How to deal with fear in polyamory?

When you have a polyamorous or open relationship, it’s not the question if fear will come up. Rather, the question is when it’s going to hit you. Sometimes fear comes creeping in as jealousy, expected but nevertheless unwelcome. Sometimes a panic attack takes you by surprise for a reason you never imagined.

What are we afraid of?

My fears often come up when my partner is not with his attention with me. When he’s checking his Facebook for example, or especially when he’s away on a date. I have no control on his behavior, and that makes me nervous. I feel triggered: my brain tells my body I’m in some sort of danger and I should be ready to fight, flight or –my main strategy – freeze.

I believe that at the deepest level, we are afraid of death. Although we are quite civilized, we still have ancient pathways in our brains from the time there could be a Sabretooth Cat jumping from behind a tree, or a herd of mammoths stampeding in our direction. Although the dangers nowadays are not necessary lethal, our brains still treat them that way.

Fear and moose (2)

Resistance creates monsters

“Oh no, not again. Not now.”

“I thought I was past this by now.”

“I’ve created this situation. Now I shouldn’t moan about it.”

Most of us feel quite overwhelmed by our own emotions and feelings. Resisting them has become a major strategy for not feeling them. But resisting fear makes things worse.

Look at your fears as little boxes. We store the boxes neatly away in our system. Out of sight, out of mind. But the boxes are catching dust. They get filthy and sticky. They feed on new fear that you feel and hide away. The boxes are waiting for a moment to spill their content all over you. But they are patient. They wait for the moment when your defenses are low. That’s why they tend to come up unexpectedly.

When you consciously open the boxes that you carry instead of hiding them, you can release the content and let go of it for good.

By resisting your feelings and emotions you stuff the boxes. By not resisting what’s alive in you, you don’t add weight, but release it immediately. You might even release some old shit on the go while not resisting present feelings. Especially when your emotions feel much bigger than the trigger that caused your reaction, this can be the case. Just be aware of this, a part of you might be cheering the next time you cry your eyes out!

Fear as a strategy for receiving love

We humans are smart. To me it seems we are often smarter that we realize. We use whatever we can as a strategy to receive love, approval and attention. When we learned that fear, expressed in words or in an emotion like sadness, is creating a response in other people (especially our parents and partners) giving us exactly what we want, our brain/ego/system/unconsciousness learns pretty quickly that fear is an amazing strategy for getting what we want.

We feed our own fear! We hold on to our fears, cherish them like diamonds, because they give us the love we long for.

That’s settled then. No need to get rid of fear because it works.

Well, no.

Yes, it works. But this is a fear-based strategy (as opposed to a love-based strategy).We force people to love us by draining them. We actually tell them “You have to give me what I need, because YOU make me feel bad. It’s your fault. Now GIVE ME what I NEED….!”

Do you recognize the experience that there are people who just energetically drain you? Those people that are in your presence, and right away you feel down and tired? Well, this is you when you use fear to get love. You drain people and you are definitely not the nicest person to be around right now.

Jealousy

The most common fear in polyamory and open relationships is jealousy.

I don’t see jealousy as a little green devil, or something annoying to ignore or forcefully get rid of. I believe that jealousy is a layer of irritation covering a fear of feeling unworthy of our partners’ love.

When we are jealous, we compare ourselves to another person. Preferably we find traits in the other person that we believe are inferior to ours. By placing ourselves above the other, we find (perceived) solid ground to stand on. We’re hanging on a cliff, desperately trying to hold on.

It’s so easy to see others as competition for love. But love is not a scarce resource. Love is abundant. When we are able to let go of the competition for love and see others as sisters and brothers, looking for love just like we are, it is possible to start feeling compassion instead of jealousy.

You can see jealousy as a guide, showing you which parts of you need healing. Check my video on jealousy to learn more about my experiences with this topic.

Childhood issues

I know my partner loves me, so why do I still feel afraid?

Just like jealousy often is based on an old belief of feeling unworthy of being loved by our partner, most (if not all) of our fears are based on childhood issues. Telling yourself that your partner loves you, is only a small band aid on a bleeding wound. We need to stop the bleeding first.

There are many forms of valuable therapy out there that can help you. Some examples are primal therapy, family constellations, regression therapy, EMDR and many more. They help you understand the reasons for being afraid. Most of the times, your parents didn’t give you what you needed as a child. Which doesn’t mean that when you experience fear, you had a bad childhood and terrible parents. These moments where you developed some kind of trauma were often small, and your loving parents had no clue they hurt you.

What helps me in a moment fear comes up and there’s no therapist at hand, is to visualize myself as a small kid in front of me. I sit down, close my eyes, take a breath and ask myself “What do you need little girl? I see that you are afraid. What can I do to make you feel safe and loved again?

Sometimes I need to cry. I get myself tissues and a cuddly moose to hold and let the tears come. Sometimes anger comes up. Then I give myself a pillow to hit. I scream out loud (or when there are neighbors or sleeping kids to consider, shove my face in the pillow and scream into it). Sometimes I need a hot shower, a cup of tea, to write down all the things that move me or call a friend.

I try to stay away from calling my partner. Why? Because I would make him responsible for making me feel safe. It’s a strategy that works right away – but not for long. I want the solution – safety – to come from within. Available and accessible for me whenever I need it and without making anyone responsible for my needs.

Fear and moose (1)

Create a strategy

The question is not if fear will strike you, but when. In the middle of fear our brains don’t work like when we are calm. Right in the middle of panic, we’re not capable of holding space for ourselves.

But we can prepare ourselves.

I have made a strategy for dealing with fear and maybe it’s wise for you to do the same. Sit down when you feel good and are not dealing with massive triggers. Think about what you need to feel safe. This is my strategy for dealing with fear:

  1. I’m not this fear I’m feeling. I’m reminding myself that I’m the observer of fear that is triggering me right now. Can I see the little girl inside me who’s afraid?
  2. Close your eyes and visualize this little girl. What is she afraid of? What does she need right now? What can I do to make her feel safe?
  3. Are there any emotions that want to be released? Do you want to cry or scream?
  4. Sitting inside makes me go inside. Go outside, into nature if this is possible. Look at the clouds and the stars. Remember that you’re not alone.
  5. Whatever you do, don’t drink alcohol and try to stay away from overeating. You know it makes you feel worse.
  6. Move your body. Go for a walk or do a soft, heart-opening yoga flow.
  7. What would make you happy? Do you want to draw, write, listen to music or watch a movie?
  8. If nothing helps, call friend A, friend B, friend C or friend D. Or call them anyway if you want to.

Good luck finding your strategy!

Or let me help you creating yours!

Do you (and your partner/s) want support and personal guidance on your path in non-monogamy or other aspects of your life? I am worldwide available for coaching sessions, talking e.g. about challenges, what to do when your needs and desires differ, or how to deal with jealousy and fear. Contact me for more information and booking your session.

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