Learning to have an open heart, to not be defensive, is an on-going, day by day challenge. Fear is not banished once and for all, but it does become more manageable and less frightening.
I am learning to not be afraid of fear. I can now look at it: “Fear is happening” (rather than “I am afraid”), and be curious about it, “Why is there fear?” One of my most useful tools for discovery is journaling. When I feel my heart constricting with fear or anxiety, I sit down with pen and paper and I start writing, describing the feelings I am experiencing. Once I begin, I listen carefully to my inner voice. Sometimes an echo of a memory appears (write it down), or I might be arguing with my own feelings, “Don’t be an idiot…” (write it down). I watch for ways that I am acting or feeling, based on ancient history or assumptions that I know to be incorrect. I watch for ways that I am being unreasonable or dishonest or judgmental to others or myself, and I work at being compassionate to myself and others.
And then I breathe, to open my heart and cool my brain.
Most often a path forward appears. A path based on a relaxed heart and a better understanding of my feelings. Sometimes I end up with an action plan based on baby steps, and staying rooted in the present moment.