Her Fear
© 1992 Michele Toomey, PhD
Information on purchasing Her Fear as a tape

The tension of living was more than she could bear, but the fear of dying gave her no place to find relief. Anxiety became her one release. First the cramping stomach, then the tightened neck. In a flash, her body began to sweat. Palpitations followed, beating hard and fast. Then hyperventilation and shortness of breath. The escalating energy soon reached fever pitch and brought her to the pinnacle of stress. Now writhing and gasping, flailing and pounding, too, her fear induced seizure drained her of every ounce of strength, until eventually exhausted, she would fall asleep.

In utter desperation she welcomed the relief. Her long sought freedom from her loud fears came as she embraced her quiet sleep. She knew this pattern well. It worked for her each and every time. Once safe, she pondered quietly the irony of her fate. She had two options in it, two options she could choose, the violent world of fearful tension contorting every move, or the quiet drone of sleeping numbness devoid of anything. The tiny crevice that held her life took place in either state. It wasn't complicated. Very simple and quite true.

One night just after an attack when she prepared to lie down and escape, she gazed up at the sky. When she tried to look back down again she found she could not bend. Frozen in an upright position and staring into space, she was suddenly in a most strange state. She could only stand and never move. She could at best look up. Everything was frozen. She couldn't even blink. In time her body took the shape of a sharp and craggy stone. She had become a crevice in the face of her own cliff. All she could do was yield to it. At times all she could do was moan.

The pose was most uncomfortable and painful to her for years. But gradually she got used to it. Over time she grew to like the view she had from here. And certainly she felt relieved to no longer have any fear.

Breezes wafted by her and so did gale force winds. Clumps of grass grew round her where dirt and moisture met. She could not feel, however, and did not know when she was moist and wet. All her senses now were gone, except that she could see. Instead of fearing life or death, she had been saved by atrophy.

As years passed by and time wore on, she learned to treasure clouds and whatever else passed before her eyes. She noted all their shapes and marveled at the sky. Whatever stars that shone on her she came to see as friends. And when the moon came into view she smiled at it inside. The raindrops and the snowflakes were companions when they fell. Even birds that skittered by she claimed as members of her world.

One day when a storm turned vicious and fiercely churned about, it finally dawned on her that she had no fear of it. It didn't scare or frighten her. There was absolutely no risk at all. Whatever happened she observed, but was in no way involved.

Stunned, she realized fear no longer governed her. It wasn't in her life. A safe observer locked in stone had no fear of any kind. Hers was to watch, not do. Nothing disturbed her mind. No one was watching her so no one had to care. She was free to be, not do, and she never had to dare. Carefree had come with atrophy. As stone she had no fear.

Safe inside she had the luxury to appreciate what once had passed her by. She learned to have a sense of wonder she had never known before. Without her fear she could be awed by nature's beauty and its power. What luxury was hers. No fear of death, no dread of life, no danger to trigger fear. She never tired of the relief. Just relished every moment and cherished every year.

But then one day her reverie was broken by desire. It startled her to feel it. For years she'd not had one. But now she longed to hear and to not be so alone. The sound that broke her silence was the chirping of a bird. She couldn't see it anywhere. But it was clearly heard. With joy she opened up her ears. Soon other sounds were clear. Nature's many voices were there for her to hear.

Still inert in body, she now dared move with each new sound. The images they created took her far and wide. Although she could not see what actually made the sounds, in her imagination she could see them from inside. Unbeknownst to her, instead of going out to it, the world had come to her. Her life inside was rich. Her beauty was within.

With joy and wonder she was transformed. Mobile beyond her wildest dreams, without a fear of any kind, she traveled everywhere she wanted to, everywhere in her mind. The sounds she heard, the sights she saw, thrilled her heart and warmed her soul.

It was a freedom and a joy she had never known. Excitement and intensity without hysteria or anxiety. Involvement without fear.

