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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?

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, that’s 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.

CrisMarie: The body, the spirit.

Susan: The spirit and when that interconnection is in some sort of equanimity like it’s working.

CrisMarie: Flow.

Susan: Flow, because you’ve got to know, it is a contraction and an expansion. So it’s not just this, it’s actually that movement that is what is a sign of ease and grace. And that’s being in allowance. And it doesn’t necessarily mean, you know, there is a way to be even when you’re dealing with something that can seem like a cancer. It’s not that you created it but you can be at ease and grace with that cancer or you could be at war with that cancer. Those are two different ways of adapting to it. It’s not about the cure, it’s about the relationship.

I think because sometimes people get really like, “Well, if I did it right then I’d get rid of it.” That’s actually that mind thing again.

CrisMarie: It is the mind thinking there is a right and a wrong. And it’s more being in relationship. And the mind again cuts off, and we’re seduced in believing efficiency and productivity is the number one thing. Our US culture for use, our western culture is built on that, go, go, go. And what it does is it cuts us off, if you buy into that, it cuts us off from our humanity, our own mind really doesn’t have a feeling sense.

And so we have to work to interrupt that and include this larger feeling sense including the heart, including kindness, being interested in relationally what is going on with us as well as what’s going on with other people. How am I impacting other people? All of that is a more holistic approach which in the end is going to create more life, and I believe even better results at a business sense if you don’t buy into this urgency because you’re not bringing your best self forward.

Susan: So just though to be clear it’s not like okay I’m going to move into ease and grace. And so I’ve done it wrong if I’m not in ease and grace. And this is why I really want to keep coming back to a fear storm is like a thunderstorm. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It may be exactly what needs to happen from a seasonal perspective. But if you can be in relationship to it and actually use it in a more holistic perspective, not just letting it spin out in your…

CrisMarie: So using it as a red flag to notice I can make a different choice here. So not believing the seduction of your mind but interrupting it and taking a breath. And then this is where I wanted to give you the tool. Now that you know there is the mind and then there is this kind of larger sense of you that is really connected, I even believe to your soul, and it starts with the body, the heart, includes the mind. And so a lot of times when you’re making a decision like somebody’s transitioned pieces. I’ll just give you Taylor’s example of she’s wanting to move to Boston.

So the tool is, think about a decision. So you can use this as an example for yourselves, listener. Think about a decision that you’re kind of should I do it, should I not do it? Taylor’s decision, should I move to Boston, should I not move to Boston? And then what you want to do is you want to give each, your mind and I’m just going to shortcut it and say your heart. You want to give them each a voice.

And this is a tool borrowed by Sonia Choquette who’s a spiritual teacher. But she said, “What you want to do is verbalize, my mind says it’s crazy to move. My mind says I’ll never find a house I can afford. My mind says oh my gosh, this is the dumbest, I don’t know why I even thought of this”, or whatever those mind things, at least three. But you might have more things that your mind says. And then pause, take a breath. Susan’s taking one right now. And then say, “My heart says that’s where I really want to live. My heart says I want to be near family. My heart says I’ll figure it out.”

And usually there is a sense of kind of dropping in and there’s a fuller sense, there’s more of you that’s included in those answers. You’re going to have a felt sense of feeling settled, peace and at calm. And a lot of times my clients will say, “Well, how can I believe that?” And it’s because it’s actually resonating in your body. And your body is a really good resource for what feels true for you, trusting that.

Susan: Also I like this idea of kind of exploring, what is the mind saying? What is the heart saying? And also maybe even what might be helpful if I question my heart, it’s like alright. So then my mind might come back in but it comes in from a different place. If I’m saying, “I really want to move there.” So what would it be like? Imagine what it would be like to be there. Imagine what it would take. I come from a place of imagining something versus I’ve got to do it which can generate a path which is really helpful.

CrisMarie: Or even, Susan, versus you can imagine from a more resource place I think is what you’re saying versus this catastrophizing place like oh my God, we’re going to get there. We won’t be able to afford a house, all those scary things.

Susan: You actually went to a tool that I thought of at this point but I was also thinking of even with those mental stories, you can interrupt them sometimes just by simply is this true?

CrisMarie: Yes. This is a tool that Byron Katie developed the work but we’re just going to take the first two questions. So if you’re in this scaring, oh my gosh, I’m scaring myself. What you want to do is just notice what is the thought that’s really triggering you like oh my God, I’m not going to have enough money. Or oh my God, I’m going to be so embarrassed, whatever it is. And ask yourself is it true? And see your mind will probably pipe in with yes, of course it’s true. What do you mean? Why are you asking me this?

And then so take a breath again, each time, for the second stage I’m suggesting you take a breath. And then ask yourself, can I absolutely know that it’s true? And then wait for the response. And your mind is going to be louder but you’re going to find again a resonance usually lower in your body, a sense of settling like well, no, I can’t know that it’s going to be true. And there’s a peacefulness in that.

Susan: And I think what we’re talking about here is I think of it as a way to actually reconnect, remember. And I like to break these words apart because they’re profound, re connect, you were connected before. You have a natural connection and you’re the one who separates yourself from it. Remember, you’re not a bag of parts, you can re member yourself. You can put your heart, your mind into this.

And refresh, there is always something new and there is an opportunity in that novelty and newness that is going to invite you to something different. And that breath is really an access point that will get you there.

