Don’t be fooled by the shortness of this article. What I write here is the culmination of a 22-year search to overcome fear.
A bit of background: I endured a very unhappy childhood with an emotionally unstable parent and relentless bullies at school. I didn’t have anyone to defend me and had no exposure to the idea that I could control my emotions – and was responsible to do so.
By the time I was 19 I had moved out but I was a complete emotional mess and I hated myself. So I set out on a search for ways to manage my mind and emotions.
Much of what I read turned out to be only Band-Aid stuff but I didn’t know what would work for me until I tried it. I tried all kinds of approaches including little known ones such as The Mace Method and Future Visioning; I trained as a Meta-Coach and an NLP/Neurosemantics Trainer and this helped somewhat – but fundamentally my fear of my negative emotions remained firmly entrenched.
But… I persevered and have recently had some incredible successes: this is what I have learned, short and sweet. It will not make easy reading if you are nearer the start of your journey but as the saying goes: ‘a fool learns by his own experience, the wise by the experience of others’. Please, be wise.
Facts about Fear
You will nearly always have to feel the feelings, sorry.
Susan Jeffers wrote the classic Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. This title is partly correct: you WILL have to feel the fear because the body generates chemicals in response to your thoughts about the thing you fear.
Fear will always be accompanied by some physical symptoms: tightening of muscles, increase breathing rate, narrowing of the visual field and the burning tightening that comes from the adrenaline rush.
And yes, you can ‘do it anyway’ but I didn’t want to! I searched for years for ways to get rid of these feelings. I repressed them, denied them, stuffed them, over-ate in order to not feel them, and did lots of thinking to try and change the thoughts that drove them.
But you can’t stop them once they’ve started. Ironically, the way to defeat them is to not try to!
Guy Finley tells a metaphorical story of a dragon with 101 speaking tails that defeats every knight who comes at it by breathing fire AND whispering their weaknesses to them. The knights run!
One knight overcomes the monster by laying down his sword and shield and walking towards it. Fire shoots out towards him but he walks through it and the monster starts shouting threats at him. He keeps walking. Eventually it dissolves.
The moral of the story and the practical application? It’s your resistance to the feelings that cause them to stick around and get worse!
I recommend reading The One Thing Holding You Back, an excellent book which essentially says that if you allow blocked feelings to pass through you, you’ll experience:
a) A burst of energy
b) Insight into what the emotion was planning to tell you
c) More confidence so that you can handle the passage of emotions
Remember that work passage – it is stuck emotions that keep repeating in you that cause the problems!
When you feel fearful, you don’t have to believe what fear says.
As Finley says: ‘The Feel is Real but the Why is a Lie’. As mentioned above, you will have to feel the feelings but the voices that tell you you’ll be exposed, you’ll get hurt and so on…have you ever considered NOT listening to them?
Henry Cloud, author of No Excuses says that fears are either real (truck heading your way, knife to the throat, for example) or perceived (they will all laugh at me and I will die of shame).
Robert Ringer, author of Million Dollar Habits and Action says he never believes what his senses tell him anymore.
He also asks fear: ‘based on facts or reality?’ and would rather test out with action whether there is really anything to fear. Most times there is not. Finley says to tell fear: ‘Get behind me. I want to see/experience this situation for what it is without your interpretation.’
There is a fundamental part of us that LIES. It wants to keep us safe and it does this by trying to convince us that we cannot cope with anything new. It’s hard to come to terms with this but you cannot trust your inner voices.
Your body and mind value survival. You MUST factor this in when you decide what to trust. Your mind has a vested interest in keeping you down! It is a step up to a whole new level of wisdom when you realize your mind and body are not always on your side when it comes to doing new things.
Consider this… what is fear comprised of? Desire… to keep yourself safe… and the imagination to create the images of you not being safe. With me so far?
The voices that tell you what to do (run, avoid, shrink down) – what are they made of? Desire… to keep yourself safe… and your imagination generating the voices and images!
So the part of you that creates the problem is trying to tell you what to do about the problem! It’s like getting ‘stay sober’ advice from a committed alcoholic.
When you listen to fear you make it your authority, your ‘go-to-guy’. So the guy that caused the fear is now telling you what to do about it.
And s/he is biased.
When you realize that you should not even have given most fears a hearing in the first place, it’s so freeing.
Can we totally eliminate fear?
Given what I said, you may think I think it is impossible to eliminate completely. But when you start to realize that your fear is often an illusion then you’ll begin to experience it less and less, and deal with it faster. Your mind will catch on.
There is a place for other methods. I believe energy therapies can work and I certainly know that studying cognitive psychology can help you uncover limiting beliefs which you can then dismantle or blast away using programs like my one listed above in my profile.
But the most powerful method I have found so far is simply not resisting my fears and… like the dragon… watching them disappear. Acceptance is power.
To your highest and best,