Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Overcoming Fear

by Tanya T. Warrington

One common denominator for all victims of violent crime is the acrid taste of fear that is left behind. We victims and former victims struggle with fears that it might happen again, that we don’t have the strength to carry on with normal living, and that in some way we are responsible for the trauma. 

We wrestle with or work hard to bury, frightening questions. If there is a God who loves me why didn’t He prevent this? If I am a good person why am I suffering such loss? If the other person is guilty why is he receiving such a light penalty? 

Then there are the self-judgments that fear generates.  If I’d only done one thing differently, then this horrible nightmare could have been averted—I am cursed. I should have known this was coming, all the signs were there—I am stupid.  If someone was okay with treating me this way, then there must be something wrong with me—I am defective.

We can try to deny fear and dismiss it. It doesn’t work for any length of time, no matter how many times we tell ourselves that we shouldn’t be afraid.

The trauma happened. It is normal to feel fear after a violent crime has ripped away our sense of security and brought us face to face with evil, with human sin run rampant.

So, what do we do with the fear that we never wanted? How do we process the betrayal(s) that shook us to our core? How do we move on without being crippled by the fear that hangs on to our heels?

To heal the deep wounds left on our heart, mind, soul, and body, we must face our fear. To move on after abuse, murder, kidnapping, rape, mugging, and other violent crimes we must face many fears, one at a time as they surface. 

As an incest survivor, date rape victim, former abused wife, and the parent of children who were sexually assaulted by another, I’ve had piles of fear to overcome. As a Christian, I turn to God for help with the massive task. With God’s help, I’ve learned how to face fears, how to accept them, how to analyze them, and how to take appropriate action in response. 

Here are steps that I take that might help you as you free yourself from that heap of fear that hinders wholeness and peace in your life. The perpetrator’s wrong and unjust actions brought the fears, but you are the one who can deal with your fears and grow in the process. Following are steps that I have found helpful in prevailing over fear:
  1. Ask God to help you honestly face your fears.
  2. Acknowledge each fear whenever it arises. I am frightened that_______________.
  3. Write down the fear in a journal, say it aloud, or talk to a trusted friend about your fear.
  4. Explore what the fear is telling you. Pray for wisdom so you can analyze the fear realistically. Are there current dangers that need to be addressed by seeking help from others, by taking precautionary steps, or by trying a new way of doing something? Are there emotions that need to be accepted and processed?
  5. Let the fear go. I mentally place the fear in God’s capable hands. God invites us to cast all our anxieties upon Him because He cares for us (1Peter 5:7). I consider fear a heavy burden and I’ve learned that God is willing and able to take care of it.
  6. Ask God for the courage to continue doing what is right and good, without letting any other fears stop you. Practice making decisions about how you want to live and then take actions that line up with those desires.
Expect fears to continue to resurface. Healing from trauma is a process, one that takes far longer than we would like. I’ve found that when fears resurface, dealing with them happens quicker and less painfully than the previous time. Progress is made. Healing happens in a deeper layer. My character is shaped. My life becomes more full and rewarding. 

God is an expert at healing and we can trust Him and re-learn to trust ourselves through the healing process.

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