Brian Petermeyer, MA, LMHCA
Seeds of Fear
Experiencing Hope Through Integration
Have you noticed how fear is talked about in our world right now? Some people talk about how OTHER people have too much fear. “They are living in fear for not wanting to get covid” or “They are living in fear because they wear a mask in a grocery store.” You’ll also hear, “I’m not going to do _____ because I’m not going to live in fear!” This is usually said with a tone of pride. Well, let’s hit pause on talking about other people’s fear for a minute and take a peek into our own…ok fine, I’ll go first!
When I felt compelled to switch from a career in youth ministry to attend graduate school with the intent to become a therapist, a little seed of fear began to grow inside me. I’m certain that seed was planted when I was a 3rd grader struggling to understand math. One day, I was called on to answer a math question in front of the whole class. As soon as I heard my name, my face went flush, and I lost my breath. I didn’t know the answer. In my loss for words, I panicked and was overcome with humiliation. The only thing I knew to do was run out of class and into the bathroom to hide. I stood at the sink running water over my hands while I cried. This was definitely a formational moment in my early childhood. While I wasn’t abused, molested, threatened, physically or emotionally harmed, a lie was planted in that moment. It said “Brian, you are not smart.” What followed from this point on was an apathetic view of education all the way through undergrad and a deep-seated pattern of hiding from hard things. If I don’t try, school can’t hurt me. I simply REFUSED to be hurt by school ever again. That fear of school had been buried for a couple decades and rose to the surface when I was accepted into my graduate training program. It was like stepping out of the DeLorean being THRUSTED back in time to my 3rd grade classroom. Once again, I stood crippled with fear wondering if I’d be back in the bathroom running my hands under the cold water.
We all have stories that planted seeds of fear from our past that play out in our current lives. The body and nervous system of 3rd grade Brian remembers what humiliation feels like and has a lot of fear that current Brian might feel that same humiliation. That young part of me will do a lot to try and keep me safe. What 3rd grade Brian doesn’t understand is that I am a grown adult now and have a fully developed brain (FINALLY!). While my BRAIN knows I am an adult and can stay safe from pain, my BODY doesn’t always necessarily know that.
So, what do we do with our fears? One powerful way I discovered to overcome debilitating fear was learning how to INTEGRATE my brain with my body. One of the most effective ways of doing this is through a therapeutic process called Lifespan Integration (LI). The LI process helps our brain learn to tell our bodies that the humiliation 3rd grade Brian experienced is OVER, and I am safe now. My fear about going back to school wasn’t outrageous or stupid. It was valid, but no longer a real threat anymore. Without integration, the fear that lives in our body can overwhelm us, keeping our brains from making the choices that are best for us. Through integration, we can experience hope.
When I stepped into the red brick building of The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology for the first time, I admit I was nervous and tough questions came up! “Can I handle this?” “Am I smart enough to hack it?” “Am I safe here?” Although I had fear, my ability to recognize it didn’t keep me from climbing the stairs to my classroom like it might have prior to experiencing healing from my painful past. I was able to develop a HEALTHY level of fear with curiosity rather than living in the binary of deny or indulge. Healthy fear helps keep us grounded in the middle of the pendulum rather than swinging between fear-LESS and fear-FULL.
Ok, I talked enough about my fear, are you ready to talk about yours??? If you are ready to courageously engage your fear(s) and begin to experience hope and freedom, would you consider reaching out? Maybe you would like to know more about Lifespan Integration. I would be glad to setup a free 20-minute phone consultation with you to answer any questions you might have and you can contact me here. Our Grey Sky Counseling team is here to support you and we would be honored to journey with you to find the healing, growth, and change you deserve.