Feel the fear and do it anyway. Yeah, Right.
Feel the fear and do it anyway. Yeah, Right.
I tried that this summer after a glass of wine, well, okay two. I invited myself to a previously arranged zip-lining adventure with friends on Whitefish Mountain. In the clarity of the next morning, I thought, “What was I thinking? What made me think I would like zip-lining?!” However, my social fear of backing out was greater than my physical fear at the time. So after much consternation, I went.
Saturday morning I got weighed, suited up in my crotch-cinching harness, watched the video, telling me it was like a roller-coaster. Gulp. I hate roller-coasters. I continued on. We trotted out to the first two zip-lines to learn the basics. For me, it was like being catapulted through space and stopped on a dime by a big spring with a loud thwack! My body started to spin with motion sickness after the first 50 ft. one.
I took the chair lift up to the other 5 runs. While on the lift I could hardly turn my head to look around, my hands were gripping the rail so hard. Hey, I know, I know, afraid of a little chair lift - pretty wimpy, right?
When we got to the top, I heard that the lines were 1900 feet long. OMG! I couldn’t do it. I admitted defeat. With my scarlet S of SHAME on my chest, I waved goodbye to the 14 others, and I braved the chair lift down, alone, mind you. When I finally stepped off the lift at the lodge, I was flooded relief.
Who Likes Fear?
Now, there are many techniques that are out there to deal with fear. If you have one that works for you, use it! Gavin de Becker in the book Gift of Fear talks about how fear is something that needs to be listened to, but that most of us have disconnected from our natural instinct because it is not socially acceptable to show fear so we override it.
We don’t like being around people that are afraid because fear is one of those emotions we can easily resonate with and who wants to feel fear? Equally pervasive is that not many people like to talk about fear, because it sounds so…. wimpy, right? Yet fear can be such a powerful force in our lives stopping us from doing things that maybe we really want to do, (not like zip lining, mind you) like starting a new career or standing up to someone or for something you are passionate about.
When Fear Arises – Client Examples
Fear comes up with the clients I work with when they are trying to make changes that matter most to them. Think about it: If it wasn’t scary, they’d have already made the change. So a key step in moving forward is working with their fear. Here are a couple of examples:
Ana works in health care and loves helping people, yet is depressed by all the bureaucracy. Her heart’s desire would be to have a creative job in design, the arts or personal coaching. While she does allow herself to take classes in art, writing and coaching, she is unable to allow herself leave the security of her health care job even in a part-time capacity. When we started coaching together she already certifications and the skills for her desired areas.
Bren grew up with a physically abusive alcoholic father. While there were lots of family jokes about how dad had a bad temper, no one was really willing to acknowledge the damage done to the kids. Bren had moved 1000 miles away, grateful to get away. She was fine until her parents announced that were coming to visit and wanted to stay with her. “Yikes!” She called saying she had absolutely no desire to host them, but was unable to ask her parents to stay at a hotel.
Ana and Bren were both gripped by fear. Fear that rises up as soon as you take steps towards what feels more “right” for you, but something in you says you can’t have it. It is like a giant rubber band that stretches just so far and then snaps you back in place.
How To Listen To Your Fear
So no amount of telling either Ana or Bren to feel the fear and do it anyway worked. One method I often use with my clients comes from a body of work called Inner Relationship Focusing by Ann Weiser Cornell, author of The Power of Focusing. The general idea is to be with your fear like you would be with a frightened child and listen to what it is not wanting to have happen to you. Then, like with any person who is speaking, let it know you hear it.
Here is how to listen to your fear.
Use the Body as a Resource: Pause even for just 5 to 10 minutes. Turn your attention to your body, your whole body, specifically feeling your feet, legs and how your body feels against what it is sitting on, focusing on that contact and support. Notice your breathing.
Why? When we are afraid our attention gets very narrow and focused in our minds, which hold us hostage in an obsessive loop, telling us things that increase the fear. Using your body as a resource widens your attention, feeling your feet, your back, and what you are sitting on, helps bring your energy down into your body, which is a resource.
Bring it Down a Size: This entails using the magic three words, something in me. Rather than saying, “I’m scared,” try saying, “Something in me is scared.” This works with any “negative” feeling that you experience as uncomfortable. Try the two phrases right now with your “negative” feeling of choice.
Something in me is scared.
See what you notice internally in your body. Often the shift in language creates a bit more space around the feeling so that it doesn’t feel so overwhelming.
Turn Towards it and Say Hello: Imagine you can turn towards the something in you that is scared and say hello to it. When you say something in me is scared – it implies that it is not all of you – that means there is something inside of you that is not scared that is available to say hello to that scared place. By turning towards it, there is automatically more of you, a larger sense of you – a resource - saying hello.
Ask What it is Not Wanting – When something in you is scared, it usually worried about something that is not wanting to happen to you. So from this internally focused place, ask it, “What are you not wanting to happen?”
Let it know you hear it: When Susan Clarke and I work with teams and couples we often say, “As humans we don’t need to get our way, but we do need to be listened to and genuinely considered.” This is the same with the something in us that is scared. It may feel silly, but let it know that you really hear what it is not wanting. You will be amazed how the feeling will settle down. Sometimes it takes a while, but just like being with a scared friend, often just letting it know you hear it makes all the difference.
When Ana listened to her fear she realized that something in her was not wanting her to “look stupid” by pursuing all this “silly” stuff. That something believed that medicine was more “credible.” She let it know she really heard it. Once she listened to the something in her that was afraid, it relaxed. She was then able to start her own personal coaching practice and eventually moved to part time in her job. Later she started showing and selling her paintings, allowing her to quit her job. She is now thriving as a coach and an artist.
When Bren listened to her fear she realized that something in her was not wanting to get hit if she asked her father for what she wanted. Listening to her fear took a few sessions since it was such a traumatic memory, but eventually Bren was able to be with the something in her that was afraid enough that it settled down. She realized, it was better to write an email from 1000 miles away and take the chance of getting an angry email back than have that same angry person in her home. Her parents stayed at a near by hotel and the trip was enjoyable for all.
So many of us resist feeling fear, which just keeps us stuck. Feelings are energy that if we allow them move through us. The key is to access your resources, your body and a larger sense of yourself, so that you can allow the feeling to be there. Our fear is our friend trying to keep us safe from danger. It is there for some good reason. It may be an outdated reason, but it doesn’t know that. Ask what it is not wanting to have happen and then let it know you hear it. Just like us, it usually has some good information and relaxes when it is heard.
For me, if I had listened to my fear the first time I would have called back my friend the next morning and said, “You know what, when I agreed to go zip-lining last night in the bar, I must have had a hole in my head.” By not listening to my fear I compounded the situation (as one often does) and didn’t just have to tell one person but 14 other people, “Ah…you know what? This body…it’s not meant for zip-lining.”
CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke are Master certified life coaches, business consultants, speakers and authors of The Beauty of Conflict. They believe real relationships are the key to creating great business results. They’ll take your team from mediocre to great.
Interested in coaching? Check out CrisMarie’s executive coaching and personal coaching, or Susan’s personal coaching and equus coaching.
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