• Thrive Inc.

Are You in a Fear Storm?

Have you ever experienced a thunderstorm and felt fear of the thunder instead of the lightning? It builds and builds until it becomes overwhelming. We do something similar in life as we become more and more overwhelmed or worried about something, allowing our brains to go rogue.

A fear storm brews at all levels and in many situations for different people. It could happen when you begin to catastrophize a situation or if you procrastinate on an important task. It most often happens around the primary “big issues” in all of our lives: our relationships, money, or health.

In this episode, we talk about how a fear storm might impact your life and the physical ways it can manifest. We want to help you form a deeper understanding of your mind-body connection and how your mind should function compared to your body and heart. That way, when you feel a fear storm rising in your mind, your body can work cohesively to find a way out of it.

If you’d like us to speak at your organization about conflict, stress, team-building, or leadership, work with your team virtually, or coach you or leaders on your team, reach out to us!

If you enjoyed the show, please share the podcast with your family and friends, or post a five-star review on iTunes. Rating and reviewing the show helps spread the word, which means less friction and suffering for everyone, and who doesn’t want that?

Listen on Apple Podcast | Stitcher | Spotify

Learn More:

  • What a fear storm is.

  • Why a fear storm can so easily take over our senses.

  • What the thought signs of an impending fear storm are.

  • How to determine what you can and can’t control.

  • Why your brain can be deceiving.

  • How much power you can gain from noticing and examining your thoughts.

  • How to use breath as an access point.


Full Transcript:

Susan: Welcome to The Beauty of Conflict, a podcast about how to deal with conflict at work, at home and everywhere else in your life. I am Susan.

CrisMarie: And I'm CrisMarie.

Susan: We run a company called Thrive Inc, and we specialize in conflict resolution, stress management coaching and building strong, thriving teams and relationships both in person and virtually.

CrisMarie: On this podcast we’ll be sharing tips, tools about how to make your team, your relationship and even you work more effectively. You can find us at thriveinc.com, that’s www.t.h.r.i.v.e.i.n.c.com or follow us on LinkedIn at Thrive Inc. We hope you enjoy this episode.

Today we’re going to talk about fear storms and how you can take a fear storm and move it into ease and grace for yourself. I’m CrisMarie Campbell.

Susan: And I’m Susan Clarke. And one of the reasons that this seemed like a good topic to me was I think about this, we’re in springtime right now which is often a time of thunderstorms and strong rain showers. And I equate that to a little bit of what I think of as a fear storm because I can get all focused and I actually scare myself with the thunder which is really not the problem. It’s really the lightening that can be a little more of the issue. But it’s like and until I see it from a broader perspective I don’t really appreciate thunderstorms.

But when I can actually see it from a bigger perspective I start to see the value. It changes the electric magnetic field, and air, and brings the water that we need so that we can get those flowers. And so anyway that’s how I equate a thunderstorm to a fear storm.

CrisMarie: I love it. So I’m going to guess, listener, when we say fear storm you intuitively get what that is for yourself but in case you don’t we’re going to just talk about it a little bit, flush it out. But think about times you’ve been in a fear storm. For me that’s times when I’m obsessing. I’m worrying. Maybe I’m catastrophizing like oh my gosh, if I don’t do this or if I do, do this I’m going to be a bag lady. Or I’m going to get really sick, whatever it is.

Susan: I was thinking too because I was thinking it’s when I start to question or doubt. But the other side of that it’s when I procrastinate too. I can get into procrastinating over a decision and it’s like okay, I’m not doing much of anything.

CrisMarie: Or even after you’ve made a decision you go, “Oh my gosh, was that the right decision? I know, my boss is going to be upset, or this bad thing’s going to happen or we’re going to lose money.” It’s often around these things that we feel really bring us our security, our relationships, our money, our health. Those tend to be the big topics that people can scare themselves with.

I mean I was coaching one of my clients, Taylor who actually during the nine months we’ve been coaching, she’s gone back to school. She’s selling her business and starting a new career. And has decided to move and all these things are happening in this short little timeframe and we have checked in over and over again, is this really what feels right? Yes, but she’s in the transition, like oh my gosh, maybe I’m making a terrible mistake. What if we get to Boston and we can’t buy a house? Or I can’t find a good new job. She goes through those obsessive cycles.

And when she settles back down, no, no, this is really what feels right. But it’s that fear storm that can suck a lot of air and joy out of her life.

Susan: Yes, for sure. I mean equally I have a client who has made a decision to leave an organization she’s been a part of for years. And she has a wonderful process that she’s used to get to that clarity. And so it’s very clear that she’s ready for this next level of her life and what she’s going to do. And so it’s been made. It’s happening. And she was identifying, oh, oh. But now did I make the right decision? Was this really a smart move? Am I going to figure out the next step, which is the kind of classic thing that can come up as a fear storm.

