Two Ways to Feel Fear
In a memorable Depression-era radio speech on the radio, President Franklin Roosevelt declared, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." He was dead right. And for the next few minutes we're going to look at why he was right, and what FEAR really is, and how it can be turned into something strong and productive for you with just a few simple tactics you can learn in less than 10 minutes.
This is important learning, because more often than not it's fear that prevents us from making the changes that are needed to improve our lives. And it's fear that paralyzes us when change invades from the outside?a layoff, a death in the family, the end of a relationship. All of these change-producing events create fear. And how we deal with fear makes all the difference between a positive outcome and?no outcome at all! An old friend of mine put fear into perspective some time ago by relating each letter of the word F-E-A-R to another word -- like this:
F - FALSE
FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real.
...or another way of looking at it (which was my way for much of my life)...
F - FORGET
But let's start this survey of fear with a definition that's a little plainer than my friend's acronym ? or mine!
According to Webster's dictionary, FEAR is: "An unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger." Another way of saying this might be: "A negative expectation about the future," or "A feeling that something is about to be lost or taken away." Where does fear come from? Does it come from those things that make us fearful? No. It comes from inside ourselves. FEAR is an emotion. Is an emotion a FACT? It sure seems so when we experience one. But is this REALITY? No. WE create our emotions as a function of imagination. Emotions come from thoughts.
It follows, then, that if we create the emotion called fear, then we ought to be able to control it!
But how many times in your life has your fear ruled you...made you sweat...almost stopped your breathing...made you feel real funny down around your stomach...kept you PARALYZED?
It could be that now is one of those times. You're suddenly unemployed, or threatened with a layoff, weathering a failed relationship, in a financial crisis...whatever. That may even be why you're reading this today. If so, then let's give you some good news.
We feel fear at very specific times...times we refer to as "crisis." The ancient Chinese observed this, and they also observed that fear has two components -- anxiety and excitement.
From this, they divined that a "crisis" really represents a duality of Danger and Opportunity. Which one you choose as the benchmark for your crisis IS up to you! And that's good news?you can CHOOSE. So here are five comforting thoughts from Susan Jeffers, author of FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY.
1. Fear will never go away as long as you're growing.
2. The only way to overcome fear is to take positive action.
3. The only way to feel better about yourself is to walk right through the fear.
4. Remember that fear will always be present in an unfamiliar situation.
5. EVERYONE experiences fear?you're not alone. Although you may have heard one or more of the five truths about fear just expressed, here's a hypothesis about fear that may be new to you. Quoting again from Susan Jeffers: "Pushing through the fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness."
That's very, very important. I know that it's hard to understand this while you're in the middle of the FEAR, but pushing through it is, indeed, less frightening than living with the fear itself.
Let's look at how this hypothesis developed. First of all, what's the first thing that happens when you feel FEAR? It stops you cold. Your thinking process is affected, and you generally just want the fear to go away. What do you usually do to remove the FEAR? You push it away, or you tuck it inside and try to go on with your life as if nothing was wrong. And what does that produce? MORE FEAR, ANXIETY...and finally DEPRESSION and a TOTAL PARALYSIS.
That's an argument for action -- ANY action. And the sooner the better. In fact, the moment you begin to take action against the fear, your sensory equipment shifts gears and a real change occurs...all in a single moment. I've worked with thousands of people just like you, and the feedback I get is virtually unanimous. What it adds up to is an effective plan for coping with FEAR and beginning to remove it by FACING IT. Once having gone through the process I'm about to outline, people invariably tell me... "Fear isn't the problem."
It's how we hold the fear. Simply stated, we can see fear as a problem...or as an opportunity. We can feel it as pain...or as excitement.
When we feel it as pain or anxiety, our response to fear is: "I can't." On the other hand, when we feel it as excitement, our response is: "I choose only to see the opportunity" Or perhaps, "I'm anxious about this, but I'm going to do it anyway and see what happens!"
