Monday, August 17, 2009

What To Do When Fear Arises



In a recent post and comments the discussion was about courage. Of course, many of us talked about how our fears can hold us back from taking risks or being courageous. What is your default inclination when you notice fear arising within? Do you immediately stop, turn away, relinquish, give up?


Fear is actually a necessary signal from our senses that we are entering new or even dangerous territory. However, it is not necessarily wanting you to stop. Rather the fear is a signal that we need to pay close attention to our next move. We may be emotionally, spiritually or physically at risk. It may very well be that we should stop. However, it may be that all we need to do is to pay attention, assess the risks involved, and proceed with caution, remaining alert to what our senses tell us.


If we stop every time we experience fear, we will miss out on many new experiences and threshold opportunities. Take time to notice what your default inclination is when you notice fear arising. Is that what you want it to be? Is there another way to be or proceed?



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30 comments:

  1. Good post, Bonnie and one that hits close to home. Lately, I seem to cower and run when that fear instinct hits which was not always the case. In the past, I would stick my head out of the sand and take a peek wondering if this was opportunity knocking. Lately, however...and it may be due to age...I hold back. I need that gentle reminder that fear should be faced head on as it just might be the answer I'm looking for.

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  2. Fear is THE worst emotion! If I allow myself, I can be scared of anything! I do a lot of self-talking!

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  3. I agree with this entirely. When I sing on stage I feel a lot of fear. I consider it to be the energy of the universe coming into me to help me, and it is just a whole lot of energy for my body to process at once, so it feel like fear, but if I relax into it, it helps me perform. If I resist it, it is a curse.

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  4. Bonnie I am crazy about this new blog look.

    It is fantastic and this was an excellent post.

    Just going to look at the stuff on the side in your etsy store. I love the look of the red one from here.

    xoxox

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  5. Bonnie your art is absolutely amazing. Wow.

    Thanks for being so kind to me.

    Love Renee xoxo

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  6. Alicia: Yes, fears should be faced, however, with the wisdom that age brings perhaps we choose our "battles" or risks a little more carefully. I don't think there is anything wrong with that if we are conscious of what we are doing and okay with the why of it.

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  7. Missy: I think, based on our family of origin environment, some of us are more fear-based than others. I know I was - and with a lot of work am less so. However, it is my knee-jerk default position - and I have to stay conscious and keep investigating my assumptions.

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  8. Catvibe: Yes - what you are calling fear is probably a lot of adrenalin your body/mind is providing to accomplish your performance task.

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  9. Renee: I'm glad you like the blog. It was a lot of work for Jill from "Blogs by Sneaky Momma" and I.

    Thanks for checking out my Etsy shop!

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  10. Fear? I don’t know really, I think that the USA is a fearful country, I mean so many people are fearful here. I get upset, sometime depressed, annoyed, but have fear? Don’t remember when. I was on a flight (above Afghanistan) with a fire in the cargo and the aircraft almost blew up with everyone screaming, and sincerely I was not afraid – can’t explain why, but I thought, well that is my karma, so what will happen will happen, and that’s all. But I would think it must be a difficult feeling.

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  11. Vagabonde: Well, how wonderful to live so in the present, and to be so accepting of whatever arises that you do not experience fear.

    You must have done the spiritual and psychological work necessary to not fear death or nothingness.

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  12. I agree that the US is a fear-sickened nation.

    My observation on fear is that it tends to strengthen when we run from it.

    As you suggest, it's far more useful to respond to fear with heightened attention and discernment. As often as not, perhaps more often than not, it's useful to acknowledge our fear, take a step towards what excites fear and to investigate it.

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  13. i went thru an elephant phobia once after we lived in an area where they charged us all the time; i had to talk myself out of it cos if i want to live here its just not practical. it worked! I have other fears i have to work on too but they are not too controlling...i think. I dont like those things at funfairs - theres enough in real life to deal with!
    wow Vagabond - a fire in the cargo and no fear? thats impressive.
    Bonnie - I am loving your blog - thank you

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  14. This is so timely for me as I contemplate a job change. Fear is there, yes. But, so is the knowledge that I can no longer be "OK" with the status quo.

