Writing to our fears or something that holds us back might sound bizarre (it is!) but it is a therapeutic way to understand that fear and let it go.
What about writing to your stress, your mental health even the fear, now, of going out?
In previous workshops I have held on meditation and writing, people have written to their asthma, dyslexia, bi-polar, even cancer. It has sparked off some powerful writing from the heart. It is in these moments of vulnerability that our stories surface, once we dig deep to pull them out.
Storytelling But this idea to write a letter to fear originally happened by accident, during my first time teaching a writing class at a yoga retreat. Actually, the people at this retreat had no interest in writing and were only there for yoga. So already there was resistance towards me and for the first time I realised, that for a lot of people, writing conjures up memories of school, essays and even detention. So, there was me a representative of all their bad memories. Not a good start.
So, as a warm-up to creative writing I suggested we write a letter from the depths of our imagination so I suggested some ideas; writing to someone from the past, the future, someone famous, a superhero, a cartoon character, a childhood hero, even their pet. So absolutely anyone or anything, let there be no limits. This was when the idea took another turn when someone piped up “Can I write to my asthma?” She was actually joking but I thought the idea was genius. Taking something personal like that and really confronting it. The idea gave me goose bumps and it also ignited a thought-provoking conversation in which everyone shared their stories about the things that had held them back in life. It became deeply personal and one of the most memorable moments in my teaching.
It was this idea of facing fear which became the central topic on the podcast, ‘The SlowDown’ which I co-host. This time it was me getting vulnerable with our listeners as I talked about my own deep fear, my inner critic. Despite being a confident positive person, it is only when I write, that self-doubt will creep in and I can tell you my inner critic is harsh. There is a quote: “The critical voices in our own heads are far more vicious than what we might hear from the outside. Our inside critics have intimate knowledge of us and can zero in on our weakest spots.” This is something I feel when I write, and it is always a battle with my creative side. But, this time, I took charge and after my morning meditation these words naturally came flowing out of me with no hesitation:
Dear inner critic
Actually, I shouldn’t call you ‘dear’ but I am still being polite despite the grief you give me. You always turn up when I am about to start something creative, when I am buzzing with ideas and excited to put those thoughts into action and then, you turn up and try to squash them.
It is why making that first step is always the hardest as the same thoughts come to my head: Am I good enough? What will people say about my ideas, my writing, my creativity? Even as I write this letter you are trying to sabotage its flow.
But you cannot win here because a letter is not about being perfect at writing. It is about writing down your thoughts in your own voice.
So, as much as you try to take my voice away, this time you cannot because my own voice is winning over your critique. I may have given you too much attention over the years, but I am learning to gag you and to bring out my inner fan.
So, here ends my letter to you, leaving behind the voice that says I cannot and, bringing with me the voice that says...I can.
An exercise which strengthens the mind
What I found from this exercise was how empowered I felt afterwards. I realised that in recent years I had moved away from the type of writing I loved (which is all things related to wellbeing) and because of that, my inner critic had jumped on my weaknesses and become stronger. Now, having faced that demon I could concentrate on the craft of writing without the background noise. Even now as I type this, the inner critic is trying to muscle in but after writing my letter I feel the volume is much lower. Now, it just feels like a mild annoyance rather than the domineering voice it once was. I highly recommend doing this exercise if there is a fear you want to face:
Tips for writing a letter to your fear: * Give your thinking mind a break and write from how you feel. Writing from an emotion can drive your thoughts into a dynamic place * Write in your own voice. Think about how you would write an email. * If you feel stuck then do something mindless - go for a walk, have a shower (often the best ideas come from the bathroom!) *Go with your first thought. Often, we dismiss the first thought because we think it is not good enough - that is the inner critic trying to stall us. * Have fun with it and remember courage comes from facing our fears.
Find out about other mental and physical exercises you can do to help release fear on; The SlowDown - Writing a letter to our fears, available on Spotify.