MAKING FEAR YOUR FRIEND

Nov
16

MAKING FEAR YOUR FRIEND

Fear is a tough subject. We all deal with it and we all have varying degrees of success managing it.  I’ve been asked to do a workshop on it and will structure it around what I write here. 

There are two faces of fear, both important and both potentially paralyzing. This is about understanding your source of fear so you can take appropriate action – do you need to run or do you need to rise up and deal with it? This is about making fear your friend, so you’ll know which action is appropriate. 

The two faces of fear have a wonderful acronym: 

Forget Everything And Run – Or – Face Everything And Rise

(author anonymous)

Let’s look at these different perspectives more closely. 

WHEN YOU NEED TO RISE UP

Fear is our most common emotion, especially when we’re  faced with something new or unknown. It’s the feeling that can stop you in your tracks, turn you into a perpetual procrastinator or if it’s really got a grip on you, keep you from following through, even stopping you from actualizing your dreams.

You know the feeling – waves of anxiety grip your stomach and chest, you’re awake at night with worry and rumination and you wish you didn’t have to face whatever it is. The speech, presentation, hard conversation, or difficult reality, you wish and pray to be over or look for a good excuse to not to face it. It’s all tough. Here are some coping strategies.

How To Reframe The ExperienceGive yourself some love. If the feelings are that strong, you know it’s important. That’s your first clue that you need to take it seriously and prepare for the experience. Think through how you want it to go. Visualize yourself handling it. Write it out, prepare and rehearse. Give yourself the time you need to feel prepared and get help if you need it.

How To Manage The Feelings – First, normalize the feelings with internal dialog like – “Of course I’m nervous and afraid – who wouldn’t be.” Then reassure yourself that you will do what is needed to master the situation. Notice that the way you feel on the inside isn’t necessarily seen on the outside (look in the mirror). You actually can hold yourself together. Notice that the feelings are manageable. Do things to ground yourself like – stay in the moment, connect with nature and do breathing exercises. All this will help you know that you are managing your fearful feelings.

The Importance Of Rising Up To Face It – Once you have changed your internal dialog and practiced managing your feelings, you are giving yourself the tools to rise up and face the fear. The rest is maintaining the motivation to continue with these practices until you resolve the situation. Once you have mastered a fearful situation, you have proven to yourself that you can do it. It becomes your template for the next time something fearful comes along. You are stronger than you think.

WHEN YOU NEED TO RUN

Fear is a limbic system reaction that starts in the brain and is felt in the body, telling you that there is clear and present danger. The amygdala, in the temporal lobe of the brain, is the key player, triggering our fight, flight or freeze response to threat. It’s the signal that alerts us to defend and protect, an essential survival skill.

When you have that sudden chill of fear go up your spin that stops you cold, makes you want to run, scream, fight, or shut down, your limbic system is on alert. The downside is that if you are in constant stress and danger, this part of our brain response can be left wide open on high alert to the point that lots of things can trigger a threat response. Or conversely, you become numb to the danger and no longer react to protect yourself. Here are ways to discern what is really happening.

How To Interpret the Feelings – It’sessential to always take these warning signs seriously and err on the side of caution. Some people who have been traumatized seem to gravitate to familiar situations that carry potential harm. Its familiarity doesn’t make it less dangerous. Examine why you are having this reaction, so you understand it. The more you know yourself, the more you will know how to interpret the feelings. Is it a person, place or thing that is causing this reaction and why?

Discern If It’s Past or Present – It’s helpful to know if you are being triggered by something that is occurring that reminds you of a past trauma or if this is a new situation. A quick review of the circumstances, the people involved and how you are feeling can help you understand why you feel this way. If a past fearful memory is being triggered, you can decide if you want to face it or avoid the situation. If it’s something new in the present, then you know you need to be cautious.

The Importance of Heeding The Warning – Take your fear seriously. Whether the fear is coming from something similar to a past traumatic event or something new you’ve never encountered, you are getting important and valuable information. From the perspective of healing from past trauma, you can decide if you want to be in a situation that is triggering or avoid it. If it’s something new, you may need to run or withdraw yourself. Setting boundaries is the next step. Practice saying no and remove yourself from things that create a strong fear reaction. Ask yourself if you need to learn to handle fear in this situation. And if your fear is based on past events, please get trauma-based therapy to help you understand and heal your feelings.

Making friends with fear is important to help you understand it’s two faces – do you need to rise up to manage it or run because it represents danger ? If you know you need to face it, reframe the experience, normalize your reactions and rise up to meet the challenge. If it’s something you need to run from,  interpret your reactions, understand where it’s coming from and heed the warning. All these things  are skill sets you can develop.

Is fear something you want to learn to manage? Reach out, my Transformational Coaching and Therapy will guide you. I am also an EMDR trained and experienced trauma therapist. Go to www.spectrumtransformation.com and use my Free Consultation link to reach me. I’m here to help.   

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