graffiti saying 'jump in do it i did' pointing to water

jump into the well of fear

graffiti saying 'jump in do it i did' pointing to water
Prompt: Close your eyes. Breathe. 
Name a fear you have. Breathe again.
Now, write about where it lives in your body. 10 minutes, go: 

My fear is not being understood by the people I love.

This fear lives in the dungeon of my throat. It is the murky water at the bottom of a bottomless well. There is no light here, and so I have to imagine how it looks: like a midnight mirror on a starless forever after. Nothing shines back at me, there are no glimmers of recognition, no waves of love, only swells of anger, churning the black water.

There are military ships crisscrossing the water, painted with lead-based gunmetal gray, their decks studded with heavy guns and heat-seeking missiles in evil-looking launchers.

My fear holds me hostage below decks on the largest of the battleships. I’m in a metal-caged brig in the deepest hold. The light is yellow and blurry and the air tastes stale.

A row of judges sit, dark-robed, heavy browed, convicting me of the crime of being myself. The primary judge is a white-wigged woman with a sharp nose. She addresses me, in a bored tone. “How could you expect to be understood,” she asks rhetorically. “You are not understandable, not acceptable.” She looks at me as if I’m a used tissue someone has dropped. She shakes her head in disgust. “Not understandable,” she repeats.

Like the queen in Alice in Wonderland, she only wants me to lose: my head, my heart, my voice, my confidence. But most especially, my heart.

My heart lies beneath this dark sea, at the bottom of the bottomlessness of this well in the dungeon of my throat. In my panic at being alone and not understood, I’d forgotten where I was. Here, in my body. I remember suddenly to breathe in, and when I do, I turn my gaze away from the judges. I listen to my steady inhale instead of their scornful murmurs. And I hear it. My heart. It is beating, far, far below the prison ship.

Steady dear heart. The dark water glows green. I know this even with my eyes closed, even in the prison of my fears, even as the judges cough and scritchy-scratch their pens across banishment decrees.

My heart swells, filling me with hope. A rising tide lifts all boats, even heart-sinking gunmetal battleships. The fleet of war ships circling my throat dissolves like sugar candy in the warmth welling up.

I think I’m ready to go deeper.


I think about fear a lot. I read about it, too. Fear can literally get stuck in your body. Fear tends to incubate rather than dissipate over time, according to Joseph Le Doux, researcher/expert on the amygdala. Naming your fears and feeling them in your body can help you move past fear.

Published by

Elaine Olund

I'm a writer, artist and designer who thinks way too much, and tries to see the beauty in the world.

3 thoughts on “jump into the well of fear”

  1. As usual, enlightening and so well written!

    Maybe I should do that exercise. I know the result won’t be half as good as yours, but it could help me…

    Thank you 😊

    1. Oh, yes, try the prompt, and try to give your inner critic the day off when you do. Also, note that I have done this prompt more than once, and of course I let my critic choose the one SHE liked best. One of my long-standing fears is fear of not liking what I write. I’ve made friends with that one, cause I often write boring, redundant, insipid, whiny—well, you get the idea. We writers have shining moments and less-shiny ones, but with sustained practice, more of your true voice comes out. I guarantee you, Dawn, your true voice is beautiful (I’ve read it!)
      Thank you 🙂 you always brighten my day with your comments.

      1. Thank you for the compliment!
        I don’t feel it most of the time, and when I read your words, I wonder how you could ever feel like what you write is boring, redundant or any of those adjectives you used!
        Your posts always make me think.
        I started on the prompt but was in an Emergency Room with one of my children (minor injury) and I never really had an extended period for writing. I’ll try to get back to it soon. But today I wanted to make the most of my holiday and tomorrow I’ll be driving home. I may be a bit too tired to write. And right now, I should really sleep! 😉
        Enjoy whatever is left of your day!

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