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?

Comfort Moves are Better Than Comfort Food

Movement for Mood enhancement

 

The Problem With Comfort Food

Comfort food. It is usually full of fat and salt and makes us feel loved. Maybe your comfort food is what your mom made when you were sick, or when you had a good report card, or scored your first goal of the season. We turn to comfort food when we feel blue.

But eating to make ourselves feel better often leads to not-so-good feelings if we eat too much or blow our diets. What if we could get the good feelings without the guilt?

I have found something that works for me, something I call comfort moves. Movement I can do that makes me feel good in the way that comfort food does.

We all Have Movement Habits

I went for a run this week.  I am a warm weather runner, and it was my first run since the first snowfall of winter. I was being optimistic when I decided it was warm enough for me to go, but this long, cold winter had been getting to me and I needed to get out.

I wasn’t sure how it would go. Until this time last year, I had never run without pain, but I turned that around with commitment and the Couch to 5K podcasts from the UK’s National Health Service. By the end of the summer, I had come to look forward to running for 30 minutes three times a week.

Because I had not run in months, I didn’t push myself. I wanted to keep running for 30 minutes without worrying about how fast I was moving. And I did, without much difficulty. I even found myself spontaneously breaking into a sprint for the final portion of the run as had been my habit last year.

At the end of the run, my legs were complaining, but my heart was light.

Because I had been disciplined last year, my body had formed a habit and slipped into the run with ease. By the end of the run, I felt great. Running has become a comfort move for me.

What Moves Bring You Comfort? Or Joy?

Yesterday, as my legs were recovering from the run, I danced in my kitchen. I love dancing while I do the dishes, especially ballet. Yes, I do développés while drying. It takes longer than standing at the sink and washing pots, but the joy is worth the extra time.

I can dance to anything, and in many styles, but there is one combination of music and movement that invariably brings me more joy than any other.

As a child, I was a serious ballet dancer. This was challenging for a girl whose body was converting all available calories to height. Even when I started at 8, it was clear I was going to be tall. And, in those days, there was no future for a 6-foot tall woman with classical ballet training. But I loved it. Even when I added jazz, modern and musical theatre to my dance repertoire, ballet felt better in my body than any other form.

However, when I dance to classical music, my body remembers the disappointment of learning I could no longer pursue ballet in the good classes because the schools only accepted students who were the right height to be members of a professional corps de ballet. So, I don’t dance to classical music.

My favourite music to accompany kitchen ballet is Keane’s album, Strangeland, a comfortable album on the edge of indie pop and alternative rock.

When I pirouette to the strains of Sovereign Light Café, I invariably discover that I am happier.

And unlike indulging in comfort food, there are no nasty side effects.

We all have movements that bring us pleasure, but we must identify them for ourselves. Like the food from our childhood that brings us a sense of being unconditionally loved, they are unique to us. What brings me joy is not the same as what brings you joy.

What movement brings you joy?

Identify it, claim it, and move.

Pay Attention to What’s Working

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.

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Notice the Good Stuff and Choose More of It

Notice the Good Stuff. It sound so simple, but for many of us it requires a huge shift of focus. Notice the good stuff. Not the peeling wallpaper, the nasty thing someone said in passing, the cleaning that didn’t happen, the new wrinkle around your eyes. Not those.

Pay attention to the beauty of a dew drop on a leaf, the smile from a stranger, getting up from the sofa without the twinge in your back you have come to expect. Pay attention to the part of your writing that works, the warmth of a cosy sweater, the email from your spouse asking if they can pick you up something as they stop at the store after work, the relaxation that follows a deep exhalation.

In almost any moment, you can find something to smile about and something to frown about. Choosing to focus on the smile doesn’t make the frown go away, but it does make the frown easier to take.

Creatives are creative because we notice lack, lack of beauty, lack of meaning, lack of clarity, lack of external things that expresses our lived reality. Our creativity springs from an impulse to improve – even when we create playfully, we are making something from nothing, which means some part of us noticed the nothing.

That part of us will always be there: the critic, the worrywart, the internal editor.

But, we can choose to see also the beauty, the love, the joy, the peace. Even if it is only for a moment.

We need those moments.

Noticing the good stuff gives us the ground from which we can create more good stuff – more stuff to fill the void we cannot help but see.

What is the good stuff you see around you right now?

