The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Fear, again...

Here's a note from a student:

Good Afternoon Steven,
I have the question of the year for you, its right up your alley;

How do you control fear? Better; how do you get rid of fear?

All of my life I have wondered what it is that inhibits me from accomplishing great things.
It cant be just my environment and upbringing.
Gender may play a part as well as race, but in the end it is up to me to kick those aside. Logically I know this but theory and action are not melding.
I have read your topics related to fear from postings and they help, but I think I need an anti-fear injection (lol)

All joking aside, I need to get a handle on fear and make it work for me at the very least, if not eliminate it.

The most challenging and difficult part of being alive is controlling your thoughts, at least for me it is.

What do you think would help?
Thank you

Dear M—

There are numerous techniques that might work. Let’s put a little frame of reference around it first, though, shall we?

Fear is generally a sign that some aspect of your personality considers the situation or required behaviors to be dangerous or reminiscent of something dangerous—a risk to life and limb, a chance for rejection or humiliation, a reminder of some past failure or catastrophe. Remember that your subconscious is just trying to protect you.

Often, though, you are being “protected” from your own path of growth. And this is no joke. If you complete a cycle of the Hero’s Journey, your ego is in very real risk of shattering, or at the least, expanding. Going through the Dark Night of the Soul is always terrifying and humbling. The “real” you will survive it, while your self image rarely does.

With this in mind, remember that the forward path in life should be taken with deliberate speed, slowly and certainly, a jog or walk rather than a sprint. You’re in this for the long haul. It is wise to have a meditation practice to help you work through the emotional gunk that will inevitably bubble up.

Here are a couple of very specific things that you can try to deal with fear:

1) Visualize a glass tube filled with water. Glitter is suspended in the water. Watch the glitter until it settles to the bottom. Practice this for twenty minutes at a time, minimum. This may take weeks.

2) You don’t need to erase fear from your life (in fact, that is damned near impossible). Instead, get SUPER clear on the value and benefits of your desired goals. In other words—put your fear behind you, your love in front of you, and run like hell!

3) The “Godzilla” of fear-coping mechanisms is Scott Sonnon’s Fear Removal technique, sometimes called the “Spider Exercise.” You need an aerobic exercise (running, walking, rowing, etc.) where you can go into “second wind”—usually about 15-17 minutes of steady state exercise. Here’s what you do: spend 10 minutes visualizing or mentalizing the fear-inducing stimulus. Do this until you are shaking and crying. (BTW—if you are dealing with serious abuse or other issues, consult with a councilor or therapist before doing this!). The way I quantify the desired state of emotional arousal is “crying out of my nose.” Then IMMEDIATELY perform the aerobic exercise until second wind is reached. That’s all. The next time you are confronted by the stimulus, you should feel a 15-25% reduction in fear levels. You can perform this exercise about once a week—no more often than that!

Remember that fear is a normal part of life. The more important and powerful the goal, the more likely you are to experience discomfort. Forgive yourself for being human!

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