day from night, land from the sea. He engaged in the process of naming and differentiating different things, one from the other.
These boundary lines are part of the created order. They're pre-fall, if you will. There's this beautiful harmony, this order, that God creates out of chaos. And this is exactly the same thing that happens in our families, in our relationships, we create order out of chaos. And it's the same thing that happens inside our souls. We begin to create order out of chaos, by participating in this work of naming and delineating the parts of our soul.
And just think about it, I want to cast a vision here for a second. What an amazing feeling it is if you've glimpsed this, even, in your family, in your marriage, in your friendships, where the boundary lines fall in pleasant places. Where everybody involved is thriving as individuals and as part of the collective. Where as an individual, who you are, your identity, your talents, and your preferences are honored. And you are also deeply invested in honoring the talents, preferences, opinions, and needs, of the people around you.
It's such a beautiful feeling. You have those glimpses in your family when everybody is okay. And they're just being their beautiful, individual selves and at peace with each other simultaneously. This is the hope, this is the design, and we have lots of ruptures in our families, even, in the healthiest of families. The goal is not perfection.
But when you get that glimpse of, "Oh, this is so cool when it works." When we're just in sync together. When we're all just thriving, this is a picture of healthy boundary lines. And it's the same inside your own soul. Where it's not the absence of some of these emotions, but there's just this being at peace with.
There's being at peace with the different parts of yourself and you're just thriving, and you're good, and you're at peace. And it's not because you're just happy, there's other emotions involved there. And you're also at peace with the different parts of yourself, with the different parts of your own story. Even with some of the hard parts of what's happening in your life. This is the work of naming. This is the work of healthy boundaries for your soul.
Let's get into fear and anxiety. These are two of the most common emotions. In fact, fear is the most common emotion mentioned in the Bible. Which is very interesting because a lot of folks write to me and feel like they've been shamed for feelings of fear.
That there's a lot in the Bible that says it's wrong to feel fear, which I'm going to debunk today in this episode. And then we get at anxiety, which is a cousin of fear, but they're not exactly the same thing.
Anxiety is the most commonly reported mental health concern globally. It's just so common. So many people deal with anxiety and we don't really want to feel anxious. These are not emotions we want to have. And, yet, I would maintain, I would set forth before you today, that these are part of our God-given design, they're not bad.
The goal is not to eradicate all anxiety and fear, at least, on this side of heaven. We need these emotions to survive. We want to get them within healthy boundary lines. Let's start with anxiety. Anxiety is a normal and often healthy emotion. Everyone experiences it, at some point in their life. It's a feeling of worry or unease about something. It can become intense, or excessive, or maybe long-lasting.
It might start to interfere with your day-to-day activities. That's when we start to talk about an anxiety disorder, where if for a prolonged period of time beyond what is considered quote-unquote "Normal". Your anxiety is inhibiting your day-to-day functioning. You might need to get on medication. You might need specific therapeutic techniques. This is very common, it can happen for a wide variety of reasons. I'm not going to go into that today. But at its baseline, anxiety is actually a normal emotion that all humans experience.
It helps keep us safe. There are things in the world about which we should be a little bit anxious or even a lot anxious. Same as sadness. There are things in the world about which we should be sad. There are things in the world about which we should be angry.
Anxiety is no different. It gets problematic when it gets extreme and it starts to take us over. But in a healthy amount, within healthy boundary lines, anxiety can signal the presence of a real fear that needs your attention. It can inform you when you are overwhelmed, when your mind or your body is overwhelmed. It can protect you by warning you about things that might go wrong. It can alert you to danger. It can remind you that you are tender, that you are a sensitive soul, and that you are not a machine. That you are a human being.
Anxiety tends to be future-oriented and creative. It tends to think up all things for you to worry about. Things that may or may not actually have a bearing on your current reality. It tends to try to protect you, anxiety is a protector. When we talked about those managers, firefighters, and exiles, anxiety tends to be a manager that's trying to protect you. It's trying to keep you safe.
And, oftentimes, when it gets extreme it can keep you from facing the real fear, that actually needs your caring and can be almost a distraction, by stirring up all this worry about things that don't really need your attention, don't really need your worry. And keeping you from the actual fear, the vulnerability, that actually does need your attention.
