Fear has been present in my life for as long as I can remember. I’m not talking about the kind of fear that is life threatening. I’ve never been physically attacked, wondered where my next meal will come from, or had to sleep on the streets. I’ve been fortunate in that aspect.
The fear I’m talking about is the one that lives deep within me. Like my children on a rainy day, it likes to play hide and seek. One day, I’ll barely notice it’s there and the next, it feels so real and present it’s difficult to see how I could move through it.
Over the last few years, my life has taken some dramatic turns as I step into the person I have always dreamed I could be. It’s the life I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember and yet never allowed myself to truly consider living – all because of fear.
The Controlling Nature of Fear
Fear has the ability to control our thinking, our actions, our relationships, our work, our physical bodies, our emotional well-being….it touches every part of us. Fear can be a simple intuitive pit in the stomach feeling or it can be a debilitating phobia that over-runs your entire body.
Many times, when we experience fear frequently, we are either self, or otherwise, diagnosed with an emotional or mental condition. I know a number of people who talk about their anxiety and how it negatively impacts their ability to live life in a way that feels safe and comfortable. Anything from a simple trip to the grocery store to the ability to collaborate with a co-worker can be completely de-railed by fear.
What is commonly misunderstood is that the diagnosis allows these folks to become a victim, which takes away any and all of their power to cope with the fear. The fear or anxiety becomes a scapegoat – something to blame.
If I’m describing you…..don’t click away just yet. My intention here is not to insult or belittle your experience in any way. Fear can be a very difficult emotion to deal with and if it’s been part of your conditioning, you are certainly not to blame. You can’t be expected to know what you don’t know.
Tell me a Story
So, let me ask you this: When you are in a state of fear, what is it that you are afraid of? What story are you actually telling yourself?
Have you ever thought about that?
It’s a story. You are imagining that things will turn out a certain way – a way that feels unsafe or uncomfortable. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “Fear is Fantasized Experiences Appearing Real” or something similar.
But why do we do this to ourselves?
Do you have past experience with this negative outcome? How many times have you experienced it and is it likely to happen again? Perhaps this is a fear that has been passed on to you by someone else who had the same or similar fears – it’s conditioned. Maybe someone you know had a bad experience or you saw it on the news and it made the possibility more real for you.
Whatever the cause, I want you to understand that fear is a condition that exists in our minds. We do it to ourselves! And yes….we ALL experience fear. It may be to more or less degrees. We may go through some periods of life where fear is less prevalent than others. However, fear is part of the human experience and how we handle it can make a tremendous difference in how we live our lives.
What Would be Different?
When I think back through my life and notice all of the times when I allowed fear to control my decision making, it’s almost disheartening. Don’t get me wrong. I have come to love who I am and every experience of my past has played a part in shaping that person who looks back at me in the mirror. I’m not saying I would change anything. What I’m saying is that I now understand how fear caused me to end up in a life that didn’t feel like mine. I understand how I handed all of my power to create my exciting and fulfilling future over to something or someone else. And having that understanding now allows me to stand in courage.
When you look back through your life, are there any circumstances or situations you found yourself to be in as a result of fear? What stories were you telling yourself? If you had stood in your courage, how would it have been different?
I am a firm believer that every event carries with it an opportunity for growth. Looking back, what did you learn? If you knew back then what you know now, what would you have done differently?
I’m not leading you through this exercise to shame you or bring you down. We could literally “should” ourselves to death, but it won’t solve anything. The purpose of the exercise is to understand how to stand in your courage so if you are faced with this fear again, you have a plan. Instead of predicting terrible outcomes, take a moment to pause and then re-write the story however you like!
Coming Back to the Present
Fear is perception, story telling, prediction, fortune telling. It’s not real. (Okay some fear is real….like when you’re being chased down the streets of Spain by a huge bull with pointy horns!)
When you find yourself in fear, no matter how severe, take a moment to survey your thoughts. What story are you telling yourself? Releasing your fear is as simple as changing the story.
Please, don’t take this to mean I think it’s easy! If it were easy, we all would have figured out how to live without fear by now. It’s not easy….in fact, it’s quite difficult to change the story when you’re afraid. Rest assured however, that it can be done.
As I write about this, a scene from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban popped into my head. In this scene, Professor Lupin has a boggart locked in a wardrobe in his classroom. He explains to the students how boggarts take the form of whatever it is they fear the most. His assignment is for each student to face the boggart (one at a time) and allow it to take the shape of whatever it is they fear. The students are then to cast a spell to change the appearance of the boggart into something funny.
The first student, Neville, is petrified to see Professor Snape take form in front of him. A moment later, Snape is wearing Neville’s grandmother’s green skirt suit, bird hat and red hand bag. Ronald fears a giant spider most….until it’s wearing roller skates! A cobra snake is turned into a Jack in the Box.
They were taking something they feared most and altering the story just a bit to make it less scary. That’s what I’m suggesting you do with your fears.
What if it Doesn’t Work?
I’m so glad you asked. :o)
I’m excited to announce, I’m in the process of creating a new product for you sharing methods on how to cope with fear. I have collected about 30 different techniques so far and am compiling them into a workbook containing exercises to help you integrate the concepts into your daily thinking habits. It will also be accompanied by a Cogni-Fusion recording from my friend and colleague, Maria McMahon.
Until then, if you are dealing with fear in whatever capacity and you’re having trouble moving through it, reach out to me through my Contact Page. It would be my pleasure to speak with you about the possibility of working together!