CrisMarie: Now we just gave you two concrete examples where they’re based on big transitions. These can also come up on a daily basis like oh my gosh, I’ve got to get that presentation done. My boss is going to be upset with me if it’s not perfect. Or this client’s going to be mad at me, all those little moments during my day that I can create a lot of misery.

Susan: And it doesn’t even have to be around work. Let’s just be clear. It could be I should be doing more to clean up the house. I should be doing better at getting our garden planted. That should be I should already have the garden planted. It should be up already. So when I got to doing more or doing better, going faster, those are all the signs of a fear storm.

CrisMarie: It’s even when I’m trying to – and this is – I may not notice this, it’s taken me a while to recognize my propensity to want to control people, places, things.

Susan: I’m sorry. I have to laugh at that.

CrisMarie: You give me a lot of feedback that I am feeling very controlled right now. But it happens automatically because when I was growing up, when you’re growing up, that three to seven years old you have this healthy narcissism that you think you’re supposed to go out on a picnic and it rains.

And the little kid’s like, “It’s because I didn’t clean up my room that it rained.” We tend to think we’re the center of the universe. And so what that starts to create is this, okay, if I do this then she’ll say yes. Or this desire to control the people’s responses, the end results when they’re really outside of our control.

Susan: Yes. I love that you’re giving this. Narcissism and the world centers around me is a healthy developmental phase. It’s sad when it becomes a lifetime phase. And it may not be as helpful then obviously. But there is a time and a place for it so yes.

CrisMarie: And we all naturally want to control things but recognizing it’s a developmental, I’m getting this developmental learning later in life. But splitting apart what can I control and what can I not control? I mean Byron Katie says, “It’s my business, or it’s their business, or it’s God’s business.” Like separating when I am trying to control you, really what you’re doing is none of my business.

Susan: And I think CrisMarie tell me where I’m wrong. But you’ve been doing some work on this for yourself because I know a lot of times you have measures and goals that are very, you know, a lot of times they’re out of your control.

CrisMarie: Win the gold medal.

Susan: Yeah, win the gold medal or get whatever the financial goal is or so many clients. It’s like a goal that’s outside of you can’t really control how many clients sign up. You can control how much you do. But it’s so tricky to notice the difference when are you actually putting a measure out that you don’t have control over. Now, it’s okay to put that out there as long as you realize if you don’t succeed it doesn’t mean you failed either. It means that there’s probably elements of that that’s not in your control.

CrisMarie: It’s true. We were looking at our April goals and I realized so many of them that I had written down they were metrics which are good to have metrics. But the goal, it’s splitting apart the metric between we want to increase our LinkedIn, Thrive Inc LinkedIn followers. And so I put a number. Well, that’s kind of nice to have that out there but I can’t do anything, LinkedIn actually stops you from reaching out to so many people. There’s really nothing I can do to move that needle except continue to reach out and see what happens.

Susan: Yes. And so it was, you know, we went through a process of sort of looking at it, instead of sort of pass fail on the metrics, looking at it and going, “Okay, so where was that?”

CrisMarie: What did I do in my control that moved that needle, which I did? So the reason we’re talking about this is kind of what is driving all this is our mind. And often I tell clients, “You can’t really believe your thoughts.” And they’re like, “What?” You cannot believe all your thoughts because your mind, your mind is a survivor, your ego, however you want to refer to it and its mantra is me, me, me. It’s trying to survive.

It thinks you’re in constant danger even though there’s not saber toothed tigers. Being late on a report or calling somebody back and be like, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to get in trouble.” And it has this sense of urgency that you’ve got to do more, do better, go faster. Our mind those strategies developed when we were quite young. And it doesn’t sound that way in our heads, it has a much more sophisticated sounding voice.

Susan: Gotten really good at it, yes.

CrisMarie: But it creates immense stress and it’s not – it’s a great implementation manager but it’s a horrible CEO. It’s not a good visionary because it’s only short term focused and urgent.

Susan: CrisMarie I think you’re bringing up a really important part of this. It’s like the mind in and of itself should not be the CEO. When it’s actually utilized in conjunction with other aspects of who you are in a more holistic perspective then it really has something to add. But left to its young underdeveloped part which is probably the more narcissistic me, me, me ego based, which is a part of growing up that is important. But at some point you’ve got to let go of that and begin to realize actually you’re a bigger and there’s more to you.

CrisMarie: Yeah. And some people may or may not relate to this but the mind developed those strategies when it was young. And it only had – it kind of only has – it picks up the same hammer, that’s why your patterns, you notice you respond to things, listeners, the same way. You have the same sort of reaction patterns, those were developed quite young. And it wants to protect you from danger. But it doesn’t realize you have grown up and you have a lot of other resources available to you, many more tactics, including other people and your ability to talk to people and reason things out.

