The fear response can be a great teacher. In Part 1 we looked at three ways fear is your friend as an action activating signal. So, how do we handle fear to produce optimal results and meaningful change, when we get triggered? As an example, lets’ say the fear has to do with going after what you most want due to a fear of failure.
This article outlines a seven step approach.
1. Recognize and feel your emotions courageously, pausing to breathe deeply and notice your experience.
This first step allows you to turn within to recognize your emotions as natural responses, as key information you want to connect to — rather than fear or dismiss. Taking deep long breaths and noticing your experience is a key way to be present, and it also helps to recognize your feelings with words, such as, “I feel upset that…; I feel hurt that…; I feel scared about…” etc.
2. Affirm your ability to feel painful emotions with some level of confidence.
The second step is to consciously affirm your ability to feel painful emotions without getting overwhelmed or triggered. Once again you want to make thoughtfully worded statements, since words are powerful activators of inner emo-physiological states, such as: “Even though I don’t like feeling this emotion, I can and have handled this before,” which say to your mind and body (subconscious mind) that, while feeling these painful emotions, you also have an intention to remain at least relatively calm, and have some level of confidence, in terms of having the ability of doing so.”
3. Acknowledge fear-based emotion with statements that affirm your acceptance.
The third step also involves making thoughtfully worded statements, in this case, statements of love and acceptance for yourself, such as “Even though I’m afraid that …., I love, value and accept myself as I am.” These statements literally allow your mind and body to stay connected (instead of splitting off in different directions, which is what happens when your body’s survival system gets activated).
Whenever we get triggered by an event around us, it means something is causing us emotional pain. Since we do not like (or hate!) pain, we automatically turn against this pain. Hurt people hurt people, automatically, unless they stay connected to their core. It’s all about hating to feel any pain, and expressing this with a knee jerk reaction, i..e, kicking the bed after we’ve stubbed our toe. Whether we outwardly automatically blame or attack another or not, deep down inside, if our body has activated our survival response, we hate that we are feeling any pain, and that we feel “inadequate” about stopping the pain! This explains why “blaming” others or turning to substances to “numb” the pain are such common reactions to pain. We do not know healthy ways of feeling our pain, we turn to ineffective and at best temporary ways of not feeling the pain (that cause suffering instead). common is some level of self-hatred involved.
Statements of acceptance are designed to allow your body and mind to stay connected, and surprisingly, based on what clients report, also lower the intensity of painful feelings in the moment. Perhaps more importantly, affirming your acceptance and love for yourself whenever something or action out there upsets you, allows you to break the dependency on having to have something happen around you, i.e., someone to show their love or approval, etc., as a prerequisite to feeling your own love and acceptance for yourself and life.
In other words, what you’re doing here, with steps 1, 2 and 3 together, is taking the reins of painful emotions to feel them without having to protect yourself by unnecessarily activating your body’s survival system.
4. Ask yourself questions to more deeply understand the purpose or positive intention of the fear.
Fear often alerts us to take time to deepen our understanding of a topic, to learn something we need to learn, perhaps, to better prepare to achieve one of our goals, and so on. For example, fear before an exam or a presentation alerts you to prepare in advance so you may achieve the desired success, and, similarly, some level of fear during the exam or your presentation helps your brain to remain alert for optimal functioning.
There is a difference for example between failed attempts and the possibility of failure—and the fear of failure. Potentially, depending on our response, mistakes and failed attempts can be powerful growth opportunities. They can teach us a lot about ourselves, especially in terms of what we want and do not want in life, what works and does not work to achieve it. This is valuable information can be useful to inform our decisions in the future.
The following questions can help us zero in to see the value of a fear-based emotion: “What is this emotion of fear or stress saying about what is important to me?” or “What purpose or positive intention does this fear serve?” or “Is this fear inviting me to move out of an old comfort zone? If so, how?”
5. Notice what you are telling yourself that triggers or intensifies a fear response.
The purpose here is to understand how your thoughts activate your emotions, to become aware of your ability to regulate your physio-emotional states of mind and body, i.e., by shifting away from a fear-based scarcity thoughts to thoughts that keep you in an optimal state of mind and body. The fear of failure is an emotional state that is familiar to our human experience of life. No one, even those we most admire, our heroes and champion, have been spared to knowing only success. No one is immune to the experience of an occasional failure. In fact knowing how to optimally respond to failure and accompanying thoughts is key. In truth, the only “true” failure is to believe limiting thoughts and illusions that stop you from taking action in the direction of your highest growth. For example, check whether you’re thinking one or more of the following limiting thoughts/beliefs about yourself, such as that;
- You must gain approval and please others in order to feel worthwhile.
