If we're going to invest so much in fear, we might as well make it work for us.
Sometimes fear just wants the same thing we want: to be seen and heard and taken into account. If we’ll do that – instead of arraying ourselves in utter resistance to it, we’ll shift our center of Power. Away from what we can’t control … to what we can.
To do this, we must weigh what it says. Keep listening to it until we know the nuances of its height, breadth and depth. Keep facing it until we shift it from foe to counselor. If we can do this, we’ll be utilizing fear in the best way possible. Because whether we like it or not, it does have plenty to say and show.
Then, no matter what comes up, we’ll be more informed, less intimidated and fueled by a sufficient measure of courage that, despite how we deny it, we really do have.
To change any old habit, you have to practice a new one. I would alter an old adage: Practice makes mastery. Which is as close to perfection as we can get, I think.
1) When fear strikes or slithers, don’t run or avoid it, just stand where you are, look at it and acknowledge it.
In standing your ground and facing it, right off the bat, you’re taking responsibility for your own empowerment: a MASSIVE step in the right direction. Example:
“Ok, I don’t like this, but I see you. I hear you. I’ll listen to you right now, because I want the wisdom to live my life and respond to what comes up with clarity and power. And I can’t do that if I’m always running from every stressor and uncertainty.”
2) Whatever fear tells you, try to see past the form it takes into the underlying essence.
Say you have to get up in front of your peers and give a presentation. You’re afraid you’ll choke, not be johnny-on-the-spot with an answer, or they’ll make fun. Are you really afraid of public speaking? Of crowds? Making an idiot out of yourself? Maybe, but these are just the initial forms your fear is taking. The messengers.
So what’s the core essence? In all likelihood, you’re afraid deep down that any contempt or judgment they dish out will be justified. That you’ll deserve their derision because, try as you might, you’re just not good/smart/capable enough. That you’re not worth their time and attention … only now, everyone knows it.
While realizing this doesn’t feel good, understanding your deep issues gives you greater power to heal and shift them. So get in the habit of seeking clarity around (and beneath) everything you’re afraid of.
And until you shift your relationship to fear from the Big Bad to the Big Clarifier, here are some simple reminders …
3) In most circumstances, you’re not in true peril.
There’s a big difference between being uncomfortable with the tension and being in genuine danger. Reminding yourself of this when you feel paralyzed will help you disrupt and desensitize yourself to the fight-or-flight response. Then real issues come more easily to the surface, and you just handle them.
4) Play the game, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’
Now, obviously, most of us aren’t trying to come to grips with fear while walking a tightrope over the Grand Canyon. But in our everyday lives, we can sure get UP. TIGHT. about things that really are just not that big of a deal.
In those cases, this question starts dissolving layers of fear by re-orienting you to whatever the nuts-and-bolts reality is. Which is almost always survivable. 🙂
5) You’ve probably already survived bigger deals than what you’re afraid of.
I live in Oklahoma’s Tornado Alley, baby, so this is true for me! But it doesn’t take something that threatening to illustrate the point. Most of us have done stuff on purpose or with our jobs or to help someone else that was more edgy than our current fear list. We just weren’t focused on it in the same way, and it became more possible.
Take inventory of your life and note where your courage does – and has already – made an appearance and persevered. Write out a list, even. Keep it handy for those suck-moments when circumstances seem insurmountable. And remember.
I found that once I started really listening to what my fear had to tell me, it started feeling different to me, less overwhelming and not so sinister.
Now, there’s almost a comedic, surly little kid quality around these conversations. Not comfortable, but doable … which is the point.
I do still feel fear’s influences. I’m human. But its charge has lessened as my confidence has grown.
Confidence that it’s not as hard as it seems, certainly not as hard as I make it, and that if I don’t give up, I’ll find a way.
Even if it’s through instead of around.
What are the ways that you’ve made fear’s messages maybe worse than they are? Do you think that if you’ve turned UP the volume on fear, that now maybe you can turn it DOWN? Not in denial, but just to have a more calm conversation.
Use time-outs and non-threatening imagery to have these discussions. If you feel as if you’ve got all the time (and oxygen ; ) in the world, and you see yourself, say, in the middle of a lazy swaying wheat field in early summer … and you envision your fear as a laid-back farmer in overalls chewing on a weed … then is it easier to ask: ‘What’s up, Doc’?
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Post Photo: Julie Franks-Murray