And this is the key! When you feel fear, tell yourself that there's something going on that warrants the feeling, but refuse to hold the feeling as one of pain. Tell yourself that there's a change in the wind..."Something's got to change, and it's ME"...and tell yourself that as soon as you change the fear will pass.
My experience has been that this simple technique has enabled me to confront whatever it is that's causing the fear, to deal with it NOW, and to move on.
Surprisingly (or not), I usually discover that my fear was way out of proportion to the significance of the event. Nonetheless, I also discover that by confronting the fear early on I am able to change sufficiently to deal with it and to feel very powerful in the process.
So when you feel fear, call it excitement and be willing to deal with the situation immediately, effect the necessary change, and move up your power grid to a place of greater comfort.
Now, there's one more idea about fear that we should look at. Most of our fear-based pain comes from the egocentric idea that we can change what's happening around us. In reality, our fear stems from a sense of helplessness, and our ego drives us to attempt to overcome outside forces. It's a pretty weak position.
The ego state tells us that the power is "out there" and our job is to manipulate it so as to achieve the desired outcome. What a tough assignment! Not only don't we know precisely what's out there, but we have absolutely NO leverage over it most of the time. It takes a lot of energy, the outcomes are NOT predictable, and seldom do they occur as we'd wish them to.
Self-love, or self-esteem, on the other hand, says, "Any power I have rests inside of me. It's there for me when I need it, and I know how to use it, and that's all I need. So let me use it wisely." This is a lot easier, and by holding this idea we have a good deal more control over both the input and the outcome. So, it makes sense to look at our fears from the inside out rather than from the outside in...to work toward self-esteem and self-love as an antidote to fear.
The logical question here is, "How does fear relate to Change?" The answer is simple. Most of us FEAR CHANGE. And five fears drive us.
1. The first is FEAR of the unknown. We don't know what the change will bring; we're uncomfortable with what we've got; but it's familiar, and it's difficult to give up the familiar for the unfamiliar.
2. Then there's the FEAR of failure. What if the change we make isn't for the better? That's our egocentric fear of what Other People think of us. What if we fail? We'll be a laughingstock, right? So maybe it's better not to change!
3. The third fear that gets in the way of change is the FEAR of commitment. We know that if we are truly our word, we'll follow through on whatever it is we commit to. But that implies some hard work, and we'd rather not commit than to compromise our integrity by failing to keep our word -- especially to ourselves.
4. The fourth item on our list of fears is the FEAR of disapproval. Other people may not like the change we've made, even if that change is better for us. A simple example of this came to me from a friend a couple of months ago. He decided to begin a regular program of exercise, and he joined a gym. Four days a week he'd go to work out after his business day was done. Good for him? Yes. But his wife, who was used to a routine of having dinner at six o'clock, wasn't happy at all with this, and she began to berate him about it, telling him that all this work wasn't doing him any good. Believe it or not, she even changed menus sometimes to add more fat to her husband's diet. She was sabotaging his efforts because she disapproved of his upsetting her idea of what was right and proper and familiar. I'd like to tell you that they were able to discuss it and resolve the situation, but that wouldn't be true. He was a bit afraid of that discussion, so actually, he stopped exercising in the evening and instead went early in the morning. Not a bad solution, but it didn't confront the issue, and he still fears her disapproval.
5. Finally, there's the FEAR of success. As much as we want to be the best, we're afraid that if we actually become better, others will dislike us, shun us, think we're stuck-up, all that! So we limit ourselves by our fear of being above average!
Is it any wonder that breaking through fear proves so difficult for most of us? But understanding what fear really is, coupled with the courage to risk changing a given situation, can produce truly transformative results?for you!
Copyright 2002, 2005 Optimum Performance Associates/Paul McNeese. Paul McNeese is CEO of Optimum Performance Associates, a consulting firm specializing in transitional and transformational change for individuals and institutions through publication. His publishing company, OPA Publishing, is an advocacy for self-publishing authors of informational, instructional, inspirational and insightful nonfiction. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Websites: http://www.opapublishing.com and http://www.opapresents.com
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