For years she grew in wonder and only looked ahead. Until she dared to look back in memory to the life she once had led. These memories were painful and they conjured up great fear. But she no longer feared them, so more than pain was there. She could feel the longing in her heart for those she held so dear.

Her feelings grew so strong she thought her heart would break. Her heart began to pound and pound, her stomach began to ache. This time was different, this time was new. Anxiety did not follow. What followed now were tears. Longing had turned to sadness. She dared to feel the loss of so many wasted years.

Her eyes were overflowing, tears rolled down her rocky sides. They filled the cracks and crevices, they streamed across the stone. Her hiding place was now discovered. She was no longer hidden and alone. The first external sign from her was noted by the world.

People came to see the rock with a pair of crying eyes. They knelt and prayed, they oohed and aahed, they worshiped at its feet. She couldn't stop. She couldn't move. She could only weep. The more she wept, the more they came and she could have no peace. Their voices broke the silence. She hated what they said. What had begun as longing had now turned to hate and dread.

She felt so angry at them worshiping that way. Making her tears a miracle. How stupid could they be? But locked in silence she could not say a single word. She could only look and listen. She could only hear and not be heard. Inside her anger grew and grew. So powerless she felt. Her memories of anger and powerlessness triggered fear. Fear that she would be betrayed, and fear of losing face. Fear of love that brought abuse, of deeds that brought disgrace. Fear of being devastated. Fear of what might come. Spiralling hysteria pounded in her eyes and slowly its great pressure dried up all her tears. The mounting pressure panicked her. It rose to fever pitch. All at once the rock exploded and shattered her to bits.

Shattered pieces fell to earth, scattered everywhere. She had no body left at all. She had no eyes to see. Shocked and stunned and mystified, her mind was in a daze. She felt so muddled and confused she couldn't begin to think.

She wandered aimlessly for years. Then slowly, very slowly, she began to settle down. She gradually reflected on what had happened to her then. To consider where and what she was and what state she was in.

She was without a body. Clearly that was true. She was a spirit, then, that much she also knew. Strangely she could still see and hear but now she could also move . There was no sign of atrophy nor was there any need. She was a spirit, totally, her body had been freed.

She laughed. She cried. She skipped and flew. She glided as she pleased. She was as free as she could be, this spirit in the breeze. For years she was light hearted. For years she loved to move. Always moving freely, she lived without a care. Not one burden for her to lift, not one fear for her to bear. There was no one to need her and no one to love or fear.

Death was not an enemy. It had no place in her. Nothing could touch her in this state of spirit roaming free. No one could hurt her now, yet neither could they share. It was a very solitary life, this life of spirit and no care.

Eventually she chose to use her memory again. She remembered the many tastes and smells that once were so desired. The touch that was so dear. As spirit she had none of these. No words to indicate what really was going on for her. No way to speak with intimacy. No voice to communicate.

She was outside even as she was within. She was left out. She was left in. She was a living paradox, intimate and yet alone, separate and yet at one. But there still was one great barrier, keeping her trapped and set apart. She did not have the freedom to touch another, to touch another's heart.

She longed to dare to love again. She longed to be loved back. She wanted to share what she'd found at last, the capacity to be free, to have the joy and wonder of natural intimacy.

The concept of prisoner persisted, nonetheless. She did not want to choose it, but maybe it was best. How could she risk the fear again and cope with all it brought. Better she choose safety and be one in heart and thought. She loved her life that she had found free from every fear. Better to have security. At least she could see and hear.

The freedom of her spirit electrified her soul. The awesome wonder of it was precious and so dear. She couldn't bear to lose it. And it would be lost in fear.

In sacred silence she sat down and pondered what to do. She asked herself so many things about her destiny and how it all related to choices and desires. What was her role in the paradox that informed her forces and her fire? The profoundness of her questions overwhelmed her as she mused. How dare she have such deep reflections and think such complex thoughts? What made her qualified to have them, to ponder and then decide? What right did she have to ask herself these questions and then to seek the answers from inside?

