GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski
When was the last time you did something that scared you? And a more important follow-on question: How did you push through your fear and turn it into action?
Fear is real. Our bodies make it, but it’s real. And the feelings we create around fear are real, and so are the inhibitions we wrap around those feelings. But because we have the authority to make the fear, create the feelings, and wrap the inhibitions, we also have the authority to unmake, un-create, and unwrap.
Fear can feel strong. Whether it’s tightness in the gut, coldness in the chest, or lushness in the face, the physical manifestations in the body are recognizable and powerful. The sensations around fear are strong enough to stop us in our tracks. And in the wild of a bygone time, that was fear’s job – to stop us from making a mistake that would kill us. And though we no longer venture into the wild, fear responds to family dynamics, social situations, interactions at work, as if we still live in the wild.
To dampen the impact of our bodies’ fear response, the first step is to learn to recognize the physical sensations of fear for what they are – sensations we make when new situations arise. To do that, feel the sensations, acknowledge your body made them, and look for the novelty, or divergence from our expectations, that the sensations stand for. In that way, you can move from paralysis to analysis. You can move from fear as a blocker to fear as a leading indicator of personal growth.
Fear is powerful, and it knows how to create bodily sensations that scare us. But, that’s the chink in the armor that fear doesn’t want us to know. Fear is afraid to be called by name, so it generates these scary sensations so it can go on controlling our lives as it sees fit. So, next time you feel the sensations of fear in your body, welcome fear warmly and call it by name. Say something like, “Hello Fear. Thank you for visiting with me. I’d like to get to know you better. Can you stay for a coffee?”
You might find that Fear will engage in a discussion with you and apologize for causing you trouble. Fear may confess that it doesn’t like how it treats you and acknowledge that it doesn’t know how to change its ways. Or, it may become afraid and squirt more fear sensations into your body. If that happens, tell Fear that you understand it’s just doing what it evolved to do, and repeat your offer to sit with it and learn more about its ways.
The objective of calling Fear by name is to give you a process to feel and validate the sensations and then calm yourself by looking deeply at the novelty of the situation. By looking squarely into Fear’s eyes, it will slowly evaporate to reveal the nugget of novelty it was cloaking. And with the novelty in your sights, you can look deeply at this new situation (or context or interpersonal dynamic) and understand it for what it is. Without Fear’s distracting sensations, you will be pleasantly surprised with your ability to see the situation for what it is and take skillful action.
So, when Fear comes, feel the sensations. Don’t push them away. Instead, call Fear by name. Invite Fear to tell its story, and get to know it. You may find that accepting Fear for what it is can help you grow your relationship with Fear into a partnership where you help each other grow.
Image credit: Pixabay
Sign up here to join 17,000+ leaders getting Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to their inbox every week.