By the end of this post, you may have the impression that I’ve fallen off my rocker. (That’s slang for “I’ve gone insane!”)
I’m a firm believer in the value of continued improvement and growth – both personally and professionally. In keeping with my commitment to strive for expansion, I’ve joined a year long coaching program to help me improve my coaching practice and skills so that I may better serve my clients. It’s a pretty intense curriculum and one of the great things about it is how the instructors continually encourage us to stretch. They challenge us to think bigger, better and well…..differently than what we’re used to.
Of course, challenging yourself to new heights is a necessary part of growth and inevitably (if you’re really stretching) it comes with a guaranteed side-effect: Fear.
Fear is the result of the subconscious mind stepping out of its comfort zone….for whatever reason. Your mind loves to run the program it knows best. It loves routine and monotony. Routines are safe. The unknown is scary.
When you’re faced with fear, not because of imminent danger, but because of less “life or death” scenarios, you most likely have a “go to” method for handling your fear. (One of the things I’m currently working on is a fear and anxiety workbook, which lists many of the common defense mechanisms for fear.)
Our First Way is Probably Not the Best Way
Over the last few years, I’ve focused a lot of time and effort to understand my fears and how I react. Unfortunately, my old mechanism for handling uncomfortable situations used to be “passive aggressiveness.” I used sarcasm and snide remarks to defend myself and to hide behind. As you can imagine, this did not serve me well. As I studied personal improvement, I thought a better way to deal with my inner demons was to counter with positive thoughts. So, I began (unconsciously) suppressing my fear. Whenever I felt fear arise in my chest, I would consciously turn my attention to a positive thought – almost scolding myself for being negative. Well, that didn’t work very well either. It was more of a temporary Band-Aid because the same fears resurfaced time and time again.
It wasn’t until over the last few years, I really began to understand how to work with my fear. First, I learned that fear presents itself in the body. It’s a feeling. Once I became familiar with the feeling in my body (for me, it’s like a ball of fire in the middle of my chest), it was much easier to recognize when I’m in fear. This allows me to pause and replay my thoughts so that I understand what brought me to fear which allows me to appropriately address it. Second – and this is important and the reason for this post – that directing my thoughts to something positive when I felt fear was not productive. It was, in fact resisting the fear and of course, “What we resist, persists.”
Okay, here’s where things start to get a little crazy!
Through working with one of my coaches, I learned a method for allowing the fear to simply “be.” When I was first learning this method, the thought actually crossed my mind that maybe I have multiple personalities. Well, that’s not too far from the truth.
Do you remember just a bit ago when I mentioned that fear shows itself as a feeling in the body? The first thing to do is find where it shows up for you. So, when you believe you’re feeling fear, allow yourself to really feel it. Get in touch with what’s going on in your thoughts and allow yourself to be in the moment. Don’t brush the fear aside or pretend it doesn’t exist. Allow it to be present. Now, scan down through your entire body and simply notice any sensations – discomfort, pain, tightness, or tension.
Can you find it? Where is it? What does it feel like?
If it feels aligned for you, allow yourself to lay your hand or hands on your body where you can feel the fear. (For me, I lay one of my hands on the middle of my chest.) Now, with as much allowance, curiosity, and understanding as you can…..talk to “it.” (Yep, I told you it will sound crazy!)
Ask it questions like:
- What is it you’re trying to tell me?
- How are you trying to protect me?
- What is your positive purpose?
- What is the worst case you are worried about?
- Is there anything else you’d like to share with me?
You’re asking these questions directly to the area of your body experiencing the fear. And with an open heart and a quiet mind, listen for the responses. It’s uncanny how easily you can actually have an entire conversation with yourself. The answers just seem to “appear” in your consciousness. As the conversation seems to be coming to a close, ask your inner fear if it would be willing to partner with you to pursue a solution or action that feels both a little scary and a little safe. Let it know you want to work together and thank it for being a part of you and for showing you a different perspective.
Now, if you’re anything like me, this process may be a bit difficult in the beginning because it feels so weird. Most people joke around about strait jackets and padded rooms when you mention talking to yourself, so it’s only natural to experience a little resistance the first time. What I did to overcome my unconscious objections was to talk to my fear as if it were my daughter. After all, it really is my inner child. That approach worked quite nicely for me.
How do you feel now? Is the fear still present? Has it changed in intensity, sensation or location?
Is it Gone?
Simply taking the time to feel and acknowledge your fears can be such a powerful experience. It’s not uncommon for the fear to dissipate completely and at the very least, it subsides in strength.
Try it for yourself the next time you find yourself preparing for the inevitable freeze, fight or flight response. I’d love to hear how it works for you!
If you have a fear that is keeping you stuck in your current circumstances, please reach out to me through my Contact page. Let’s discuss how we can work together to find the right method for you to release the fear and get on with the life you deserve!