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Encouraging Words to Help You Release Fear - Guideposts
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Encouraging Words to Help You Release Fear

A poem that models the complex yet powerful process of letting go of challenging feelings.

Confronting fear
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

“I release you, my beautiful and terrible fear,” begins “I Give You Back,” a poem by Joy Harjo, who served three terms as Poet Laureate of the United States and was the first Native American to do so.

In the poem, Harjo, who is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, writes powerfully of the concentric circles of fear, pain, anger, and heartbreak that she describes, collectively, as her “beloved and hated twin.”

Throughout the poem, she writes with all the passion and grief of a eulogy about what it feels like to release those terrible feelings, letting them go from her life.Have you ever loved something you recognize has caused you harm, hurt, and pain?

I’d wager that anyone who struggles with fear, anxiety, worry, or other so-called “negative” emotions can relate to this sensation of feeling attachment to something painful. And the truth is, those feelings are normal parts of the human condition—but they can overtake us if left unchallenged.

As in Harjo’s imaginings, painful feelings can even come to feel normal, to the point of belonging, being right, serving as companions throughout our days.

As she lists the many ways fear has manifested in her life, from the generational trauma of racism to feelings of grief, loss, hunger, and rage, Harjo writes again and again, “I am not afraid…. You are not my blood anymore.”

The poem ends in a way that illuminates the complexity she feels at the rejection—the loss—of her fear:

You are not my shadow any longer.
I won’t hold you in my hands.
You can’t live in my eyes, my ears, my voice my belly, or in my heart
my heart my heart my heart.
But come here, fear.
I am alive and you are so afraid of dying.

In those final words, Harjo models the courage required to confront something painful and then let it go. As you reflect on her poem, what will you be brave enough to let go of?

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