Susan: I know this is going to sound really kind of – I don’t know – probably too simplistic. But I do think of, you know, I think of little babies. And your head has a ratio to your body when you’re a baby that somewhat implies that it’s pretty important.

CrisMarie: It’s about a third.

Susan: Yeah. But as you grow your head doesn’t get a whole lot bigger but the rest of you, really all sorts of systems in your body, your body itself grows up. And so if you’re still stuck in that little head thing that makes you think that your head is, you know.

CrisMarie: That’s a great metaphor for bringing in more of you. And I think what’s so sad in coaching executives is they are believing their thoughts and think oh my gosh, I’ve got to get this done. I can’t take a break. That’s your mind telling you. I can’t take a break between this meeting and the next. I can’t be late to that meeting. And there’s this frenetic urgency and desire to get everything done and control things. And that is really, you’re only using a small part of your natural resources.

Your brain, if you want some brain science, your amygdala is firing. You’re in a fight, flight or freeze or appease phase. All your creativity that is available in your neocortex, calmness…

Susan: [Crosstalk] brain, yeah.

CrisMarie: Yeah. All of that is cut off because this fear response, which by the way is creating inflammation in your body. It’s reducing your IQ 10 to 15 points, that’s scientifically proven. And you’re just not using all your resources. So recognizing, I think that the key is recognizing you’re in this reactive pattern and you do have choice about what you can do about it.

Susan: And I think one of the most simple ways CrisMarie, to begin to interrupt that process is simply noticing, well, one, you have, you know, you notice your thoughts. And then just ask yourself the question.

CrisMarie: Well, even jus taking a breath would be.

Susan: Yes. But I was thinking of I really like your…

CrisMarie: Well, I was going to get to that a little later on in the podcast.

Susan: Okay. I’m ready to get there now but okay, a breath is always a good thing to take even in recording a podcast. We’ll take a couple of deep breaths and I won’t try to go fast or do more.

CrisMarie: Yeah, that’s a great idea. Well, what we want to do before we give you kind of the tool is we want to talk about – there is another part of you that we do think makes a great CEO. And it’s this larger part of you that includes your mind, but it also includes like Susan was saying, your body. And I’m going to short change it and say your heart. It’s lower in your system. And you know when you are aware of it, it’s a quieter voice. It’s more of a felt sense as opposed to the frantic urgency.

Susan: Yes. And I think of it as – well, I’m going to go back just a minute to this notion of disease. Because let’s be clear if you just stay in that mental chatter and stress there are things in a stress reaction which means you are not, you’re only in your mind spin about it. It can lead to disease literally, the inflammation, various…

CrisMarie: Well, we’ve coached people with heart palpitations, panic attacks. Those are the obvious signs but it can even lead to chronic disease.

Susan: Yes. And I mean for me even cancer is an example of, if your mind is sort of not – your brain is there to actually be feeding and responding to everything in your system. But if it’s not, if it’s just on a hardwired fear storm what happens is the rest of the body decides this is not a good communication system. And so they start, you know, they kind of go rogue.

CrisMarie: Well, it’s like nobody’s listening to me.

Susan: So I’m going to go do my own thing. And I know for myself even with my own cancer experience when I started to get more curious about the cancer and realized that wait a minute, the cancer is trying to give me information and let me know that I am disconnected. And how could I listen? And it’s not necessarily that I created it out of a fear storm. But I created the separation from parts of myself. And that reconnection is what is so vital and important. It’s a way of thinking. So disease, another way to break that word down is dis ease, separate the two.

CrisMarie: I think this is pretty important, Susan, and it may be very different for most people who have had cancer touch their lives in some way. But this whole idea of that when you’re in a place of separating, trying to get away or ostracizing some part of yourself. And eventually that part says, “Well, screw you”, for lack of a better term, “We’re going to develop our own ecosystem”, and starts developing its own cell areas.

I think that’s pretty important because when the mind is trying to control everything and says, “Well, you can’t actually have your feelings, they’re bad, we need to stay on top of it.” So again every time you do that you’re alienating a part of you.

Susan: And cancer may be too big a point to take off but it’s the same way if you injure something. Because you as an athlete, you’ve talked about when you make your body an object you don’t listen to the inherent cues that I’m over-functioning, I’m overworking out, yeah.

CrisMarie: That happened during my Olympic experience and my training experience. I was just like, you know what? I don’t care shoulder if you can’t do it. I’m going to make you do it. And back, you’ve got to get on – I was so mean to myself. And my body when I ended the Olympics I was just kind of like thank God I’m done because I’ve injured my body so much because I didn’t give it time. I didn’t turn towards those parts and listen to them and use it as a signal to take care of myself.

Susan: And it’s not that – so when I talk about this idea of separating the word disease even into two parts dis ease, you’re out of ease that our innate state of being, natural state of being would be one that is in more ease and grace. There’s where we’re connected, there’s an inner connectivity between the mind, the heart, the emotions, the body.