Fear talks… Depending on what it says, you’ll run, you’ll hide, or you’ll continue charging forward
I now have a coach to report to on what I accomplish in the project I started a week ago.
Just like you, my first report was something like this: “I know I did little, but there was this fear…”
“What does fear have to do with anything?” he asked… and I was dumbfounded. I know the guy, we’ve been friends now for 3-4 years, and he is always stopped by fear… Who is he kidding?!
I didn’t spend our time together to explain things, after all his role, this time around, is to coach me, not the other way around.
But, in this article, I’ll say everything about fear, and how it works. I will also talk about how to gain the upper hand, at least some of the time, in the face of fear. OK?
Real imminent danger vs Imagined Danger
Fear, when there is imminent danger, is useful, it saves lives. But of all the times you are afraid, less than one percent of the time is real danger, a charging tiger, a speeding train, a man with a gun.
Imagined danger is not real danger. Looking bad, being yelled at, looking like a fool, making a mistake are not real danger. Real danger is the one that threatens you with annihilation, killing you, maim you. Even being hit by a bully is not a real danger: bullies do not maim or kill the little guy, it is all about control, not killing.
So the first thing we want to look at:
What is the fear saying? What is the fear saying ABOUT YOU?
In my work with thousands of scared people, and my own self, the fear says things about you that make you feel tiny, fragile, incompetent, stupid, and very very weak.
It may say variations of that, but that’s what they are: variations on a theme.
It is always about you dealing with what might happen.
It always says: “I can’t deal with it!”
First of all, it is always a lie. There is nothing you can’t deal with. Nothing. You’ll deal with it how you deal with it. Some ways of dealing with stuff are more effective than others, but it is all dealing with it.
The mere fact that you are here is a sign that you have been dealing with stuff that you didn’t know you could deal with, and you are still here… so you dealt with it.
When I came to the US, I had a lot to deal with. No money, no warm clothes, no place to live, sexual predators, no license to practice architecture, etc. etc. etc. In the first year I moved 9 times from places where I squatted. Mostly with a window of an hour or so, to escape some guy that wanted to hurt me.
It wasn’t a question of “Can I deal with it?” It was a question of “How do you deal with it?”
Interestingly and understandably my biggest fear is becoming homeless. But then again, I have been there, and I dealt with it.
When I coach, the question I ask: What is the worst thing that can happen? And then, when I get an answer, we look what are the ways to deal with that worst thing. Then we look at other bad things, and look at ways to deal with those.
The fear that talks (all fears talk!) often paralyze you and keep you in harm’s way.
I once had a teacher who said: Move towards the fear, call it excitement. She said that the physical sensations, the physical signs of excitement are the same as those of fear… She was wrong about that, but that is not important at all. This is not about imagining stuff that isn’t… not about pretending, faking till you make it, and other garden variety horse crap!
Fear, more often than not, points in the direction that moves you towards your dreams, your aspirations, to freedom and power and fulfillment.
When you stay in fear, you become reactive… You allow life (and the other) to go in a direction you don’t want it to go, unopposed. You sit in your car, at the steering wheel, not doing any steering.
When someone speaks something that is not true, you would say: that is not true. Or you would walk away… wouldn’t you?
Fear is talking and so should you! Talk back to fear!
Then why don’t you talk back at fear? It says: you can’t deal with it… You can say: Oh no, that’s not true. I can deal with anything! And through that newfound context “I can deal with anything. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not, but dealing? I can.” you may be able to see the possibility that opens up, right behind the fear.
Like me, as I am writing this article, I see the possibility of voluntarily moving out of my way too expensive apartment, that cost me 70% of my income, and allows me no choices. And start over in a small apartment that is just the size I need, and have the freedom to do the stuff I am good at, instead of trying to learn stuff I am not good at and I will never be good at.
Once you know what is your current context is, know it intimately for the lie that it is, you can create a better one.
In my coaching programs, I work with you one-on-one to create contexts that allow you to move forward. I work with you to develop capacities that take you from where you are to a place where you can regain your power, self-love, self-respect, where you can call your life your life… directed by you, not by fear.
If you are comfortable, you are not a good candidate…
Is this method fast? No. You still have to build up some momentum before you can really go against the fear… like everything that works, it takes energy to build up, doing it and doing it and doing it. But after a little while, just like strength training, you’ll be surprised at what you can do!
Look ma what I can do!
But don’t leave this to the last minute when you have fear and rush going against you! Be proactive instead. Do it now.
What others teach about fear
John Lennon said: “There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”
— John Lennon
It is a pretty and useless quote. Any quote that you nod but cannot do what it suggests is useless. You cannot go from where you are to love, loving yourself, loving life. Fear suggests that you die little by little by withdrawing from action. The opposite of death is not love, it is aliveness. It is Life.
The art is to choose movement, movement in the direction of fear, with a firm knowledge that you are able to deal with whatever comes up… because that is the truth.
Everything else is a lofty ideal that people who have the silver tongue set out for you so you can feel inferior.