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Linda Dessau : Spotlight on Fear

Spotlight on Fear

By Linda Dessau

My fears are most powerful when they're simmering just under the surface of my awareness. I'm resistant to a new idea, I'm defensive about holding on to my old ways, I feel excited and panicked at the same time — these are sure-fire signs that there's some fear under there.

Shining a spotlight on my fear has been the best (and only) way to get to the other side of it.

"Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love" — Ranier Maria Rilke

My fear is there for a good reason — to protect me. If I can have compassion for my fear, and understand what it's looking for, I'll be more ready to let it go.

I've been thinking about how fear and creativity often go hand in hand. As creative artists, what is our fear looking for? What does it think it's protecting us from? In exploring these questions I decided to brush up on Abraham Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs".

Abraham Maslow suggested that all human beings have the same basic needs, and that we spend our lives striving to meet them. His famous hierarchy of needs explains that at the basest level we need protection from the elements, food, water and other physiological needs.

Then, we need to feel safety and security within our family, our home and in our place in the world around us. We need to feel that we fit in and understand where we fit in and how everything works.

Next, we need to feel love and belonging — that we're accepted and appreciated.

We need to feel competent and masterful and that we're being recognized for our talents.

Finally, when all of those needs are met, we strive for the "top" level, "Self-Actualization" — to really live up to our highest potential, to feel a oneness with God, the universe and all of our fellow travelers on this Earth.

For some of us, long after the needs HAVE been met, we still fear losing them and having to meet them all over again.

Maybe that's why creating our art can evoke so much fear. Creativity is a direct form of self-actualization. When you're feeling fear about putting your creative ideas into motion, which of Maslow's needs are you concerned about meeting or losing?

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