I’m inspired to write this week about fear. As I was out walking last week, I pondered what keeps us from doing what would truly make us happy or fulfilled, be it changing careers, becoming self-employed, moving to the country, or a new country entirely - it is FEAR.
Four letters that strike - yes - fear into our hearts. It can be described in many ways:
1. It's crippling
It can be physical – a gripping tightness in the chest, a migraine, a sensation in the pit of the stomach, nausea even. When the sensations are so physically and emotionally intense and cause so much anxiety, it arouses our instinctive 'fight, freeze or flight' responses. Because so few situations in our world are truly life or death that require a fight response, the usual reaction is to do nothing (freeze) or avoidance (flight) of the thing that causes those feelings. It stops us from doing anything constructive to improve the situation.
2. It's safe
Unbridled fear keeps us safe. It keeps us in the shadows, stops us from stepping out into the light and taking a risk (however well-calculated). The fear may be crippling but the safe place it holds us to is comfortable and comforting. We are not stepping out from the crowd. We can stay safe and invisible but ultimately scared. Keeping safe is giving up our power to a 'thing' that can be overcome as easily as it can be clutched.
3. It's exhilarating
Why else would roller coasters be such big business? The sheer adrenalin rush of facing fear electrifies the body, the senses, the brain. Embracing fear in this way stares fear down and says, “I'm f***ing with you”, like a cat messes with a mouse.
4. It's fuel
Fear fuels us, empowers us, strengthens our resolve, and makes our senses and mental faculties alert. It causes us to find a way to resolve challenges – increasing our creativity. It is energy which when harnessed can catapult us to great things.
OK – but now what?
Accept the Dark Side
By giving fear its power, it keeps us playing small. In Debbie Ford's book, “Dark Side of the Light Chasers,” she presents 'shadow work', a form of therapy (often used in coaching) whereby accepting the 'worst' parts of us e.g. anger, selfishness, laziness, arrogance, jealousy, resentment, etc, we take away their power to control how we behave and respond. In continuing to reject the 'dark' sides of us, those parts of which we are least proud, they become something powerful and in command. The same can be said of fear. Acknowledging and accepting it as real and present is the first step towards learning to love and accept it. Debbie Ford also states that by accepting the dark side in this way, we can begin to use it to our benefit, instead of allowing it to control us.
I keep coming back to Buddhist concepts in my coaching – they just make so much sense to me, though I am in no way a practicing Buddhist.
According to Buddhism, we create fear and we can un-create it. It is the root of ego, as we cling on to something illusory and something of our own making. Breaking it down in detail serves to help us understand and therefore release it. Asking ourselves, “How does it arise? What is the sensation? What kind of thoughts race through my mind when I'm in a state of fear? What's my particular pattern? Do I panic? Freeze? Do I avoid confrontation or tackling the issue? Do I get really busy and try to fix everything, or conversely, to distract myself? Do I get angry?”
At this stage, breaking it down allows us to understand the experience. By doing this, we are able to recognise and release it.
Channel the Energy
The best example I can think of to demonstrate this idea is public speaking. I am a reasonably accomplished public speaker, competition public speaking 'back in the day' as well as part of my day job for many years, but to this day, I get nervous. If I don't channel it, instead clutching onto it like a comfort blanket, my chest becomes constricted, breathing erraticly, my voice shakes, and the nerve in my upper lip twitches (which I know no-one can see, but god – it feels so visible; like those in the back row can see it!) I have learned instead to take that energy and channel it into my 'performance'.
The focus shifts from me and what I am feeling (ego) to the audience and how I can convey my message in the most effective, entertaining way (compassion). All those feelings of fear and anxiety fall away, and I become focused on my delivery. It's a skill I thoroughly recommend you work on developing – whether you're public speaking, starting a business (create positive energy from it and channel it into the business), or riding a roller coaster (try simply screaming or laughing harder to channel the energy!) It's using the dark side to give us power and energy, rather than submit to it.
When you think about it, it is amazing how much fear we can create, often with so little to work with: fear of rejection, fear of loneliness, fear of abandonment, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of scarcity, fear of abundance, fear of death, fear of public speaking, fear of visibility, fear of uncertainty, fear of snakes...
These are all very real fears, and they often derive from one-time events or in some cases, no event at all. We create the fear based on little or no experience whatsoever!
One small word; so much power.
From negative energy comes positive; from lack comes power, by lifting fear and using it to our advantage.
So what do you fear?
What keeps you playing small?
Which fear prevents you from going after your desires?
which fear keeps you and your business being as great as it can be?
What can you do today to start to harness your fear and do something constructive with it?
I'd love to hear
PM me on FB, or comment below