Me, I hear children at the nearby school laughing as they play at recess and the soft purr of the warm cat curled up next to me. I hear my breath as I exhale through my nose – still somewhat stuffy, but clearer than this morning when I had to breathe through my mouth due to the congestion caused by my fall cold.

It is a rough day in a rough week for me. I have too much to do and I am sick and saddened by bad news in my family. But, even in my illness and my emotional pain, when I look, I can see the good stuff too.

How about you? Can you notice any good things about this moment?

Rise of the Guardians and the Power of Being Seen

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I took the kids to see Rise of the Guardians this week. One of our local theatres has been having cheap matinees for the kids during March break, so I took them. We don’t usually spend the money to see movies in the theatre, and it isn’t on Netflix yet, so it was the first viewing for all of us.

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, it is about Jack Frost teaming up with Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman, and the Tooth Fairy to battle the Boogey Man. The battle is fought through children: to exist powerfully, these figures must convince children to believe in them.

The heart of the story is Jack Frost’s desire to be seen. The children of the world don’t believe in him and can’t see him.

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How many of us just want to be seen? As ourselves, in all our glory, without judgment?

One of the greatest gifts InterPlay has to offer is the witness.

Telling a story or dancing with a witness in InterPlay is a profound experience for many people.

Using one of the forms, a player speaks or moves in their own space. Although they are allowed to treat the witness as an audience, this is a choice. It is completely acceptable not to acknowledge the witness during the form.

The witness observes.

The witness observes not only the speaker, but also their own experience. After the piece is complete, there is a moment for both parties to have their experience without speaking about it. When the witness does respond to the piece aloud, he focuses on the good and on his own experience.

Focusing on the good stuff creates a supportive and safe environment. By remaining grounded in his own experience, the witness creates space for the piece and the player to remain separate. The witness is not speaking about the player, so he cannot judge the player and the player’s whole experience is allowed to exist completely without conditions. Ironically, by focusing on his own experience, the witness gives the player an experience of having been seen.

I don’t understand exactly how it works. I only know it does.

And being seen an accepted as a whole, in all your glory, messy and marvelous, is a gift that most human beings need more of.

Not having to hide is rare and beautiful.

But more, there is a lasting magic. After being seen fully many times in InterPlay classes, people find themselves showing up more fully in the rest of their lives, and that is a path to joy.

For those who are local to me and interested, in addition to my regular monthly InterPlay class, I have an InterPlay for writers workshop starting at the end of the month: Words in Motion.

Improvisational Self-Expression: The Gift that is InterPlay

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Today, I have a special post to share with you from my friend Julianne Rice. Julianne took the InterPlay Leadership training program with me and now leads InterPlay classes in Aptos and Santa Cruz, California. Julianne is a yogi, dancer, InterPlay Teacher, and the developer of “Yoga ‘n Play”, a method of exercise and bonding for moms and their new babies that blends the heart, philosophy and practice of Yoga and InterPlay. In this article, she explains what InterPlay is and what a class is like.

What is InterPlay?

InterPlay is a method of improvisational self expression founded and developed by Cynthia Winton-Henry and Phil Porter. It is a system based on integrating body and spirit which includes expression through movement, spoken word, voice, and stillness. Its heart is sustained by the wisdom of the body and offers each participant the opportunity to move, play, and explore – often providing access to renewed energy, grace, joy, insight, and wholeness.

History

InterPlay is the brainchild of Cynthia Winton-Henry and Phil Porter, two modern dancers with an affinity for matters of the spirit. In 1988, after having been members of the dance company Body and Soul, they decided to collaborate and explore the intersections of movement and spirit beyond the boundaries of religion. Through improvisation, acting in the moment, they were accessing a lot of information that was in their bodies. They loved doing it with others. They believed that a practice based on these values and focused on experience rather than performance could change lives. Thus the seed of InterPlay was born.

Their choreographic training suggested that structure was also needed. Phil says, “If you want to play and create with others, it helps if the elements you are playing with are limited”. They developed what they call ‘forms’, which became the building blocks of InterPlay. Today InterPlay is practiced worldwide. It is in some 120 cities in the United States, Canada, Australia, Britain, Thailand, and India. InterPlayce in Oakland, California is the studio and office headquarters for InterPlay today.

