Feeling the fear and finding your edge

Fear has surfaced a lot in recent coaching sessions with wonderful clients.   In particular, as we start to explore what they really want in life.  Just as these things are put into words, and the dream starts to take shape there is an almost visceral reaction. The body says it all – there’s a lurching feeling in the pit of the stomach, a tightness in the chest or a clenched jaw: all indicators that something important is going on.  So how can we harness fear and make it work for us – making sure we’re not afraid of being afraid?

The first thing to recognise is that fear is a natural human emotion.  We are meant to feel fear at times.  It’s our body’s clever defense mechanism, triggering the release of cortisol and our fight or flight reaction.  When we pay attention to our body we are able to notice the fear we are feeling and act on it, and we engage our vital sense of agency.  In serious risk situations this is the difference between life and death – we sense an impending attack, feel the fear and run away.  This is the normal cycle of fear and our ability to act on it is key to completing the cycle.

The problems come when we avoid it.  Modern life means we are protected from many of the ancient fear triggers, and fear shows up in a more insidious way.  We may be afraid of going out alone in the dark, so thanks to new technology we can adapt our behaviour.  We can order food online for delivery to home and use social media to connect with other people remotely.  But the fear doesn’t go away.  It mutates and becomes something different – perhaps a fear of online theft, or anxiety about meeting other people face to face.  The challenge is to recognise and face the original fear and develop skills to address it in a way which is empowering and enabling.  This might include learning self-defence techniques, arranging to meet someone else outside or walking a different routes.  These are adaptations which empower rather than disable, and they complete the natural fear cycle of taking action against the initial threat.

The term ‘paralysed with fear’ is terrifying for a reason – the most frightening of all is the prospect of fear taking such a hold that we are unable to act.   In everyday, non-urgent situations, fear can provoke more familiar, but equally paralyzing, behaviours of procrastination and overthinking.  So this week, pay attention to your body and what it is telling you about fear.  Notice when your stomach lurches and know that you are afraid of something.  And know that you can feel afraid and do something about it.

 It may mean sending that email you’ve been dreading, saying yes to a presentation you’ve been avoiding or taking the first steps as a total beginner. Being afraid and acting on it is the greatest act of courage.  In the words of Emerson

                         ‘Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain’.



Want to find out MORE? 

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