There’s More Than Two Ways to Work with Fear
There are two options that describe the way most people work with their fears.
The first option is to ignore fear and hope it goes away. Suppressing your fears doesn’t work well because the energy will be stored somewhere in your body, and it usually comes out sideways at another time when you least expect it. If you get good at suppressing the emotion of fear, unfortunately you’ll also get good at suppressing lighter emotions such as joy, gratitude, compassion, and love.
The second option is to look for information to explain it. Confirmation bias is the tendency to look for information to confirm what you already believe. If you continue to feel the fear plus combine it with information that confirms it, your fears will strengthen and morph into beliefs. Over time these primal fears deepen and become what you believe about yourself and the world.
To protect yourself, you hang out with those who identity with what you think is true. When this happens people with different opinions or information enrage you because they are attacking your identity. Now you have no choice but to defend yourself and strike back because you believe you are a Victim to all that is trying to personally defeat you. This briefly describes how fear seeds the cycle of violence.
Working with fear from only these two options limits your capacity to live from The Empowerment Dynamic as Creators, Challengers, and Coaches who value learning and growth.
For example, leaders who are unskilled at working with fear can become closed to innovative ideas, even if there’s new information and possibilities. Also, families can be faced with a range of fears, causing strained relationships, defensiveness, and blame. Much of our cultural and political discourse relies on the first two options and results in shrill voices, and demeaning relationships.
The good news is there is more than two options to work with fear.
A third—and more empowering—way to work with fear is to see it as an opportunity to learn something new about yourself and the situation. Fear arises when there is something you care about that is at risk. If you didn’t care about something you’d say, “whatever” and go on to the next thing.
The ability to grow and learn depends on your ability to see your fear as a Challenger from which to learn.
When you notice even a slight twinge of fear, sit with it, and hold the point of tension and listen to what it wants you to learn. Your body and, especially, your heart will give you lots of clues about what you care about that has triggered your fear. Acknowledge your fear by taking a few calming breaths, allowing it to surface. Let it guide you to new insights rather than overwhelm you. As you practice this, fear will pass through your body within a few minutes. Sometimes it passes in seconds.
Another tip to have an empowering relationship with fear is to reflect upon what you already know about how to work with fear. Recall a time when you worked through a fear. Instead of suppressing or defending yourself, what technique did you use to learn from it? Write a few sentences about when your fear was triggered and what it was like to allow the feeling to rise and move through your body, not needing to “do” anything about it.
As long as you worry about what you fear, you will protect yourself and the fear will grow stronger. That’s how fear works. If you want to be free, boldly embrace who you are as a Creator and value continuous learning, even when you feel fear.