Last week, I thought I saw a ghost. A flurry of light swished across the living room floor and I tensed for a second. Could it be?
It wasn’t. Car headlights, I later realized, were reflecting off a side window and creating the eerie effect.
But it was still fun to think about on a late October night, and that’s why I love this time of year. Whether we’re visiting haunted houses, watching monster movies or just getting spooked by the way the wind whistles in a late-night storm, Halloween is the rare time of year when we not only allow ourselves to feel frightened, we actually enjoy it.
That’s not how most people regard fear during the rest of the year, which is unfortunate, since fear is an integral part of life’s most important moments: starting a new job, moving to a new city and, of course, falling in love.
“All of the greatest things that happen to us are scary.”
Of course, these moments are stressful because there’s a lot at stake. Will this work out, or will you be disappointed? Have you found a lifetime partner, or will your heart be broken?
It can be very hard to ride the emotional roller coaster that dating and starting new (or even maintaining long-term) relationships entail. But what’s the alternative? If your pulse never races or you never feel a shot of adrenaline when the ping of your love’s text comes in, I suppose you can have a nice relationship. But if you want the kind of love that gives you goosebumps and sometimes has you on the edge of your seat, then fear is part of the deal.
“Fear is a sign that you’re doing something important, that you’ve approached a boundary of your comfort zone and you’re about to step out of it. It’s a good sign,” says Piver.
Instead of trying to push fear away–muting it with distraction, food or alcohol, for example—Piver suggests you listen to it.
Does meeting a new person for a date make you anxious? Good. Are you concerned that you might be falling in love? Good. Did you just break up with someone and are terrified about what lies ahead? Good.
Instead of trying to fast-forward to the end of the movie, see what it feels like to experience all the emotional twists and turns of the dating process.
Of course, this isn’t easy. But it doesn’t have to be a disaster either. If the worst happens—if she doesn’t text, if he says “it’s not you; it’s me,” sure this will hurt. But, just as with a scary movie, those difficult emotions will eventually subside.
You’ll turn the lights back on and see that, regardless of whatever emotional highs or lows you just encountered, you are still you. And you’re fine.
You had an experience. Whether you judge that experience as good or bad, it always has information for you about what you want out of your life. So instead of shrinking from fear, try stepping into it. Instead of hiding your eyes, see what it’s like to face those demons with a clear gaze.
Maybe they’ll be terrifying. Or maybe they’ll turn out to be little kids in costumes, asking for candy.
Sara Eckel is the author of It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single. You can get a free bonus chapter of her book at saraeckel.com. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook. Ask her any questions here.