The Fear Factor


All of us experience fear at some point in our lives. Fear of the unknown. Fear of loss. Fear of success, even. It’s a complicated relationship and one that throughout our lives we come face to face with whether we want to or not. What we resist persists and our deepest fears need to come to the surface to be healed, released and conquered.

As a shy, introverted child I found fear in everything, especially others’ judgements. Life seemed to be a minefield of challenges to be faced. But very early on I discovered my art to be a respite from all that scared me. It felt like a safe place to be….so I lived there constantly, drawing and imagining in my private world. Thank goodness for crayons, pencils and paper!

Throughout my life, like many of you, I was brought closer to fear than I ever thought I’d be. It seems to be the natural order of things. I can see that now.

At  age 14 a bad car accident left my face torn apart and I needed multiple surgeries to repair the damage. Then at age 20, insecure and vulnerable, I married a very damaged man whose personal pain led to years of drug and alcohol abuse. Eleven years later I found my way out of that marriage through intensive counselling, but only after having endured much pain and suffering that only codependency can bring.

So having faced and survived all those early life obstacles, how could the act of making art, the place I always found my solace, be fear generating. Well, it can. It does. And, it will.

It was this deep truth that rose to the surface rather rapidly as I engaged in the mentorship program and my work with Nicholas Wilton. I felt a little blind-sided by it, I’ll admit. I thought I had found ways to push through the fear and resistance when I was in my arts program. After all, I’ve been in my art practice for nearly ten years by now…how could fear be the issue that was holding me back?

This is how deceptive fear is….it lurks away, posing as other things. But when we get right down to it, being able to work authentically, freely and passionately as an artist requires understanding fear and resistance in a new way. Steven Pressfield writes about this very clearly in his book ‘The War of Art’.

Steven states that being an artist takes courage, tenacity and a willingness to meet the dragon of resistance consistently. It takes a willingness to risk, to expose yourself to criticism and most importantly, to understand and companion your relationship with fear.

This became the greatest teaching I received throughout the mentorship program. More important than how to make a painting was the knowledge of what was standing in my way of making that painting…what I was risking, what I had to surrender and what I had to accept…..about myself and how I needed to be in order to work strongly.

I’m still practicing what I learned throughout that time. It will likely be a lifelong endeavour. But I am grateful to know this about myself and I suspect…well, actually, I know….that many artists deal with the same issue. Perhaps you know what I am speaking about.

Feel free to share with me your relationship to fear in your work and your life….either here in the comments below or by sending me an email. I’m fascinated by this topic now and welcome any exchange you’d like to have about it. Bring it on!

Right now I’m working on my “Befriending Fear Manifesto”!