CrisMarie: I love that, Susan, because the mind is usually a black and white thinker. So it’s either all good or all bad. And what I love like re membering, you’re not a bag of parts. I love that Susan. That there’s a larger part of you that you can access, that’s wiser, that has this wisdom. And this idea of breath, breath does not go up to the head. Breath goes down into your lungs and it connects you into your body.

And that’s where this deeper wisdom, where you can trust your intuition, you can trust your hunches, you can trust your impulses to move forward. But they’re more from a body based than this cha, cha, cha, the head, which is basically lying to you. I really want to let you know. It doesn’t always lie to you but if you’re in that frantic, oh my gosh, I don’t know what to do, that’s your body. And you really want to – I love those, say the R’s.

Susan: Reconnect, remember and refresh.

CrisMarie: I love that and numb. Is there anything that like – I thought – Susan wrote something and I would just love for you to even read it.

Susan: Yeah, because one of the things that’s been going on for me is I’m actually getting more engaged again in bringing the horses and the Equus work that I do back into my coaching and work in various ways. And so I wanted to kind of express how I feel about doing this work and an invitation. And so what I wrote was in our human journey it’s very hard to step out of that expectation and obligation. However we are not here to be perfect.

CrisMarie: I really want to pause. We’re not here to be perfect.

Susan: We are here to be our unique strands of stardust. I call it starlight but it was a misspelling, starlight. We’re here to fall in love, to fail, to succeed, to laugh, to play, to cry, to be. So what happens when you allow yourself to rest into yourself? This is that moment of breath, and just as you are. And what’s possible when you welcome and appreciate yourself completely just as you are?

CrisMarie: How rare.

Susan: Yeah. And what can happen if you allowed ease and grace to guide your life?

CrisMarie: Life?

Susan: Life, yes.

CrisMarie: And just even that pausing there, because those are such rare moments for myself even. But I can rest into me as I am.

Susan: Yes. If this is your desire and you struggle to find that place of ease and grace, that place that they say exists, poets and various other people, beyond right and wrong, polarity, pain and perfection. I invite you to discover this simple and profound truth. It is not out there. There is no destination. That space is always available to you. You can reconnect, remember and refresh your natural state of breathing. It starts with your breath, notice the gentle nudge because you will naturally breathe, it’s always going to happen.

But there will be nudges to take a deeper breath, the call to this state of being is often quiet, doesn’t come with a bang. It’s gentle, soft but always present. Nature is always beckoning you to come. For me horses were the bridge. And I’d love to introduce you to more of that if you’re interested in coming to Montana, because you have access to this all the time. Your life can be with ease and grace and it doesn’t mean there won’t be thunderstorms.

CrisMarie: I love that.

Susan: You want those spring showers, they bring May flowers.

CrisMarie: I just wanted her to read that because – so thank you Susan. I think it’s so well written. And a tool piece that you can take for yourself in that is we are all seeking, myself included often like give me the magic pill. Are you going to give it to me? Are you going to give it to me? And really all of what you need is inside of you if you slow down, get out of the seduction of the mind and take a breath. Even taking a breath, what we suggest is take a breath and just hold it for two beats, one, two and then release. And do that for about three times and your energy state is going to shift.

Susan: And it doesn’t mean you’re not going to go back to some important paper you’re writing or some big project plan or putting the next molecular structure together that’s going to change the world. But you just don’t have to do it with just such frantic effort.

CrisMarie: Yeah. And such separation from the rest of yourself, you can bring all of you along. And when you do you’re going to have more creative solutions. It’s going to feel better. You’re going to actually notice you, how is this impacting you, which will also translate to how it impacts other people that you deliver it to. And the permissions, giving yourself permission to be just as you are right now in this moment even if you’re stressed, even if you’re believing your mind, those gentle permissions will really help you settle yourself.

Susan: If you allow yourself to remember and reconnect following that simple nudge, you will actually begin to tap back into your natural state of being. And there is in that natural – you’re going to have another thunderstorm. That thunderstorm will come but in with the breath can come the belief and the knowing that this just brings May flowers or June flowers depending on what state you’re in.

CrisMarie: I love it. That’s what it was, thank you Susan. Well, hopefully this was helpful, and please reach out and let us know, give us an email at Thrive T.h.r.i.v.e. at We’d love to hear what you’re using, what you’d like more of, what would support you in your success in living your best life.

Susan: And if you were inspired by my idea of the horses, I am shifting and I’m really inviting you to come and have a more intimate and personalized experience with the horses here in Montana. So if you’re interested in that and that’s intriguing to you, reach out.

CrisMarie: Because hopefully with all the vaccinations we are able to travel yet once again.

Susan: Yes.

CrisMarie: Have a great week.

Susan: Thank you for listening to The Beauty of Conflict podcast. We know conflict, stress and uncertainty can be hard to navigate.

CrisMarie: We want to support you becoming more resilient, able to speak up and have healthy relationships and business teams that thrive. Connect to us on LinkedIn at Thrive Inc. Learn how we can work with you, your team, or your company at That’s

Susan: We hope you have a peaceful, productive and beautiful day.

CrisMarie: Take care.


CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke

Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict

CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.

They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.

Download the eBook, How to Talk About Difficult Topics, today!

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