So anxiety functions as a protector. Fear, on the other hand, comes in as that exiled vulnerability. Fear tends to be focused on a specific present concern. Anxiety tends to step in when we have an untended fear.
So I want you to think about that, for a second. An example I like to give about anxiety is that it just tends to be all these floating distractions. It's like, "This could happen." And it's like that game of whack-a-mole at the fair. It's like, "This could go wrong." It's just all this stuff going on in your mind.
And, sure, any one of those things could go wrong, but it's completely missing the point of the root of the issue, almost, always. Which is one of these basic primal fears, which tend to be along the lines of
"I'm going to make a fool of myself."
"I'm going to be alone."
"I'm going to be rejected."
"I'm going to be abandoned."
"The floor is going to fall out."
"I'm going to just spin out, no one will be there."
And, so, much of this goes back to attachment wounds. To our childhood, to being made fun of. To the feeling of being alone, when someone did leave us. So much of these very deep-rooted fears go all the way back there. And when we can get to the root of them and go, "What is really the worst thing that's going to happen? Well, somebody might not like me."
"Well, someone might walk away from me."
"The ceiling may fall, right?"
"The worst case might happen. I might lose someone to something." And here's the thing when we can get to the root of the fear and go, "That might happen." It's not brainwashing yourself. It's not telling yourself those things might not happen. Sometimes the hard stuff happens. Listen, I've been a therapist for a long time. I've also been a human for a long time. Sometimes the hard stuff happens, I'm not going to try to tell you otherwise. But what I will tell you is when you get to the root of that fear and you go, "That hard thing happens, I'm not alone."
And you can start to face that fear. And you can start to resource that fear. And you can start to get support for that fear. And, then, you can start to be brave. We can't be brave if we don't have fear. We're not human machines, we're human beings.
When we get to the root of our fear, there's an opportunity to go, "What do I need to be brave? What support do I need? What assistance do I need? What reassurance do I need from God, from the people around me? What help do I need to ask for, to be brave in this situation?"
Because this situation is kicking up all my anxiety. My anxiety is just telling me, "Red alert. Do not go there, this is only going to end badly. All these things are going to happen." But I need to do this hard thing, whatever it is.
And, so, then, you get to the root of your fear, which is vulnerability, "I am terrified, I'm going to lose everybody I love if I do this brave thing."
"I am terrified, I'm going to make a complete fool of myself. I will be a complete failure."
Whatever the fear is, "I'll fall apart." Anxiety often thinks it's keeping us together. Because anxiety is activating your nervous system, which keeps you in that fight mode, so it's energizing. And it's like if your anxiety steps back, just a little bit. If you get just a little bit of distance from it. You don't understand that feeling of not having that activated nervous system, that can feel very foreign, initially. And that's another fear that anxious protectors will have.
"Who will you be without me?" Anxiety will say, "I've been your best friend since you were very young. I've been there for you." And it's not untrue, and that's why we want to extend compassion and befriend these protectors. They have worked hard to help us survive.
When you begin to focus and name anxiety, and you sense where it is in your body, you get an image of it. And, then, you befriend it and you thank it. And you say, "Man, anxiety, you have been trying to help me all these years. You've been trying to be a friend to me." And, so, you don't shame yourself for it, but you differentiate from it.
And you say, "You know what, anxiety, I need to ask you to take a step back." And then you find out, "What are you afraid will happen, anxiety, if you were to take a step back?"
And you'll sense a sense of, "Well, what will I do? Anxiety is how I show up in the world. It's how I protect myself. It's who I am."
What if it's not? What if you could get just a little bit of space from your anxiety, and tap into that spirit-led place inside of you and discover other parts of you? Oftentimes, there's an angry part of you that is much more equipped to take brave action. Anger's a little bit braver than anxiety. Sometimes there's a part of you that needs to grieve. And then, also, there's this fearful exile that simply needs your presence, not all your scenario planning.
That simply needs you to say, "It's okay to be afraid. You're frightened, it's okay this is scary. But let's make it a little bit scary. Let's resource ourselves compassionately. Let's get ourselves the help that we need, so we move this into a little bit of afraid versus giant afraid. So that we can actually take some brave action."
