Embracing Your Fear

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt

Have you seen the movie, Nightmare on Elm Street?  Freddie Krueger is the bad guy in this horror series.  He attacks people in their dreams with his knived gloves and they die in real life.  The first movie scared the pants off me.

Shortly after seeing the movie, I had a nightmare featuring Freddie.  I dreamed I was in a grocery store, shopping with my cart, and suddenly all the doors closed and wouldn’t open.  People started screaming.  Freddie Krueger was in the store and was just running up to people one after the other and killing them.  His eyes made contact with mine and he rushed towards me.  I became lucid at this point and tried to wake up, but I wasn’t fast enough.  Freddie ran up behind me, laughing maniacally, and used his sharp knives to cut through my back, grab my heart, and yank it out.  I felt all the pain you might expect that act would entail.  I slumped forward over my cart and Freddie ran off continuing to kill other people.  I could feel the blood dripping down my back, and I could hear other people screaming as they died.  Then I heard him come back to me and say, “Oh?  Not dead yet?  I’ll fix that.”  He pulled my head up by my hair and slit my throat.  I woke up.  Happy to be alive, actually.  (By the way, it’s a myth that if you die in a dream you die in real life.  Doesn’t happen or I’d be dead 100 times over).

I was never afraid of Jason or Michael or any other horror movie character.  But Freddie was different.  He attacks people in their dreams.  To a lucid dreamer, that’s as close to a  real horror movie as you can get!

I began having frequent dreams that included Freddie.  There came a point when I could sense I was going to have a “Freddie” dream before it happened.  I started going in prepared by pre-planning how I would deal with him.  In one dream I was in my living room, Freddie appeared, and I turned incorporeal right before he was going to slice me up.  I flew through my window and heard him cursing behind me.  I flew far far away (Freddie can’t fly, poor schlub) so as long as I stayed in the air, I was safe.

After that Freddie would surprise me in my dreams by taking the form of someone I knew and only at the last moment turn back into Freddie and kill me.  Oh, he was good.  I decided I needed to get rid of Freddie once and for all.  But how?

The Freddie in the movies was a regular guy turned pedophile, and the parents on the street got together and murdered him by burning him alive.  So I wondered if I could go back in time to before he became a pedophile and talk him out of it by telling him what would become of him if he did.  No crime = no murder = no horror-Freddie!  I programmed my dream and went in.  I found him and he looked just like the actor who plays Freddie in the movies, Robert Englund.  We had a long talk and he agreed that no matter what, he would refrain from harming the children on Elm Street.  I left, satisfied that I’d seen the last of him.  No such luck.  He couldn’t resist his evil nature and the cycle started all over.  I would have to try something else.

My next plan was to find something Freddie himself was afraid of and get it to attack Freddie on my behalf.  The next time Freddie appeared in my dream I lucidly created an Angel of God to take care of him.  Freddie beat the pants off the Angel but gave me props for a good try.  My plan of flying away so he couldn’t get me was failing too.  He would just locate me when I landed and reappear to terrorize and kill me some more.

Finally, one night, I’d reached my limit.  Freddie had been periodically haunting my lucid dreams for close to a year and I hated it.  I wanted to have a great lucid dream and not have a raving lunatic running around it with me.  I had one final plan.

This time when Freddie appeared I immediately flew off to a pre-programmed house (yes this is advanced lucid dreaming stuff).  I flew inside and telekinetically locked all the doors and windows.  I put a “spell” on them so they would be impenetrable to Freddie.  Satisfied that there was no way he could get in, I began to relax.  I remember turning around and seeing Freddie just standing there, right behind me.  This time, instead of fear, I felt frustration and anger!  And I had my first real conversation with the thing that was haunting me for so long.  Here’s roughly how it went:

Me:  This is ridiculous!  Why won’t you leave me alone?

Freddy: I can’t.

Me:  Why?

Freddie: Because you keep bringing me here.

Me:  Me?  I don’t even want you here.  How could I be the one bringing you here?

Freddie:  Because what you’ve failed to understand this entire time is that I am not a dream manifestation of Freddie Krueger.  I am, to put it simply, your fear.

Oh.  Hmm… Er.  Not what I expected.

Me:  So, then, you’re not trying to kill me?

Freddie: No, not at all.

Me:  Then why do you keep slicing me up with your claws?

Freddie:  Because you keep letting fear win.  It’s your dream.  I only respond to how you treat me.  If you run, I have to chase you.

Oh.  Hmm.  Interesting.  Now we were getting somewhere.

Me:  Well you don’t seem so scary now.

Freddie:  Thanks.  I appreciate that.

Me:  So all this time I just had to stop running from you and you would stop chasing me?

Freddie:  Exactly.

Me:  Wow, I feel so relieved, and also kind of stupid.

Freddie: (laughing) Yeah.

I know it sounds kind of crazy but I stopped feeling afraid of him entirely as I realized he was just a manifestation of my fear.  He was a part of me.  And being afraid of a part of myself seemed kind of dumb.  I laughed too.

And then … we embraced.  I hugged my fear, I embraced it, I welcomed it.  I acknowledged it with love, and it stopped being so scary.

We had a nice chat with tea and cookies after that.  He took off his clawed glove and his burns started fading away.  He seemed like just a regular guy doing a job.

But it doesn’t end there.  Every time I was having a scary dream, Freddie would appear behind me and protect me!  He started doing battle in my place.  If I was about to be attacked by a vampire or a demon, Freddie would kick its butt!

I also recall a dream where I was in the past, in the body of a woman who was intending to commit suicide.  I became lucid and tried to get out of the dream because I knew where it was going and didn’t want to experience what I knew was coming.  But Freddie appeared and said, “You’ve got to play out the dream to the finish.  It’s important.  You need to know what it feels like to want to commit suicide so you never decide to do it yourself.”  I told him I was afraid, and he replied, “Of course you are, that’s why I’m here.  Would you like some help?”  I cried softly and said, “Yes.  Is it going to hurt?”  He said, “What do you think?”

He stood behind me and placed his knived finger against my neck. I was standing in front of a mirror so I could see him.  I settled comfortably against his warm and caring embrace, and he slit my throat.  I didn’t feel a thing and woke up.  It was a strange dream.

Okay, so the reason I am relating this whole story to you is because I learned something so valuable from this experience.  It’s really true that we have nothing to fear but fear itself.  When you embrace your fear — when you acknowledge it instead of running from it — your fear is dispelled.  Embracing your fear is the first step to overcoming it.  There is courage to be found when you stop running from the thing you fear and greet it by name and say, “Yes, you!  I see you there and you can’t scare me.  I know you want me to turn tail and run from you but I’m not going to.  If you want a piece of me, come and get it!”  Fear can’t stand against that kind of awareness and it disappears.

Try it with something you’re afraid of.  Public speaking, perhaps? Standing up for your rights?  Asking for a raise?  Asking a girl out on a date?  Feel the fear and let it pass through you.  Acknowledge it, “Yes, I’m afraid.  I’m terrified in fact.  But I still want to do this, so I’m going to.  Despite the fear that I am indeed feeling, I am going to do this thing, and it will not defeat me.  I will not let fear stop me!”

The more you stand up to fear, the less power it has over you.  Never run.  Always stand your ground.  In a pinch, offer it a cup of tea and some cookies.  Hey, it couldn’t hurt. ;)

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