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  15. Now I really agree with this post Bonnie. Without confronting fear and learning to make wise choices, we can never grow.

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  16. Dan: I think you sum it up well - with key words: ackknowledge, approach, attend, investigate. Our fears have much to reveal to us.

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  17. Dan: Just went back to reread your comment. Another key word you use is "respond". It is such a sign of maturity when we can respond to what life or sensation brings rather than react.
    Being reactionary is full of risk. Being responsive means we bring a considered attention to what arises.

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  18. Val: Yes, self-talk can be helpful. Sometimes a bit of investigation is useful. Sometimes we can be displacing a fear we are afraid to confront, onto something more tangible in our environment. We can conquer the fear of the thing, yet still have not addressed the deeper fear.

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  19. Jayne: So you are saying that you have a value that over-rides your fear. Good to be value-driven as opposed to fear-driven.

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  20. Barry: Yes, if we just react to our fears - and live life that way, we are never truly making considered choices based on our values.

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  21. An excellent post, it made me stop and think. Acute fear often paralyzes me. As you said, it makes me stop dead. I do, however, manage to assess the situation and act, or run away, as the situation demands. For ordinary, everyday apprehension I must learn to use your mechanism. Thanks you for that, wise woman.

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  22. One of my favorite quotes of all time is "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear."  It's been misquoted and misattributed so many times that I'm not sure who originally said it.

    Fear is part of a survival mechanism. It is a primal instinct, which means it can and will take over your mind and think for you if you allow it to. But you don't have to allow it to, because the human mind is capable of reasoning beyond and overruling our primal instincts - we are the only animals who can do that.

    When faced with fear, you get to ask yourself two questions: "What am I really afraid of?" and "What is the worst thing that can happen?" As long as the answer doesn't involve death or dismemberment, you can push the fear aside and say "Go away fear, you're not that important."

    That's one of the joys of being human - the ability to reason with our own emotions. Although that ability can be both a blessing and a curse, sometimes.

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  23. Wonderful and timely post for me, Bonnie. I'm usually good in a crisis, clear headed and can figure out what to do, the judicious thing to do. But when fear is about taking steps for myself in a new direction, I think my default is to go into the overthinking mode to figure out which way to go. I'm not really happy with that default. I like being decisive. But what Jayne said about changing when it gets too hard to stay in the place you are is true for me. I wish it didn't take such nudging.

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  24. Jeff:

    Great points! It is true that fear is instinctive - and we should not always insist on over-riding it. Sometimes we need to fight, flee or freeze in response. And there are other times when we need to confront our fears and proceed.

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  25. Barbara: Yes, overthinking can keep us turning in circles as the opportunity passes us by. One way to move past the mind is to check in with your body. Pretend you have made up your mind (either way) and just notice how your body reacts. With relief? anxiety? excitement? satisfaction? jittery? calm? There is a dictum among therapists that the body doesn't lie. So when you have a situation with the time to explore this way, check in with your body sensations for a little truth.

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  26. hi bonnie - whenever possible i try to honour fear, rather than bowing to it. this means that in the act of passing the threshold i become more aware, more inside the moment and less aware of my "needs". this usually allows the moment to pass and then to be more what it is meant to be.

    then sometimes, i am entirely afraid. run from the experience and second-guess, regret, and wonder why i cheated myself of the opportunity.

    but as you say, sometimes fear is a guide to protect yourself.
    a provocative and insightful post bonnie. thanks.
    steven

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  27. Bonnie,

    I will try that! Thank you! But I think you're right, if I think back to the relief I feel when I've made the right decision. Interesting. How can these things sneak by us without our noticing?? We are mysterious creatures. Whatever tomorrow brings for you at the hospital, I wish you the best. Hugs, Barbara

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  28. Steven: I like that - to try to honour it rather than bow to it. Honouring would mean listening (paying attention) to its message.

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