It takes fear to have courage, and our anxiety is a little bit nervous about that. If it keeps us distracted, if it keeps us just worried, we may not actually get to that place of grounded courage. That says, "This is a little bit scary and I can be brave. I can be brave." And when anxiety is held within these healthy boundary lines, it'll let you do that. It'll be like, "Okay, it makes me a little bit nervous. I'm not sure I like this but okay."
I want you to hear me say that fear and anxiety don't, necessarily, go away altogether. We need them to survive. But when they're contained within healthy boundary lines. And the anxiety dials it down just a little bit and says, "Okay, I'll stop just throwing out at you all these landmines. All these things that I'm worried about."
Take a deep breath anxiety is rooted in the nervous system. We've got to take that deep breath and calm the nervous system. We don't analyze our way out of anxiety, typically, that just adds more fuel to the fire. Instead, we have to breathe our way through anxiety. We have to take deep breaths. We have to ground ourselves in our body. We have to become more aware of our physical surroundings.
And, then, we come into contact with that vulnerability inside that says, "Yes, I'm afraid. I am afraid this is going to be hard. This is going to be scary. This person might not like this. This is going to feel foreign to me. This is uncomfortable to me. This is new for me, I don't usually do this, but I'm going to be brave."
And suddenly we're tapped into that calm, clear place inside where fear is there and, even, anxiety is still there a little bit. We can still feel its energy fluttering off to the side, but we're tapped into our God-given selves. We're tapped into the best of who we are, and we start to lead ourselves through it. And we start to take one brave step at a time. And we've got some healthy boundary lines. We've dialed down our anxiety to a dull roar. It might still be there, but it's no longer taken us over.
We've connected with the fearful part of us. We've honored it. We've even validated it, yes, it is scary, It is scary to do this brave thing. To say no to this relationship.
To take on this new project that you're terrified to take on. You're not sure if you can do it. You're afraid you'll fail.
We validate that part of us.
We say, "It's okay, I see you. God sees you. We're here, it's okay. Put your hand over your heart. All right, let's take it one brave step at a time." And suddenly you're leading yourself, those parts of you don't need to go away. They do need to learn to let you lead them, not the other way around.
I want to touch briefly on fear in the Bible. I hear from people almost every day, struggling with the fact that they felt shame about their fear. Shame about their anxiety. And I just want to be really clear that this is not a biblical understanding of either fear or anxiety.
In fact, we see fear all over the Bible. Some of the greatest heroes of our faith were very fearful, were very anxious. Moses is probably the one that is the most common. You just see a lot of anxiety, a lot of fearfulness, in Moses. He didn't want to step up and lead when God called him to do it. He was fearful.
Some people think when he talked about having a speech impediment, that he may, in fact, have had a stutter. That he may have had a hard time getting his words out. Maybe he had a fear of public speaking, I don't know.
But what I do know is that he was fearful and God didn't shame him for that. God honored that it was real, it was true, and He named it. God brought him Aaron and He said, "I'm going to resource you. I'm going to get you support. I'm not going to ask you to do this alone." And He brought him, Aaron, his brother. And He said, "Aaron's going to help you." And there's a lesson there for us that we don't need to feel shame in our fear.
When Jesus shows up with people and says, "Do not be afraid." It's not a shaming thing. It's not a "What's wrong with you? Why are you fearful?"
It's a, "I see your fear and I'm here with you. I see your fear, I get it. I see it, let's name it, let's call it out. There's fear here and I'm with you." There's a reassurance. I love this, where Jesus says to His followers in Luke chapter 12, "I'm speaking to you as dear friends, do not be bluffed into silence or insincerity by the threats of religious bullies. True, they can kill you." He's not trying to brainwash them.
"Yes, they can hurt you, sure, but then what can they do?" There's nothing they can do to your soul, your core being.
"Don't be intimidated by all this bully talk." He says, "You are worth more than a million canaries." In verses six through seven. "Don't be afraid of missing out you're my dearest friends. The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself." Verse 32.
