Sunday, April 17, 2016

4/18/16—Managing Fears

I talk to myself.*
That probably doesn't surprise anyone who knows me. I do it the most when I'm having fears. I'm not fearful all the time, and, in fact, I'm pretty good about not allowing fears in. But for the past week or so I've been having a lot of fears.

Most of my fears are about fear of failure. Fear of screwing up really badly. Fears around money. Fear of risk and the unknown. Fear of illness. Fear of death, dying alone and dying horribly in a gutter somewhere...haha. I even have fears of success. None of these things are unusual. 
I don't know how other people handle them, but I know what I do. I have created a practice around them. And the practice is that, when the fears come up, I have something prepared inside my head to make myself feel better and make the fears go away. I call it relanguaging, but it's really just talking myself out of the fear. 

The first part is the hardest, and that's becoming consciously aware that fear has taken hold and that your head is filling up with fearful thoughts. Sometimes people walk around filled with fears and they're not consciously aware of them. Some people don't like to cop to the word "fear", so they call them worries, concerns or issues. But by being conscious of those things, whatever you call them, you can usually nip them in the bud before they take over. 
So the first step is to stop and recognize when you're feeling this fear. Then determine what you're afraid about. Then tell yourself one of your prepared things like a mantra until you replace the fear with confidence. Here are some of the things I might say to myself when I'm afraid:

--"The universe (or God) didn't lead you here to fail."
--"You've never come across anything in your life you couldn't handle, why would this be different?"
--"You've gained benefit from everything that's ever happened in your life. There's no reason why that shouldn't continue."
--"You are blessed and guided by love."
--"Everything is here to help you grow."
--"There's something good on the other side of this."
--"This is only temporary."

For difficult things, like fears of utter financial destruction, I work out contingencies—Plan As, Plan Bs and other solutions. This calms the fears because the worst case scenarios are never as bad as I fear. 

Coming up with worst case scenarios is also a valuable tool. I learned this back when I started freelancing. My worst case scenario then, for example, was "I get a job." Now, as horrific as that option might be, it is a reasonable worst-case scenario. The dramatic scenario would be "end up homeless and whoring my body for spare change." And if that's how you want to play it, I suppose you could. But for most of us, there are other more realistic options. Like getting another job, even if it doesn't pay as much. Or moving to a place where jobs are more plentiful. Or moving in with a relative. Or getting a roommate. Once you start considering all the options, you see how unlikely the fear of homeless whoring really is. 

You also see you have far more options than you think you have. When you don't think out all your options, then of course fear is going to have power over you. You haven't discovered who is really in charge of the fear and you haven't set up a defense against it. In my freelancing example, seeing as how I had just had a job, getting another wasn't as awful as it seemed. Which made me feel better. And which gave me my power and confidence back. The "big risk" of quitting my job (and I won't pretend it's not a big risk) shrunk in my imagination when I realized that failure would just land me right back where I started. When you make the decision to go out on your own, that's a horrible outcome, but not insurmountable. 

Nothing that I can think that's worth having comes without a risk. And with risks, come fear. But you don't have to let that fear control you. Recently, I saw fears coming in throughout the week, culminating in a fear-filled day. I knew I'd feel better in the morning if I could just sleep it off. And I did. But in the meantime I spoke with my sister, who helped me realize that I was already living my worst fear in this particular situation. Sure, there were more dramatic scenarios we could have come up with, but realistically speaking, the reality of staying stagnant and not challenging myself forward was the worst case scenario. 

So if you're feeling fearful about something right now, ask yourself what you believe about why the universe led you here and what the universe's intentions were for doing that. Think about times you've had fear like this before and how that all turned out. And consider your most realistic worst case scenario. Then maybe sleep on it. Chances are the greatest issue you have is fear itself.

*Today's post is a classic post that I have revised and updated for today.