Description

All types of movement and spoken word have the chance of occurring throughout an InterPlay class. Since every class is improvisational in nature, each person accesses the movement or spoken word vocabulary that is present for them at that moment. Simple structure directives (called ‘forms’ in InterPlay) are given by the facilitator, while the participants use them to help access their own impulse to create. Moving, dancing, vocalizing, sounding, singing, and storytelling are inherent in this system.

Classes

A typical class will include a time for centering, check in, warm ups of body/spoken word/voice, group movement, and spoken word ‘forms’, some trios, duets and solos, and a closing circle. Important to the heart of the group is a time when those who are creating are being witnessed by others. Not as “performers/audience”. It is more like “creators/non-judgmental witnesses” – creators accessing their own wisdom by being present to themselves with witnesses observing affirmatively and staying present to how they are being affected personally by what they are experiencing. This creates the atmosphere of non-judgment and safety which is so important when attempting to improvise freely and deeply. Often there is a time of soulful sharing from both the creators and the witnesses about their experience. Sessions can include times that are hysterically funny and playful as well as moments that are sneakily deep.

All levels are welcome and can fit in and feel comfortable very quickly. As classes have an overarching feeling of acceptance and non-judgment, they welcome the real beginner as well as the professional to access their “in the moment” wisdom and full self-expression. One can’t do InterPlay “wrong”!

No experience is needed. All are welcome. Although classes grow and progress organically over time, each session is not a “direct” continuation of a previous class. Each class is unique while using a similar method and class structure each week. Wear comfortable (layered) clothes, soft shoes/socks or barefeet.

Testimonials

I get to explore being present to myself and express that (in a variety of ways) within the interconnected energy of a larger group that is also committed to developing that same awareness in themselves”.

There’s a feeling of cohesion, of something being cooperatively created”.

More info about InterPla

Please view InterPlay’s main website at www.interplay.org for descriptions, photos and videos.

For information about InterPlay classes led by Julianne, please visit her website.

For information about InterPlay classes led by me, please check out the schedule at www.improvliving.com.

Email Subscription is Now Fixed! Sign Up and Get a Playful Thank You!

It has been brought to my attention that the email subscription feature on the left side of this page was broken. I have now fixed it.

Please enter your email to subscribe.

You will be sent an email asking if you really want to subscribe.

Click on the “subscribe to this list” button and not only will you get every new post delivered to your email inbox, but you will also be taken to a page where you can download an audio recording of me leading an InterPlay warm-up.

Follow along with the guidance in the warm-up and enjoy a 15-minute self-care break and an opportunity to connect with the wisdom of your own body.

So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and subscribe now.

InterPlay is Coming to Oshawa

Want less stress in your life and more ease?

Want to excavate your buried creativity?

All while having fun in an affirming community?

 Try InterPlay!

Starting in January, I am offering two InterPlay classes a month. These are drop-in classes. No need to preregister. Newcomers and experienced players welcome.

InterPlay is a practice and philosophy rooted in the power of play. It’s an easy to learn, creative process that uses movement, storytelling, and voice —but does it in ways that don’t require particular skill or even nerve. The forms of InterPlay help create a life of greater ease, connection, and health. InterPlay celebrates and creates connection and community. Through this simple form of play, we learn more about ourselves and each other. It is incremental, affirming, and anyone can do it!

The Details

TGIF InterPlay: 2nd Fridays 7:15pm – 9:00pm

Friday Morning InterPlay: 4th Fridays 10:15am – 12:00pm

Location: Both Playgroups will meet at Durham Improv’s Oshawa location: 1115 Wentworth Street West, Oshawa. The space is on the 2nd Floor (above “Medigas”) and is unfortunately not wheelchair accessible

Cost: $15 per class or $50 for a 4 class pass (save $10)

For more information, contact Kate Arms-Roberts at 647-408-6133 or info@improvliving.com

Holding it Together When Things Get Busy, Part II

 This is Part II in a series of tools for dealing with the busy times in life. Read the first post in the series here.

Move Unnecessary Stuff Out of Your Body

We all get information constantly.

Unless we have a way of releasing it, we carry it around in our physical bodies. We truly carry the world on our shoulders if we aren’t careful. A physical practice for getting rid of the stuff you don’t need to carry is very useful. Teachers of young children who have embraced the song “Shake My Sillies” out as a tool for getting kids to focus in class know this. Getting the breath moving with a deep inhale followed by a sigh and shaking muscle tension out is a very simple form of Exformation. Repetitive physical activities that you can do without mental wrangling can all be exformational: washing dishes, house-cleaning, knitting, exercising, walking, running. It is a physical form of meditation – letting what you don’t need pass through you.

