All my life, I’ve had a recurring nightmare where I’m being chased by a group of men. I’m running hard up a grassy, steep hill near my childhood home, desperate to get to the road where I hope help is.
I always wake up as soon as they catch me. Trapped. Terrified. Unable to get back to sleep.
I don’t know why I’ve had this dream my whole life.
But ten years ago, I changed the script on my dream.
Now, when the men catch up to me, I stop running and I turn to face them. In that precise moment I choose to make the first strike, my fear is transformed into action that serves me.
I go for eyes, groin, ears. Playing dirty? I used to think so, but no, I’m doing what I can to even up the fight because I know I’m not going to get a second chance.
To take back my power and to turn and fight when I have no other option, was not the way this dream played out for the first 30 years of my life.
So how did I achieve this script change?
I did one self-defence workshop in 2008.
That’s right. One class.
In true Michaela-styles, I enrolled for a series of classes and only went to one (it’s an unfortunate habit of mine.)
That one class of Krav Maga for civilians, was enough to change even the most well established dream pattern.
Now every morning after I’ve had one of those dreams and I fight back, I reflect in gratitude how just one 2 hour class changed my dreamscape and also my daily living.
I’m more confident with my boundaries, I am more aware of my surroundings, I make better calls and I make them earlier to get out of environments I feel uncomfortable in.
I’m getting better at stepping towards fear, rather than feeling it consume me, or trying to love and light it away.
Because love and light hasn’t been enough to keep me safe when faced with entitlement and aggression on the street. Let me explain…
I was standing outside a hotel in Copenhagen in a red light district and felt my skin prickling and my fear rising. I had clocked him watching me from across the street a few minutes before, but hoped that this one time, my intuition would be wrong.
As he started to cross the street, I felt my heart starting to pump furiously. I had a few seconds to arrange my feet so they were light, balanced and grounded. I made sure my hands and arms were free from my handbag, loose and close to my chest.
When he was within a metre, eyeballing me, not speaking and still closing the gap, I took a step back and shouted “Get BACK!”
He looked surprised, he mumbled something, he backed off. He retraced his steps back across the street and I never saw him again.
I don’t know what he wanted from me and 7 years later, I’m glad I still don’t.
Now because we are all trained by the media to blame the victim and not the perpetrator, you might be wondering what I was doing outside a hotel in Copenhagen? In a red light district by myself? In a business trouser suit and enormous jacket in -2 degrees Celsius, with a wheelie travel bag at 8.30am?
Not that it should matter, but I was staying at the hotel and was waiting outside for a colleague to pick me up for work. I didn’t want her to worry about finding a park and coming inside to find me, so there I was, freezing in broad daylight.
Now in hindsight, the best thing I could have done when I first clocked Scumbag, was to turn around and walk back into the safety of the automatic doors of the hotel. Not worry about my colleague, or that I might feel stupid if actually Scumbag’s intentions were clean.
Unwisely, I waited until he was less than a metre from me before I took real action.
If he was armed, my choice of action may not have been enough to keep me safe – and you don’t get second chances.
And while my action worked, I need to do a refresher workshop because Krav Maga will tell you that to run, to escape, to not engage are the best self-defence strategies. They are still actions towards the fear, but they can be taken early when you have time and space on your side, plus they are less risky. Importantly, you must take those actions as your fear instinct rises – not waste precious seconds thinking about it, hoping that you are misinterpreting the situation. Just move.
But since I’m safe, let me tell you how secretly proud I am for taking action when I could have just frozen. For letting him know it wasn’t okay to approach strangers like that. For taking action towards my fear and holding my boundary.
To be clear, I’m not saying that self-defence is the only solution to combat Scumbags United or the underlying systems of oppression that give power and entitlement to a select handful. But I am saying that if I apply the process of converting fear to action in all areas of my life, I will experience more confidence and forward momentum. I will create change, I will inspire myself, I will believe that in the face of fear, I’m worth fighting for.
Fortunately, street harassment isn’t the only place this fear to action process works – which is a good thing, because I have a lot more fear going on inside my head than I do legitimate threats outside my house.
The process of transmuting fear, of alchemising fear into action is a process that works in so many places – from feeling fearful of how I’m going to pay the bills, to fear of public speaking, to fear of making poor parenting decisions.
When I use the energy of my fear and alchemise it into action, magic happens.
I still feel the fear, but I’m moving towards it with action steps that minimise its control over me.
I am more confident with my boundaries and I’m making better and earlier calls about the things that no longer work for me. I’ve changed my life.
And I’d like you to feel the same way.
So I’m inviting you to a Hello Wonder Woman Workshop in Melbourne in collaboration with Guardian Defence – the peeps who’ve helped me alchemise my fear since that one class in 2008!
Imagine a space where you can gently work on your own personal fears. Imagine a space where you’ll practice stepping towards fear and taking action. Imagine a space where you’ll feel safe to change.
Let me create the space to help you feel safe, guide you towards an action plan of your own, and even make you laugh a little.
Because that’s what I do best.
Click here to find out more and buy tickets to the Hello Wonder Woman Workshop, 2nd March 2019 in Melbourne. Please do bring a friend or partner – this is a safe and welcome space for all femme identifying folk.
And I’d so love it if you could please share this Hello Wonder Woman Workshop with your mother, aunty, sister or friend, because… one of my favourite pastimes is dreaming up a world where more women and femme-identifying folks feel strong in their own skin. Thank you!
Menstrual Superpowers Leadership Coach
In 2016, after nearly 2 decades working in corporate, I created Empress Crow and Rabbit. Designed to celebrate the cycles (lunar, menstrual + seasonal) I also loved interviewing imaginative women in inspirational careers. Now, I'm a Life Coach + I support Corporate Wonder Women just like you, to explore + harness your own Menstrual Superpowers. When a client discovers her Menstrual Superpowers + plays to her strengths on these days, her corporate life + home life transform. She is more productive, more inspirational, more creative + more rested. Yup. All of it.
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Photo credit: Lucy Spartalis