- You have no choice in a troubling situation except to keep doing what you have been doing.
- You must never express feelings or make requests that “burden” or upset others in order to keep their love.
- You must eliminate, dismiss, deny your painful feelings to prove you are strong, effective, worthwhile.
Then also, check whether you’re thinking one or more of the following limiting thoughts/beliefs about others, such as that;
- Human beings that express painful emotions, such as fears of inadequacy or rejection etc., are weak, inferior or defective, thus unworthy of others’ love and care until they learn to get passed them.
- Others have the power to judge you, and you must keep looking for a way, i.e., logic or force or punishment, etc., to change their their mind, thoughts or actions toward you.
- Other persons are potential enemies that do not care about you or want you to fail, etc.
Irrational fears are illusions, always based on lies, and limiting beliefs we hold and tell ourselves in our mind, self-talk.
6. Explore past and what actions you’ve learned from experience do not work.
As we coach ourselves to breakthrough our fears, it helps to keep a journal, written if possible, of what we’ve learned along the way does not work. anyway.
- When you allow yourself to sit or stand in a slumped posture, and take that posture into the world of your relationships, you are giving away your power.
- When you believe others are your enemies, do not care, want you to fail, live to judge and evaluate you, you are misusing the creative power of imagination.
- When you speak words to others that raise other’s doubts about themselves, their future, their abilities, their capacity, their wisdom, their right to make mistakes and learn from them, you are repeating patterns you learned from your parents (and deep down you know are futile ways to express our pain that keep you and others stuck!).
- When you have a worrisome look imprinted on your face, and carry that with you to your interactions with loved ones, you are allowing yourself to bring negative energy into your interactions with others.
- When you try to do not express your feelings or thoughts—out of fear of rejection and disapproval, you are pretending you are someone less than the magnificent being you are.
In truth, feeling our fears and understanding them as action signals is part of becoming our authentic selves. The more we accept human weaknesses, the more we connect to our amazing strengths, as human beings, for compassion, creativity, imagination for infinite possibilities.
Speaking of questions … ask yourself:
“What would your life be like if failure were not possible, if you had all you desired?” “What would it be like without the fear?” “How would you live?” “What would you give?” “…If you just believe?
7. Explore what action to take and what motivates you to take action, based on better knowing and understanding your self in relation to this fear.
For one, it helps to know and understand that the possibility of failure is healthy and necessary. Without it, we would get overconfident and not study for an exam. Without it, we would not care to responsibly exercise our power to bring about our success. Without it, we would take those we love for granted. And, yes, many do. Thus, low levels of stress regarding our success or failure in key areas of life are necessary and even critical to our health and the realization of our potential. It is through occasional failures that we grow, learn and understand better how life works.
High levels of fear of failure, however, can paralyze, de-energize or limit the natural processes of the brain. The only real failure is not trying, not making attempts, avoiding any possibility of failure out of fear. Fear of fear is the most debilitating, and can turn the mind into a prison. Though it may seem we alone face it, when we share with others, we find that fear of failure is common. In fact, so is failure. The courageous owning of your fears allows you to understand it, and this releases you to take action.
Ask yourself, “What actions have you taken in the past to turn this fear into an asset?” “What actions have worked in the past to handle this fear successfully?” “What alternative actions are you willing to take now to handle the fear?” ”What action, big or small, can you regularly take to strengthen your confidence and grow your courage in handling this fear?” and “What do you belief about failure that may be preventing your from taking action?”
In sum, if we look at life as a learning journey, we can tune into our fears as signals that teach us to: protect ourselves by staying away from what is harmful, physically, mentally, spiritually; grow and develop courage by moving us out of our comfort zones; and make small and big changes in our lifestyles to restore stability and meaning in our lives and relationships.
In following these steps, we support ourselves to stay on the high road, reach our highest good and peak performance, and live the happiest lives we can with ourselves and others. We are at our happiest when we are our authentic selves, and that means infinitely capable and fully equipped inside to live meaningful and creating wondrous lives together and as individuals.