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Feeling Beneath Our Fears

By Charlie Badenhop

Listening deeply to your own mammalian nature has the power to profoundly enrich your life.

Several years ago I made the acquaintance of a new friend named Tara. She is as beautiful a Shetland sheep dog as I have ever seen. Like many of us human beings, Tara had a sad tale to tell. When just a pup, the first time she was taken for a walk she came upon a horde of kids who suddenly started shooting off firecrackers. Tara was frightened beyond belief and she escaped from her leash and bolted into the far distance. Perhaps never to be seen again her owner feared! Several hours later though, Tara made it back to her house on her own and in one piece.

When I first entered Tara's house for a visit, she was up on the third floor where she normally hid when guests arrived. Tara's owner told me that ever since the firecracker incident she had difficulty getting Tara to go out for a walk. Tara confined herself to the tiny backyard for her exercise and toilet activities.

Tara's owner needed to run out on an errand. I asked for a piece or Tara's favorite biscuit, broke it into several pieces, and set the pieces out well in front of me. I waited quietly for about ten minutes, before finally hearing the patter of little feet upstairs. Upon hearing Tara gathering up her courage and her curiosity, I began to intermittently make some playful sounds as if I was a tiny firework, showering its brilliant colors in the distance. Psss, Pahh! I concentrated on being a beautiful firework, and not a loud one. Then with my colors expended I sat quietly again and waited. It took an additional fifteen minutes for Tara to finally show her head at the top of the stairs, and then she immediately ran all the way back up to the third floor. From there it took another ten minutes before she made her way down to the ground floor, ate one piece of biscuit and then bolted upstairs again, with no intention of returning in the near future. I marveled at her braveness and was exceedingly pleased with the development of our relationship.

Starting the next day our friendship developed rapidly. This time I sat on the floor and waited with the biscuits closer to me. After a couple of fitful starts and stops, Tara was sitting on my lap. Next I introduced the leash, but didn't try and put it on her. By the third day she was making her way down to my bedroom in the basement, wondering why I hadn't gotten up yet. Finally, we were walking around together out in the neighborhood, and passing by the very place of her initial horror.

Tara's friendship has been a sacred gift to me. She has helped me to better understand my own fears, and the fears of my clients. She has also helped me to understand that beneath our fear there is a longing to be reconnected to life, and to loved ones. A longing to be out and about with a friend on a mild spring day. Whenever I have a client who seems frightened, I always start out by telling them about Tara. It is amazing that a couple of cookies and a cup of tea can calm a new human client as much as Tara's biscuits helped to calm her.

Both fear and love have specific and different organizational patterns within each of us. The electrochemical network of fear and the electrochemical network of love, as well as the network of muscle usage for the two, are quite different. Once we learn how the body communicates to us we can begin to interact and affect change on the limbic level of primary experience. Deep breathing, stroking by an appropriate other, hugging and physical closeness, all help us to know that we are not alone, and that we are protected. With our limbic-emotional system taking in such sustenance, we can relax, expand our spirit, and be in the world with a sense of belonging, comfort, safety, and excitement. What more could we really ask for from life?

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