Kimberly M. Ewing, Ph.D.
The Fear of Opening Up Again
The talk about “opening up again” is all around us. Some of us feel strongly that we need to “get back to our lives”, return to “normal”. For others of us, it is way too early to even consider it. Some are facing the gripping fear of running out of money for housing and food. Some are dealing with the growing anxiety of watching their once secure jobs become increasingly unstable and unpredictable. Some are feeling the sweet relief of not having to get up every day to activities you can’t stand doing. Some are developing new skills, new awareness, new health habits, accomplishing new goals that you never gave time to before everything around us closed down.
We are facing the next, inevitable phase of this experience…
how to open up again after you have closed yourself off.
Did you get that, did you feel that?
Yes, this phase, like all those phases before, is hitting at way deeper issues than it may seem on the surface.
I'll say it again. There is no certainty here. No way to control the outcomes. But what I do know for sure is that--There will be no Going Back to Normal. Whatever you had before, whatever you were doing before, however you lived life before…you will not be able to return to that. It is no more.
(I realize that may sound harsh. Just hang in there with me.)
Our world has forever been changed by this experience. We may differ widely on whether that change is more for the better, or worse. Whatever it might be, it is what it is…And, it will be something new that we haven’t experienced before. Living things develop, grow, evolve. Life is Change. So, no, there is no such thing as going back to normal.
As we enter this new phase, we may find ourselves revisiting Big Emotions at another level. One of the big emotions many will confront again is that of FEAR. Is it too soon, is it too late, will we ever be okay again, is it safe to be “out there”, how will I face having to go back to something, how will I face not having something to go back to, and all that goes into longing for (the illusion of) control and certainty.
Another Big Emotion we may confront again is GRIEF. Facing the reality of what we couldn’t hold onto, be it experiences, celebrations, finances, homes, jobs, people, or no longer counting on (the illusion of) control and certainty.
These emotions can be difficult to bear, but trust that they are just that, emotions. Energy in motion. Information. Pointing us to what matters (or mattered) to us, what we are valuing (or used to value), what is (or was) important to us. The only way I know to truly manage these feelings is to face them. Resist not. Resistance is futile, so lean into it. We have an opportunity to increase our capacity for patience, curiosity, connection, compassion, and appreciation for ourselves. (And, for each other, but that’s a whole other thing.)
Please remember, humans everywhere are experiencing this, as much as it is personal.
What we are phasing through is planetary in scope. Yes. Big.
Okay, so how do you start? Here are my recommendations (they may sound familiar to you).
**Drop out of your mind. Leave the stories (thoughts, beliefs, judgments, “truth”) behind.
**Locate what you are feeling.
**Find where those feelings are living in your body.
**Explore what the physical manifestations of your emotions want to tell you. Listen carefully, there is great wisdom and insight here. (Again, do not confuse wisdom with stories.)
This wisdom might point you to something deeper that you didn’t realize or have been ignoring. Stay connected. Stay curious. There is more wisdom coming.
This wisdom might point you to something you need to do, an action you can take now.
This wisdom might simply say, be still and continue to breathe.
Follow your wisdom; we all have it inside of us. Invite it to come forward. We will need its guidance through this next phase of opening up again to the outside, to what is next, and to each other. Learning to open up to and with yourself with patience and compassion, allows you to do this with other people and experiences.
Here are more resources to help you:
Exercises for releasing anxiety
Understanding the impact of fear on our biology
Being with your feelings, compassionately