Fear III

Your One & Only Obstacle: Part III – In For The Long Haul

By on February 06, 2014 . Category Column

Part III of III


“Life unfolds in proportion to your courage.”

– Danielle Laporte


So you know you’re scared.  You understand that fear and resistance is part of the game, and you’re strengthening your strategies to combat it.

You recognize that this is a daily battle.  That it’s something you’re going to have to live with every single day of your life.

But why do we get so fearful?

Interestingly enough, digging deeper into the why can help us stay strong against our fear.

Fear is a curious thing.  Rooted in the deepest, most primitive parts of our brains, fear is key to our survival.  It’s a way for our body to send a message—don’t do that, it’s dangerous, we might die.

In our modern world, we no longer face saber tooth tigers or hungry packs of wolves as part of our daily routine, but we are still wired to recognize and react to what we perceive as “dangerous”.

Unfortunately, our primitive brains haven’t quite caught up with the modern world, and so they are still interpreting a lot of nonthreatening events as dire.

An example:  Rejection.  A lot of us are afraid to produce art, succeed in a field, reach big goals, or otherwise improve ourselves because, deep down, we are afraid the people around us might reject this new version of ourselves.

Or worse, what if we fail, and are rejected en mass?  What if we produce something terrible and are publicly mocked and ridiculed?

There’s a reason why this thought is so paralyzing, and that is the fear of rejection is tied directly to the fear of death.  In his amazing book, The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker goes into much more detail on the how and why of this, but simply put:  In the most basic part of our brains, we still link rejection from the group to imminent death.  Therefore, it’s much, much safer not to produce anything that can be judged or hated.

This fear goes even deeper, though.  It has its sinister claws in something even more relevant to us than our survival.

Fear of failure, particularly in a field we’re passionate about, ties to losing our very identity.

We have egos, all of us, which latch on to the world around us and begin identifying with things outside ourselves.

“I like this band, therefore, I become this band, and any criticism of my favorite band can cause me pain.”

Look at sporting events—how many times are people killed in the resulting brawls after one team defeats another?

And this is a sport that we might only watch.  Imagine how potent the influence on our ego of something we created.  Something we did.  If I write a book, in a way, I feel that I am that book.  And the problem with that mentality is that there are people who are going to hate that book.

If I identify with the book—if I feel I am the book—then this ridicule is no longer directed at an object (a book), it is directed at the very core of me, the very fiber of my being.  It is attacking who I am, and the statement, “This book fails to entertain me,” becomes “You have failed at being you.”

But you’re not your book.  Your book is a collection of words strung together on a series of pages that tell a story.  Sure, you wrote it, but that doesn’t make it you.

So, for your long-term fear battling strategies, remember that the fear is irrational.  It’s rooted in two very core parts of your psyche:  Your survival and your identity.  The fear creates a knee-jerk reaction that prevents calm, rational thought and creates an environment where failure is so dangerous, so destructive, that you are best off giving up on the whole endeavor before you even begin.

There is power in knowing this.  There is tremendous power in recognizing the fear for what it is.  This is the equivalent of standing in a dark room, then turning on the light.  It might still be creepy, but at least you can see.

Here’s a strategy for dealing with resistance:  Next time you feel it rise up within you, start by letting it hit you full-force.  Don’t fight it, don’t try to suppress it, just let that wave of fear or doubt or whatever it is wash over you.

The sensation, once left alone, can only last about 7 to 12 seconds.  (Suppressed, it can fester for years.)

Once the initial wave of dread has passed, take a deep breath, and say to yourself, “I recognize that I am afraid.  I recognize that failure scares me.  I’m OK with this — I’m going to do this anyway, even though I’m afraid.”

Will your fear magically disappear?  No, but you’ll have taken control of the situation, and you’ll have gone from knee-jerk panic reaction to decisive and in charge.  You don’t have to be fearless, you just have to take deliberate, conscious action.

Life unfolds in proportion to your courage — will you be your biggest obstacle, or your greatest ally?


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