How to Deal With Fear

fear
The Nature of Fear

I have a bad habit of letting fear paralyze me. The reasons for this are deeply rooted in my subjective experience during childhood and many of them have very little to do with either objective reality or the present. And, digging into the past to uncover the whys and wherefores of this habit is truly less important that figuring out how to change the habit.

I have many of the same basic fears as every other human – of dying, being abandoned, not being loved, losing loved ones, not having enough food, safety, shelter, etc.

My fears that are more personal to me come from the intersection of the more general fears and my personal experience.

So, having been praised for good grades and stellar academic work as I child, I connected a sense of love from my family with perfect performance at school. Eventually, this warped into a perceived need to be perfect in my achievements in order to be loved. From my current perspective, I know that this is not true. I have seen my family embrace imperfect people with deep love, but the conclusions I came to as a child about how the world works still hold sway in my subconscious processing.

Over the decades, I have shied away from many opportunities because I feared I would not be seen as competent at first. I have a perennial discomfort with things I do not know or understand. As a result, I have not stretched far enough out of my own comfort zone to grow into the person I always hoped I would be.

But, I keep growing. As I get older, I see the value in stretching beyond my comfort zone, and through practice, the experience of stretching is slowly becoming part of my comfort zone. And, as a result, I am developing courage and grit in new and beneficial ways.

Dealing with Fear

1. Notice how fear shows up in your life

For me, fear often shows up as procrastination. If there is something I think I want to do but don’t do, there is often a fear behind it.

Fear shows up as emotional numbness. If I stop enjoying things that usually bring me pleasure, I maybe blocking uncomfortable feelings. For me, fear and anger are the two most likely culprits.

2. Take action

Identify the fear.

If it is a rational fear, take what steps you can to mitigate the risks involved.

Do something that is part of the task triggering the fear. A small step is often enough to get over the emotional speedbump that is stopping you.

3. Rinse and repeat

Over time, the power that fear has over you will diminish.

How do I know? Because years of practice as an actor have taught me how to move forward in performance and public speaking despite fear. I know that these simple to explain, but not always so easy to do, steps applied in any one fear-making direction will eventually change my comfort zone.

And, I know from my own experience that my art, my work, and my personal life all benefit from this approach to not letting fear stand in my way.

I am always interesting in learning how to move past fear. What do you use to move forward when courage is required?

Fear is the Mind Killer

Blasts from the Past: While I am busy finishing the current revision of The Red Oak, I am running a few of the most popular posts from this blog that were published at the old WordPress.com site. Enjoy.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

~ The Bene Gesserit litany against fear from Dune by Frank Herbert

Fear: the great saboteur.

1-3-2012-09-07 17.58.03

Personally, I fear failure and the changes that usually accompany worldly success more than I fear death and public speaking. Mice don’t bother me, but heights and crawly things with more legs than spiders do.

You have your own fears. You know what they are.

I love the quote from Dune about dealing with fear. The first line, “I must not fear,” is non-sensical at face value. Fears arise of their own accord. However, I interpret it to mean that I must not be paralyzed by fear.

The rest is a great process for dealing with any problematic emotion: feel the emotion, let it pass through you and let it go. Hiding from emotion and getting caught up in emotion are both ways to get stuck.

For me, reciting “fear is the mind killer” in the face of fear lets me experience the fear without being trapped by it.

I ran into fear this evening. Our new house has a pool. After a rather long process of getting it open that involved failing to figure out how to get the pump working and growing an excellent algae culture and learning how to kill said algae culture, it was ready for swimming in. And I was first.

As I stood at the edge of the pool preparing to dive in, I found myself afraid. I took a deep breath and dove in. It was beautiful. As I swam, enjoying myself tremendously, I noticed that I had not put my face into the water since diving in. I played gently with getting my face wet, but my resistance was great. My long-standing fear of putting my face underwater has not faded.

I didn’t always have this fear. I remember the swim instructor whose instruction triggered the fear. I used to call her sadist, but I realize now she was merely not able to understand my problem. I used to be a fish – in the water, underwater, handstands at the bottom of the pool, diving, water polo – one with the water. And I still love swimming. As long as my face is above the surface

But I want to get past my issues with putting my face in the water.

I expect I’ll be reminding myself that fear is the mind-killer a lot this summer.

And that ‘s okay.

Fear isn’t stronger than I am. And it isn’t stronger than you are.

Is fear an issue in your life? Is so, how are you managing it?

Fear is The Mind Killer

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

~ The Bene Gesserit litany against fear from Dune by Frank Herbert

Fear: the great saboteur.

Personally, I fear failure and the changes that usually accompany worldly success more than I fear death and public speaking. Mice don’t bother me, but heights and crawly things with more legs than spiders do.

You have your own fears. You know what they are.

Fear can be like a black hole. We can get sucked in never to emerge if we aren’t aware.

I love the quote from Dune about dealing with fear. The first line, “I must not fear,” is non-sensical at face value. Fears arise of their own accord. However, I interpret it to mean that I must not be paralyzed by fear.

The rest is a great process for dealing with any problematic emotion: feel the emotion, let it pass through you and let it go. Hiding from emotion and getting caught up in emotion are both ways to get stuck.

For me, reciting “fear is the mind killer” in the face of fear lets me experience the fear without being trapped by it.

I ran into fear this evening. Our new house has a pool. After a rather long process of getting it open that involved failing to figure out how to get the pump working and growing an excellent algae culture and learning how to kill said algae culture, it was ready for swimming in. And I was first.

As I stood at the edge of the pool preparing to dive in, I found myself afraid. I took a deep breath and dove in. It was beautiful. As I swam, enjoying myself tremendously, I noticed that I had not put my face into the water since diving in. I played gently with getting my face wet, but my resistance was great. My long-standing fear of putting my face underwater has not faded.

I didn’t always have this fear. I remember the swim instructor whose instruction triggered the fear. I used to call her sadist, but I realize now she was merely not able to understand my problem. I used to be a fish – in the water, underwater, handstands at the bottom of the pool, diving, water polo – one with the water. And I still love swimming. As long as my face is above the surface

But I want to get past my issues with putting my face in the water.

I expect I’ll be reminding myself that fear is the mind-killer a lot this summer.

And that ‘s okay.

Fear isn’t stronger than I am. And it isn’t stronger than you are.

Is fear an issue in your life? Is so, how are you managing it?

The Things We Are Afraid to Write About

The last of a series on truth-telling in life and art. See the first post, Dare to Be Yourself, here.

Did you notice how my writing got analytical and vague last week?

For the past year, I have been easing my way toward dealing with the most defining moment of my life – the nadir from which the rest of my life has been an ascension. I thought I was ready, but I was wrong. I pushed and my chief defense mechanism, my intellect, jumped into the fray.

I believe that as I learn to retell my story with myself as the protagonist, as I turn my knowledge of storytelling on myself and claim the moment I chose to walk out of darkness towards my own power, I am changing my life. But, I also believe that this is a deep-body process, not one I can think my way through. As soon as I jump to analyzing emotional events intellectually, I know that I am reacting from fear and it is time for me to turn back to play.

I came up against my hard edges last week and hit a wall. I’m closer to my deepest material than I have ever been, but I need to be gentler with myself. Time for me to go back to some sneaky deep play.

Which is why I decided that I will leave my improvised poems about play up at A More Playful Life. Leaving them up is scary, but it is a fear I am willing to face. And, by approaching the poetry InterPlayfully, I connect to a deeply supportive community.

I hope you’ll drop by and check them out.