The truth is, it’s a fine line!
I lived the first fifteen years of my life in fear that my step mother would assault me while I was at home and when I was at school I lived in fear that I would be teased by my peers for wearing uncool clothes or be verbally or physically attacked by the rougher kids from the other more working class estate. After I left home I spent seven years with no fixed abode in fear of my fellow drug crazed traveller friends, the abuse of power by the police or local vigilantes. Yes, fear was my constant companion. It was there lurking in the shadows all the time like Gollum in Lord of the Rings, following, waiting, whispering.
Fear is a natural aspect of being human. It is designed to keep us safe so that we alerted to danger and choose appropriate action when our safety is threatened. But what if we are a child and there are no options that will make us safe? Then we find ourselves in fight and flight all of the time and the flow of cortisol and stress chemicals become our default state, placing great stress on our adrenal glands and our biology so that our bodies have to try to compensate for this as best they can. Add to this, if you are in a male body, the platitude that ‘big boys don’t cry’ so that these fear based emotions are not allowed to be processed and we have the beginnings of boys supressing and denying their feelings. Every young boy will experience fear to varying degrees no matter how lovingly he is raised and consciously or unconsciously will absorb the information that you are ‘less than’ if you feel fear and often are actually taught to feel shame for feeling fear when it does arise and it can’t be concealed. So we learn to give ourselves a hard time for having a hard time, we shame ourselves!
When a baby is upset or fearful it will cry and alert it’s carers that something is wrong and hopefully it will be attended to. The emotion is expressed through the sound and through the release of tears. When a duck has finished a skirmish with another, it will raise itself up and flap its wings to release any of the emotion created in the conflict. Nature has designed it so that emotional energy is released as it is felt and therefore causes no lasting physical, psychological or emotional harm.
But what happens when a boy or a man’s fear is not expressed? Then we have a whole society of boys in men’s bodies who adopt many different ways to numb or distract or to conceal their fear. This is most commonly done through addictions like overworking, alcohol, pornography, over consuming food or material things, wearing the mask of status or striving for what our dysfunctional society calls ‘success’. And sadly we leave the realms of our bodies, of our hearts, of our feelings and we retreat into our heads. We become talking heads. If our male leaders were truly in touch with their feelings they could not make the decisions that they do which they know will cause so much suffering to children, women and the planet. These are the very things that the sacred man knows he was born to protect, to raise up and honour. But we live in a world where men are taught not to feel and we see the result of this disconnect between head and heart.
Let’s be clear that most if not all ‘negative’ or uncomfortable emotions arise from fear: shame, jealousy, guilt, anger all have fear at their root. This is why the road to sacred masculinity is paved with fear. To make that epic journey from the head back to the heart I have had to feel much of the fear that had been trapped in my body for decades. Sometimes I feel fear and I don’t know what it is related to and I just have to trust that it is old energy leaving. Sometimes a situation will trigger an old memory and fear will arise that is far in excess of the current situation.
I know that this issue is not necessarily gender specific. Women carry the same wound to a large extent. So it is vitally important that when a man is making that courageous journey back to his heart that he is not shamed or dishonoured for whatever arises. I have been held in the arms of men and sobbed and sobbed uncontrollably at times when I felt safe enough to allow the years of unexpressed fear to be felt and to leave. The sacred masculine is not a hunky, tattooed, warrior who fears nothing. He is a man who dares to walk a road without a map because there is little record of this happening before on this earth in our recorded, censored and distorted ‘his’story. He is a man who keeps stepping toward what he fears regardless of how much it evokes haunted memories of past injustices or abuse or shaming that he suffered.
I feel it is no coincidence that the words sacred and scared are so similar. To become sacred you must acknowledge your scaredness. You must make fear your constant companion until it is time for you to go your separate ways. Perhaps that day will come or perhaps it will not. I don’t know because for now I know that, although in much smaller ways, I still find, that I am asked to embrace and honour my fears most days. It seems the journey of becoming the best version of ourselves is never ending and letting go of fear is key to this process.