When we have lots of projects going on, knowing what we need can be challenging, so we tend to hold on to everything and then we burn out, suffering information overload. Using a physical practice to release, we can trust that our bodies know at some subconscious level what we can release.

One of my favourite release techniques is one I learned in acting classes. Hold your upper arms parallel to the floor. Raise your hands and clasp your hands in front of you. Take a deep breath. As you exhale, let out a big, open vowel sound while shaking your arms. The goal is to relax your jaw enough that your lower jaw shakes with your arms. It is hard. Most of us carry huge amounts of tension in our jaws. It is impossible to do this exercise without looking and sounding ridiculous, and if you do it right, your whole body vibrates and all your muscles relax.

Do you have an active practice that helps you release tension or let go of unnecessary concerns?

Holding it Together When Things Get Busy, Part I

When Things Get Busy

Have you ever found that all the projects you have on the back burner came to a boil at the same time?

It is exciting when projects move from potential to production. But, the transition can require some adjustments. When more than one project makes the switch, your routines may need more than a little tweaking. Changing habits is hard, and especially so with the pressure of imminent deadlines. How do you do manage the transition without tearing your hair out?

Everything in my life has been in overdrive in November except this blog. I have been working behind the scenes to set up several projects.

Coming in 2013, in addition to my writing and theatrical activities, I will be:

  • Training as a writing circle facilitator and setting up a new circle
  • Teaching InterPlay workshops at a new facility
  • Setting up a new business as a creativity coach

All of this started coming together at once. And although it has been an adrenaline-filled rush, it has had me drawing on all of my tools for managing a multivalent life.

If you have been reading this blog for long, you know that my favourite life-management tools come from InterPlay, improv, and theatre.

Coming up over the next few posts, I will share some of the tools I have been relying on heavily over the last month. But first, a quick look at getting started.

Show Up and Start Anywhere

It doesn’t really matter where you start, but you must start. When there are too many things that need doing, just pick something and do it. Activity builds activity. And it doesn’t matter if you could have made a better choice. Getting started will often reveal what needs to be done better than any list-making preparation.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, pick one small task you know will move a project in the right direction. Now go and do it.

Notice the Good Stuff

I have a new post on working with Emotional Intensity over at An Intense Life. Although I never say so in the post, it draws heavily on an InterPlay technique. Like all InterPlay techniques, it seems simple but has profound effects.

Notice the Good Stuff and Choose More of It

Notice the Good Stuff. It sound so simple, but for many of us it requires a huge shift of focus. Notice the good stuff. Not the peeling wallpaper, the nasty thing someone said in passing, the cleaning that didn’t happen, the new wrinkle around your eyes. Not those.

Pay attention to the beauty of a dew drop on a leaf, the smile from a stranger, getting up from the sofa without the twinge in your back you have come to expect. Pay attention to the part of your writing that works, the warmth of a cosy sweater, the email from your spouse asking if they can pick you up something as they stop at the store after work, the relaxation that follows a deep exhalation.

In almost any moment, you can find something to smile about and something to frown about. Choosing to focus on the smile doesn’t make the frown go away, but it does make the frown easier to take.

Creatives are creative because we notice lack, lack of beauty, lack of meaning, lack of clarity, lack of external things that expresses our lived reality. Our creativity springs from an impulse to improve – even when we create playfully, we are making something from nothing, which means some part of us noticed the nothing.

That part of us will always be there: the critic, the worrywart, the internal editor.

But, we can choose to see also the beauty, the love, the joy, the peace. Even if it is only for a moment.

We need those moments.

Noticing the good stuff gives us the ground from which we can create more good stuff – more stuff to fill the void we cannot help but see.

What is the good stuff you see around you right now?

Me, I hear children at the nearby school laughing as they play at recess and the soft purr of the warm cat curled up next to me. I hear my breath as I exhale through my nose – still somewhat stuffy, but clearer than this morning when I had to breathe through my mouth due to the congestion caused by my fall cold.

It is a rough day in a rough week for me. I have too much to do and I am sick and saddened by bad news in my family. But, even in my illness and my emotional pain, when I look, I can see the good stuff too.

How about you? Can you notice any good things about this moment?