Jesus assumes that His followers will be frightened by very real threats in the world around them. That they might be intimidated by bullies. That they might be fearful of going against the crowd, of losing people, of being rejected. These were real fears.
He didn't try to pretend like they weren't. He brings their fear out into the open, He names it. And when we name without shame, fear has a way of losing its power, same with anxiety. When we name without shame, "Yes, there you are, anxiety, I see you there. I'm going to take some deep breaths. I'm going to ground myself. I'm going to ask for some support. I'm not going to shame myself for this."
When we shame ourselves for things, it kicks up even more tension, even more chaos, inside our souls. When we name, we start to tame. That's what Dan Siegel says "To name is to tame." It helps bring relief to these parts of us that gets so anxious, so fearful, and so worked up.
So here we're going to go through the five steps. If you deal with a lot of anxiety, a lot of worry, whatever degree it is focusing on it simply means to name it. This is what it is; naming without shame. When you focus and you befriend, you're simply saying, "Yes, this is a part of me. A part of me worries a lot. A part of me feels anxious a lot."
I just named that. I just bless that part of me. "You know what, sometimes I don't like it. And you know what, I'm going to forgive myself for that, for the ways I've beat myself up for that. Because you know what? This is also a beautiful part of me. This is a part of me that's sensitive.
This is a part of me that wants to be prepared. This is a part of me that likes to plan ahead. That likes to be equipped to deal with uncertainty. This is a beautiful part of me." And, yes, sometimes, does it get out of hand? Yes. Yes, it does and that's okay, that's when we just name it to tame it. Not to shame it. We just name it to say, "Oh, yes, there you are, old friend, worry, old friend, anxiety, I see that you've flared up."
That's a cue; what are we afraid of here? And then name the fear; "You can be here too." And you start to just name the different parts of your soul, and they start to soften, they start to relax.
Again, this isn't magic, If you've had years of struggling with anxiety, with fear, this doesn't just happen overnight. But you start to focus and you befriend, and you just bless these parts of you. You just bless them, God sees them. God does not shame you for them, and then you invite God in. And you say, "Hey, God, here we are again, here's that anxiety."
Not to magically take it away. We can pray from that anxious part of us. Those are these Hail Mary prayers where we're like, "God, please, please, please." And it's activating to your nervous system. "God, please, take this anxiety away." We're praying from that anxious part of us. This is a little different; when we name we befriend, and we say, "There it is."
And, then, we get a little distance from. And, then, we say, "God, you see that anxiety. Help me take a deep breath and connect to that deep place inside where the Holy Spirit lives.
Where there's calmness in my nervous system. Where I'm embodied. Where I have feet on the ground. Where I am in touch with the body you gave me. Where maybe there's another person here who reminds me, 'I'm okay.'"
This becomes a form of prayer. It's a prayer of "You see the anxiety, too, God, and you don't shame me for it.
You help me resource myself through it in, sometimes, very practical, concrete ways." And then we unburden, what are some of these old messages that the fear underneath the anxiety still tells us?
Things like, "I'm just not worthy; I'm not good enough."
"I'm going to be alone; I'm going to be abandoned."
"No one will ever want to be with me."
"I'm going to be a fool."
"No one's ever going to love me."
"This is just all of who I am."
These are some of those fears. "I'll just always be this way." We just name them, again, not to fix them, not to rationalize our way out of them. But to just name them and then unburden them. And this is where that beautiful what-if question comes in, "What if I am worthy?"
"What if God does love me, no matter what?"
"What if, even, if someone leaves, I'll be okay?"
"What if I'm stronger than I think?"
"What if I'm more courageous than parts of me believe?"
"What if I'm more anchored in goodness, in truth, in beauty, in God's kindness, than I really feel?"
"What if it's really going to be okay?"
"What if I'm not alone?" What if? You don't even have to convince yourself of it at this point. Just what if? This is how you begin to unburden.
"What if that part of me that, so long ago, started to believe that no one would ever bother with me? That people will always leave me. What if that part of me could unburden that belief, find freedom, and find the healing that that's not true? And what if I was worth people staying? And what if I'm still worth people staying?"
