Fear Is a Great Teacher (If You Don’t Freak Out)

In Confidence and Courage by Sonja

One Thought Can Make (or Break) Your Day

You wake up feeling rested and refreshed (…okay, fine, feeling somewhat rested, and mostly refreshed), you’re ready to tackle the day, but then you remember something that kicks you in the feels. Maybe it’s a presentation you have to make that afternoon. Maybe you remember a fight you had with a loved one the day before. Maybe it’s some bad health news.

That’s all it takes, your morning has just gone to shit. You grumble at the empty cereal box. You swear at your roommates when you see there’s no toilet paper. You generally grump your way along for the rest of the day, only interested in getting back to bed and trying again tomorrow.

What changed after the moment you opened your eyes feeling mildly peppy? You were feeling good about your day and ready to tackle the world (or at a least your neighborhood traffic circle).

You weren’t even out of bed yet before you ruined your day with only a thought.

The things that felt like they reinforced your crappy morning might not have struck you in the same light had you been in a good mood. When you’re in a good mood, and you pull and empty cereal box off the shelf, you might think, “oh cool, the kids liked this cereal!” or “That’s fine, I actually really want some eggs, and omg I forgot we bought bacon! Yessss!” That empty T.P. roll might inspire you to do some crafts later. Or maybe you just don’t give it any thought at all and just replace it, because you’re too busy getting excited about making coffee with your new whisimagadget.

This doesn’t mean you try to block every negative thought you ever have. You can’t, really, and you wouldn’t want to – blocking negative thoughts doesn’t end well. When negative thoughts come by, there’s two ways to can handle them:

1) That presentation is today! Ugh. I’m scared. I’m not ready. I suck at giving presentations. I’ve always sucked at giving presentations. Remember that time in sixth grade? That was awful. Oh, and then there was that other day where Jerry stole your lunch. He was a jerk, too, I wonder what happened to him. He’s probably a car salesman now. Just like that one guy who gave me the bad deal on the last car. Ugh, this sucks.

2) That presentation is today! Ugh. I’m scared. 

Okay. In scenario #1, the thinker grabbed on to that fear about the presentation with both hands and ate it up like a holiday dinner with Grammy. I can feel my chest clenching up just reading that block of panic.

In scenario #2, the thinker saw the fear thought, and didn’t try to push it away. They acknowledged it, and then let it go.

Here’s where #2 can go next:

… Okay. I’m scared. [ Why are you scared? ] I’m afraid I’m not ready. I suck at — [ wait, we’re not doing that, you’re perfectly fine with presentations, you gave a great one last week. Just leave it at the fear. What’s the fear? ] That I’m not ready. [ Okay. You wrote a great presentation. Practiced all week. You are ready. It’s okay to be nervous, but you are ready. If you’re worried about that last bit, go through that part one more time. You got this. ]

A lot of things just happened there, I’ll break them down:

  • The fear was acknowledged, but not embraced.
  • The thoughts started to spiral back into scenario #1, grabbing on to the fear, at “I suck at…”  But when you recognize what’s happening, that you’re embracing the fear thought, you can cut it off, and stop it from continuing. This takes practice! Don’t worry if it doesn’t always work. The more you do it, the easier it gets.
  • There’s usually a real concern inside of fear thoughts (in this case, being scared that you’re not ready). If you can find it, you can address it calmly.
  • This flips between first person, “I’m scared,” and second person, “why are you scared?” It turns out, studies of brain scans show that we’re more receptive to speaking to ourselves in the second person. Chances are, fear-voice is going to spend a lot of time talking in the first person, that’s fine. Don’t sweat it. But the more you can get your calm perspective to speak in the second person, the faster you can retrain your brain away from fear.

When you take this approach, the fear has a lesson to teach you, you learn it, and you move on with your day. You’re back to feeling rested and refreshed, too, most likely – you may have even gotten a boost from addressing your fears. And I’m sure you can guess which presentation is going to go better – the one born out of fear, or the one wrapped in confidence.

BONUS! How might this thought process go during the zombie apocalypse?

1) Holy hell, a herd of zombies is coming towards us! Shit! What do we do? I don’t want to die. I can’t die. I didn’t sign up for this. I was just an accountant. I helped people. I probably helped some of those people out there slugging their way towards me. Shit, is that Leslie, the one missing an arm? Oh crap, is that even possible? I —- eaten.

2) Holy hell, a herd of zombies is coming towards us! Shit! What do we do? I don’t want to die. [ Okay. No dying today. What do you do? Hide. ] WHERE?! [ There. That building. Break open the door. Get inside. Get it blocked off. Be quiet, wait it out. ]

So when you practice listening to, and learning from, your fears on a regular basis, you’re also honing your ability to listen to your inner voice in case of catastrophe! Win-win. Well sort of, because zombies.

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If you want to read more about how you create your reality with thought, stay tuned, and subscribe to my newsletter to receive exclusive content. I’ll be digging into thought more in the future. Or if you want to read more faster than I can write about it, I highly recommend The Inside-Out Revolution by Michael Neill. That’s not an affiliate link, I just really love the book.