A Tool to Help Fear be Less Fearful

A Tool to Help Fear be Less Fearful

Let’s talk about everyone’s favorite topic—Fear.

More precisely, I want to give you a helpful tool to be with fear without it feeling overwhelming.

I was talking about the power of fear with a friend and colleague I was visiting recently, and she practically jumped up and down as she handed me Tim Ferriss’ book Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice From the Best in the World. She opened it up to Kristen Ulmer’s chapter on how to deal with fear.

Kristen Ulmer knows fear. She was the best woman extreme skier in the world for 12 years. She’s the author of The Art of Fear: Why Conquering Fear Won’t Work and What to Do Instead.

Here is what she says about fear:

“Fear is not a sign of personal weakness, but rather a natural state of discomfort that occurs whenever you’re out of your comfort zone. It’s not there to sabotage you, but to help you come alive, be more focused, and put you into the present moment and a heightened state of excitement and awareness. If you push fear away, the only version of fear available to you will be its crazy, irrational, or contorted version. If you’re willing to feel it, and merge with it, its energy and wisdom will appear.”

Kristen has a simple, fast (1-2 minute) process to deal with fear:

  1. Spend 15-30 seconds affirming it is natural to feel the discomfort. We are supposed to be scared when we do new or big things. (What really helps me in this process is saying “This is just a feeling…I am simply feeling a feeling; There is no tiger chasing me.”)
  2. Spend 15-30 seconds being curious about how you are responding to the discomfort. If the feeling seems out of proportion to the situation, or irrational, it is a sign that you have been ignoring your fear, so it is getting louder to get you to pay attention. Feelings are meant to be felt, not repressed. Ask what it has been trying to say that you have not acknowledged, e.g. “You might want to start your taxes soon so you won’t be up all night trying to finish them before the deadline.”
  3. Spend as long as it takes to feel it. Important—Don’t try to get rid of it. That would be disrespectful to fear. Kristen writes, “The key is to feel the feeling by spending some time with it, like you would your dog, friend, or lover…After which, fear, feeling acknowledged and heard, often dissipates.”
  4. For the rest of the day, whenever you feel anxious, stressed or upset, do the process again. Kristen writes, “…I turn toward my discomfort and try to have an honest relationship with it by engaging in this fear practice. I focus on my discomfort, fear, sadness, anger, or anything else that seems unpleasant—all of it—and that effort not only affords me insights but, even though you’d never expect it, also thoroughly and amazingly sets me free.”

I have found the same thing. Our feelings are not here to traumatize us and make us feel horrible, they are here to communicate to us how we are living our life. If we honor them by paying attention, we will have more awareness and freedom of choice in our life.

A client of mine recently shared with me, “I’m learning I have a life to live. It is influenced by emotions and fear. They will always be there. I have a choice to be frightened or to embrace them and keep going; new ones will come. When I first came here, I was stuck in my thoughts. I’m learning to have greater peace. When you have peace, your soul is satisfied. You can take what comes at you. You are not defensive…It allows me to be who I am—who I want to be.”

This is what is possible when we are with our feelings rather than repress them.

So, go ahead, try this practice of being with your feelings, and notice the difference in your life.

Take care,

P.S.  My book is published!!!!!!!  You can buy it in paperback or on Kindle, here!

The Problem With Blaming…  And upcoming news!

The Problem With Blaming… And upcoming news!

We all blame.  As Brene Brown says, “Blame is the discharging of discomfort and pain.”  When mistakes are made, our first response is to try to find whose fault it is.  A natural response, but not helpful.

Here is an entertaining (less than 4 minute) video on blaming by the brilliant Brene Brown.  Watch it—you will enjoy it. You might even spend a little less time blaming in the future.

Also, next month I will be announcing my new program — 7 Powerful Practices for Your Inner Perfectionist.  Yay!!!!!  If you have been wanting to work with me, but can’t come into my office every week, this program is for you!

Take Care,

The Stepladder Method to More Helpful Thoughts

The Stepladder Method to More Helpful Thoughts

I was reading a fabulous book by my friend and colleague Rucsandra Mitrea called You Don’t Have to Live in Pain: Five Strategies to Help Reduce Your Chronic Pain Right Now.

Her book offers practical tools to shift your thinking about chronic pain so you can help the healing process.  Personally, I think it’s a good book to help shift any thinking that is getting in your way of making changes. 

Her tool I’m sharing with you today is the Stepladder Method.  It is a process to move from old, unhelpful thoughts to new, supportive thoughts.   

I have a love/hate relationship with affirmations.  While they can be helpful, they can also backfire.  When we tell ourselves something that feels out of the realm of possibility, our ego rebels and we end up feeling worse after saying the affirmation than before.   

I offer an example from my own life—I learned about affirmations when I was in graduate school.  I had very little money and the end of each month I was literally counting my pennies.  As you might imagine, I was stressed about money most of the time.   

I figured I’d give affirmations a try.  Anything had to be better than what I was already thinking.   

I was wrong. 

Because I didn’t know anything about how to make affirmations useful, I tried “I am wealthy!”  When I said “I am wealthy!” out loud, everything in me rebelled.  I heard myself think, “That is so stupid!  No you’re not!  Do you think you will magically change your life with that stupid affirmation?” or, even worse, “See?  You can’t even do an affirmation!  What makes you think you will ever have money?” 

Instead of shifting my thinking to be more positive and less stressed, I created more stress.  So much for self-help!  As a result, I decided to hate affirmations.   

Fast forward about 20 years…I had a coach who was a big fan of affirmations as a method to shift beliefs.  I decided to give them another try. 

Around the same time, a friend sent me 3.  Through that book I understood not all affirmations are equal.  Part of the art of affirmations is crafting them to get our subconscious working for versus against the change.   

The Stepladder Method is a tool to do just that.   

The Stepladder Method is creating a stepladder of intermediary thoughts that are believable.  Rucsandra Mitrea gives a beautiful example in You Don’t Have to Live in Pain:   

         “Instead of jumping from a thought like ‘There’s nothing I
          can do’ to ‘I am now living pain-free’ in one fell swoop, you
          write down a few intermediate thoughts that are believable.” 

         “So instead of one big leap, you take several smaller, more
          believable steps.  For example, ‘There’s nothing I can do’
          becomes ‘I don’t know what to do yet, but now I believe that
          health is my birthright, so there must be a way.’  This sounds
          a lot more positive and uplifting, and is also definitely believable,

         “The next step is to get used to this thought until it becomes your
          current mindset.  Then you move to an even more uplifting thought:
         ‘I know there is a way for me to heal and I am sure that I will find it

Then a few more steps until…“it is easy to think ‘I CAN be pain-free!”       

The Stepladder Method is a useful tool to gradually, change your habits of thinking, one small step at a time.   

When we make small changes, our ego fights the change less.  When we try to make a shift that feels too big, our ego fights us, as demonstrated by my ego with the “I am wealthy!” affirmation.   

So do yourself a favor, try to shift a negative thought just a little bit, keep practicing the new affirmation, and notice how your ego gets used to the new thought and eventually accepts it.  Then try a new, slightly more positive thought, step by step…until you actually believe what you WANT to believe, with less back-lash and more ease.   

To find out more about Rucsandra’s work, you can find her at https://vitaldirectives.com/

Take care, 

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