For many years, I’ve been afraid. What’s surprising about being in fear is just how complicated it can be and just how complicated it can feel.
Before I enrolled in Chicago’s premier yoga studio, Yogaview, for teacher training, it both attracted and repelled me. I felt both a sense of my own ambitions as well as a wall of resistance rising within me, and it was hard to ignore. The more I cared, the more resistance fired up.
I soon learned there’s two types of fear: a primal gut sense that something is fundamentally wrong and irrational resistance. You see a tiger in the distance, it’s looking at you, and it looks hungry. Your flight or fight response is triggered and you run.
But in a safe society, our problem isn’t with primal responses – our problem is when fear gets in the way and stops us from moving forward.
We’re all on this course to be better people, to be more fully realized. And we’re all on this course together. But in the way to becoming better, we get fear: fear of failure, fear of not being good enough, fear of not being loved back, fear of not being capable enough. “If I feel uncomfortable” your body says, “then I can’t possibly want to do this”.
Non-primal fear can trigger the same response as mortal danger, but the one key difference? Dread. If we are not in danger and fear shows up, ask one question: do I feel heavy or light? If you feel heavy, then dread has set in and you can trust it is not something to pursue. If you feel fear with a bit of lightness underneath, then proceed through the workout!
The Emotional Workout: How Do We Face Fear?
- Acknowledge it’s there
- Are you in danger? Are you in physical pain? If so, attend to it.
- If you’re safe, remind yourself you are safe.
- Stop and smile. You are stepping into what you care about!
- Focus on the task and on the process. (Yes we want to focus on the project at hand and not the outcome. We do that by changing our fear based thoughts to supportive thoughts for today’s goal. “I am going to get this task done today.” When that’s done, celebrate!)
- Antidote to fear is to stay present and make progress.
- Take action, follow the process
- Celebrate each small action. You’ve stepped into your truth!
How To Look At Fear
The sensation of fear is life’s way of telling us what needs to be done. It’s weird – fear is very clear signal to the opposite, but living in fear – as you know – can manifest itself in numerous ways.
Whether you’re afraid, or you feel resistance, our everyday problems and desires don’t go away because we feel fear. Instead, they stand ever so strong. It’s your job to keep at it, and your job to get what needs to be done, even in the face of fear. A quote I found from Brene Brown’s wonderful book, Daring Greatly.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
– Teddy Roosevelt