And you know what, even if they don't stay, in this case, there will be someone who will stay. There will be. There will be someone who will stay. This is the way we start to unburden, and we get to the root of that fear. It's brave to face these fears. It's so brave. And don't do this work alone. If you've been dealing with a lot, and you've been holding a lot in, don't do this work alone. Get someone to come alongside you, a therapist, a coach, a spiritual director, a small group, a dear friend. But just get to the root of that fear and just name it.
And here's the thing, it may not go away entirely, but you're going to resource it. You're going to reintegrate that fear and say, "Guess what, fear? Now you get to be a part of me that reminds me that I need support. I need resourcing. This thing that's hard for me to do is scary.
It's hard for me to get up on a stage and speak to a room full of people. And because it's hard for me and because I've been wounded there before. Because someone made fun of me in the past, I'm going to get you support, fearful part of me. I'm not going to make you do it alone, I see you. And I'm going to ask someone for help. And I'm going to learn what I need to help you stay calm when I go do this brave thing.
I need to say no to this person. I need to break off this relationship. And it's really scary to a part of me because it brings up all my old attachment wounds and I feel like they're going to leave me. But you know what, fearful part of me, I see you in that and I'm not going to shame you for that. And I'm going to get you support for that.
And, so, guess what, we're going to come up with a plan; where I'm going to talk to my therapist before I schedule that breakup. So I get you the support you need. I'm going to talk to that friend right before and right after that breakup or I'm going to journal right before and just let you fly free with all of your fears. And I'm going to honor and witness all of your fears, and I'm going to let you have your say.
And then we're going to close the journal. And then I'm going to pick up the phone and make that hard call, and we're going to do it together. We're going to do it together. So you don't have to go away, but I'm not going to let you dictate the decision."
Do you see how this starts to become the healthy boundary lines inside your own soul? You begin to create more spaciousness inside for your spirit-led self, for the best of you. For this God created you to start to kick in and lead you in freedom, and in truth.
This is a process of internal reconciliation. You're reconciling with parts of yourself. You're no longer at war with your anxiety, at war with your fear. You're not trying to get these parts of you to go away or just leave you. Instead, you're reconciling yourself to them.
You're going, "This is a part of me. This is a part of my story. And I'm going to be reconciled to the fact that I'm someone who sometimes deals with some anxiety, deals with some worry. I'm someone who has these fears from time to time. I'm reconciled to that. I'm at peace with that." Which doesn't mean resignation; it means I'm at peace with that. Which means I can lead myself through it with courage. I can lead myself through it with courage.
These parts of me are no longer my enemies. Instead, they're my cues; "Oh, my goodness, I've got to ground myself in my body. With anxiety in particular, I've got to take some deep breaths. I've got to slow things down, and I've got to be brave. I've got to be brave when it comes to facing this fear."
And I love this quote from Howard Thurman, who was a mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr., and he said it this way about reconciliation with the parts of ourselves. He said, "The wildness is gentle doubt of a personality at war with itself."
When we stop being at war with ourselves and we start to reconcile with these parts of ourselves. And just name them, and bless them, and befriend them.
And name them before God and invite God to be with them. Not to get God to magically make them go away, but to let God help us lead them. We start to gentle our way out of the wildness, out of the chaos, and we start to know ourselves. We start to understand ourselves, and we start to say, "Okay, this is a fear that I have."
Listen, just recently, I got a question from one of you about a fear of public speaking. And I thought to myself, "Well, isn't that ironic?" I have that fear and I publicly speak all the time, and it kicks up anxiety inside of me. It doesn't go away. But I've learned over time what resources I need to help me be brave when I do it.
And it is a delight and a joy to honor that fearful part of me. And not be at war with it and say, "Oh, you get to be here what do we need? Here's what we need before, and here's what we need after. And I am so proud of you that you showed up so bravely to let me do that hard thing." And suddenly I'm at peace with myself. I'm not trying to get rid of these parts of me that also make me who I am, and they make you who you are.
If you have these fears of getting up in front of other people. These fears of saying no to other people. These fears of trying something new; that's a little bit out of your comfort zone, don't eradicate that part of you, bless it. And see what it needs to help you be brave. We don't get these opportunities to be brave, to be so proud of ourselves if we don't first honor the fear.