“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face… You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Stress has been getting a bad name.
Almost daily, we read about another research study demonstrating the destructive effects of stress on our bodies and minds. So, the common response is to try and eliminate any inkling of fear.
We try to do so in a multitude of ways, some helpful, some not so much. Yoga, meditation, medication, alcohol, excess food, hiding under a rock, or denial, it’s clear that our methods can run the gamut and sometimes be worse than the “dis-ease”.
Psychotherapist Thom Rutledge, author of Embracing Fear: How to Turn What Scares Us into Our Greatest Gift, suggests a different approach – that of changing our relationship to fear rather than attempting to annihilate it: “We have used our higher intelligence to create a monster out of what is essentially a healthy, natural response to adverse or potentially dangerous situations.” According to Rutledge, the issue “is not about how to be rid of that monster, but rather how to live beyond its tyrannical control.”
In a compassionate, wise, and often hilarious way, the author describes how to distinguish between healthy fear (the Ally) and unhealthy fear (the Bully), two of the voices that live in our head as members of our internal Committee.
Some attributes of the Ally include:
In contrast, characteristics of the Bully include;
If we detect that the Ally, which could also be termed our intuition, is speaking to us, we can use cognitive reappraisal, to alter the way we think about a fear-inducing circumstance. Some steps include:
Rutledge describes his personal motto as being “NO FEAR” – not in the sense that fear does not exist, but that he is saying “no” to fear running his life, and he invites the reader to do the same. In other words, when we dig in our heels, move toward the fear, and basically tell it, “Bring it on”, we are able to identify and utilize the positive, helpful aspects of the Ally, while telling the Bully to take a back seat.
As Rutledge states, “Even though we do not control what might happen, we are in charge of how we will respond, and … the ability to respond is what will determine our level of satisfaction, fulfillment, and even happiness.”
Rutledge, T. (2002). Embracing Fear: How to Turn What Scares Us into Our Greatest Gift. New York, NY: HarperOne.
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Last reviewed: 16 Oct 2013