We all have fears, which can simply STOP us. We can avoid the scary thing for a long time. Many people do this, and their lives are limited by fear. Everyone can recognize peole held back or greatly limited by their fears. For optimum quality of life, however, it is important to deal with our fears. If there's something we need to deal with, to integrate so that it will no longer RUN us, like a hacked program in a computer, that fear will follow us like the tail follows the dog. The only way forward is to begin to face the fear.

It helps to know that the way to face fear is literally hard-wired into our nervous systems. Watch toddlers as they begin to stretch and expand their world. Picture a toddler safely behind mom or dad, holding onto behind their parent's knees. They'll stand behind, holding on with both hands, then their head will poke out to sneak a peek at the new and scary thing. Then they'll duck back to safety. Next, they'll sneak a longer peek, duck back to safety. They will keep doing this, taking longer peeks, returning to safety of parental love.

One hand may then come off while allowing a still longer peek, then back to safety. This process is repeated over and over again, the child always returning to the place of safety of the parent's love. This allows the toddler to explore more and more fully the interesting yet frightening new thing which is out there. It's a little like the desensitization process in which persons afraid of flying are first educated about airplanes, then taken to airplanes, next accompanied inside the airplanes and eventually can actually fly on airplanes as a passenger without freaking out.

It's important to remember that the very method for accomplishing this simple adage, "Whatever we can face we can handle," is not new. We all did it, over and over again as we took our steps from infancy through toddlerhood into childhood. It's that often adults forget we did this fundamental developmental work. Then, it's more likely we become stuck or paralyzed by trauma or loss. Yet we are not meant to remain stuck. Facing our fears and moving beyond binding, limiting patterns is the most natural thing in the world. It is simple, though not always easy.

The key is ever to return to safety as we need it, in a step-by-step process. It reminds me a bit of the joke, "How do you eat an elephant?" the answer being"One bite at a time." Development always proceeds in a step-by-step fashion. Child development specialists point out that if crawling, for example, is skipped by the growing baby, its language skills may be retarded for awhile. This is precisely what happened with one of my granddaughters. Eventually her speech caught up, but the very fact of her missing that cross-crawling step delayed the timetable for other skills.

The root of the word "courage" is the French coeur, or heart. When we have courage, we support our hearts. The toddler relies on the safety of the parent's love and greater perspective as she begins exploring a world that can be scary. When we recognize that we have within us the resources to begin to face our fears, it gives others the example and permission to do the same. Love is truly the antidote to fear. The Course on Miracles says that whatever is not love is fear. We can do amazing things when we are grounded in love. Remember, whatever we can face, we can handle, and this way to face our fears is truly our natural birthright as living, growing beings.