Stunned by her own presumptuousness, and awed by her own pride, she stood erect with arms outstretched and gazed up at the sky. With head held high and heart afire she communed with the galaxies. The natural laws that governed them, she knew governed her universe within. Such intimacy and knowledge gave her strength and courage without end. With clarity and understanding, with vision and insight, too, she embraced the challenge of her life and dared to shape her fate. It would require great self-discipline and a giant leap of faith. But most of all it would take courage and a willingness to choose even in uncertainty when she very well might lose.

No longer dulled by hiding. No longer caught in lies. No longer governed by her fear, her clarity and insight caught her by surprise. Her image of herself grew full. She became all that she knew.

In awe and wonder she stood up, a woman tall and true. The energy created was more intense than she had ever felt. But it brought no anxiety and certainly no fear. There were no loud explosions that shatter and destroy. Instead, the energy brought strength and power, the power of her fire. She had confronted fear and it had yielded to desire.

By trusting in her own true self, she'd learned to deal with fear. She was a match for anyone. She could deal with anything. She'd shape her destiny in every way she could. She'd deal with what fate brought. She would no longer hide and run. Living her life is what she sought.

One thing was certain now and emblazoned on her heart. She would not cringe in fear nor would she blow apart. Her choices would reflect her truth. She'd not sell out again.

She knew her time had come. Her energy pulsed rapidly throughout her body and her soul. Its power energized her. She glowed from head to toe. She soared in body and in spirit through time and then through space. With surging force she glided on until she landed home.

With confidence and eagerness she strode quickly up the walk. She flung the door wide open, proclaiming as she did,
"I'm home at last. I'm finally here, and here I choose to be.
I have the will to take back my life, not fear what it demands of me.
I want to cherish what I choose
And choose with whom I share
I want to live with intimacy
I want to live with care.

I will not live with violence
With lies or with deceit
I choose my own integrity
Where truth and fairness meet.

I will not live in doubt and fear
Paralyzed by worry and by dread.
I dare to dream and hope for more
I choose desire, instead.

And I lovingly invite you
To follow as I lead
To choose to join me on the path
Where integrity governs our desire and our need.

I am so aware that if I'm to live and not just exist in fear of life and death, I must embrace myself and what I feel and know. So, in a certain state of awesome wonder I choose to live by what I trust within myself and know to be fair and true. And depending on the choices that you make, I may or may not be able to choose to share my life with you.
So whether you are with me
I am on my way.
My life is just beginning,
My life begins today.


This tale attempts to capture the paralyzing effect of anxiety and fear, and the natural desire to escape it. Unfortunately, however, the inner world is not protected by hiding and escape. Rather, the self becomes trapped in and by them. I would invite you to reflect on the forms of atrophy and escape through hiding that you are aware of and the toll exacted by each of them.

Without the intimacy of spirit united with body and body with spirit, the struggle of the woman in this tale yields only imprisonment in a different form. I was struck in writing this tale with the powerful attractiveness of atrophy or of being only spirit. Its simplicity and seeming safety are seductive in the allure of freedom without risk or fear.

By contrast, the complexity and challenge of living with integrity in a state of reconciling paradox demands awareness, self-reflection, self-discipline, courage, and daring to process contradictory thoughts, feelings and imaginings. Liberation demands a willingness to be exposed and discover where we need to stand and what we want to choose. Always we return to the freedom to choose.

One of the wonderful gifts of the inner world is that it is ours. As women we must reclaim the integrity of our inner world and exercise jurisdiction over it before we can effectively interact with and challenge the outer one. Only when we are free within are we in a position to make choices and take actions that have the potential to free us without.

To be in a position to invite others to join us and even follow us, we must dare to "be" us. I would hope that this tale might serve as a fruitful experience for exploring both the hold fear has on us and the power of honest desire that can evoke a declaration of liberation.

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