Interesting blog, see below, about managing fear.
Fortunately or unfortunately I have a lot to say about the subject.
Our instinctual flight or fight response means exactly what it says or asks. Do I fight or flight what is happening to me? In seconds our brain accesses the situation and makes a decision.
Twice before in my life I have been a victim of a crime – once in New York City and once in Los Angeles. In both situations adrenaline and Cortisol kicked in and turned mind sharper while slowing down time to allow me to make the necessary decision – right or wrong. This dynamic is pretty straight forward and goes back all the way to our cavern days.
Now, psychological fear – which is what we mostly deal with – has little to do with staying alive while a lot to do with being paralyze or ran over by our emotions.
Fear in these situations come as a result of us projecting our sense of worth and identity onto work and social situations. “If I fail at my presentation what will others think of me?” “If I say something stupid in front of others what will they think of me?” With such high stakes no wonder it is easy for us to be engulfed by our out of control fear and anxiety?
The truth is sometimes we will say silly things, but that doesn’t necessarily make us silly. We also may make a business presentation that doesn’t go well, but that won’t mean we are not good at what we do or a failure.
Unfortunately, knowing these truths doesn’t always keep our feelings under control. So, what can we do? We can develop tools we can use when fear and anxiety strike.
In my business, I have to go to “buyers” and pitch them an idea for a film or TV show I’ve had. It sounds easy, but its nerve racking. Think about it: you walk into the office of someone you probably never met before who has the ability to green light a project of yours. If they say yes to your project you will earn money and professional respect. So, they hold the power. You must tell them your story clearly and passionately and you can’t be side-tracked by anything else that might be going on in the office including their reactions to your idea.
I equate these pitch meetings to performing at a sporting event. No second chances. If I didn’t have tools to deal with the anxiety and fear that comes up when I have to go out and pitch, I would probably not even be able to get into a car.
So this is what I do:
- I talk to myself. I remind my psyche that all I can do is present my idea in the best way possible. That is all I have control over. If the buyer doesn’t spark to my idea that is nothing I can do. It’s out of my control.
By reminding myself that I’m not in control of an outcome releases a lot of apprehension because I’m no longer making myself responsible for the results. Working on the presentation is something I can do. So, I work on that. I work on what I have control over.
- I remind myself to breath.
When we get anxious we tend to take short and superficial breaths. But, long and deep breaths have the ability to calm and ground us. So, I breathe.
- I give the event the respect it deserves without becoming obsessed with it.
What I mean is: I recognize the need to prepare, but I don’t stop life and put the event on a pedestal to the point that it will create tremendous anxiety.
Please read on…
How To Stop Fear In Its Tracks
By Mary Pritchard
It’s midnight. You’ve had a little too much to drink, so you’ve decided to “walk it off” by hoofing it the five blocks to your apartment. Halfway there, you hear footsteps behind you. You stop and turn around. Nothing. You start walking again, a little faster. The footsteps behind you speed up too. You break out into a flat-out run — in high heels, no less — and make it to the safety of your apartment, never really knowing what it was that spooked you. Not really caring either, because you’re safe now…Continued
Yesterday, I was on the phone with a friend who was telling me how unhappy he had been. He wasn’t happy with his relationship. He wasn’t happy with his work. Mostly he was just coping.
I told him I didn’t mind talking to him about his issues, but wanted to point out they had been the same for the past five years. Once I said that, he tried to change the subject as he didn’t want to have any responsibility for his current unhappiness.
After we hung up the phone, I thought about how many of us stay stuck in situations that are no longer happy or productive simply because we are used to them.
Fear is often debilitating but it doesn’t have to be so.
In its “pure” form fear is an instinctual response to potential danger. It is a “good” fear because it gets our senses focused, our pupils dilated, our muscles tightened. We get ready to fight or flight.
But fear should never be our reaction to experiencing new things. It should not send us into an anxiety attack with the mere thought of us stepping outside our routine or our comfort zone. When that happens, it is a real shame, because trying something new is the surest way to expand our knowledge and emotional existence. Without risk, without something new the world and we would still be in the caves.
Think of how excited we get when we receive a gift without knowing what it is inside of the package. The excitement is often greater than the actual gift. The anticipation where all of our senses come together to imagine what the gift is, is what keeps us vibrant and alive. Not risking, being afraid of trying something new is like never wondering what is inside of the gift box.
Taking risks – not talking about jumping off a plane without a parachute – forces us to focus, learn and stretch our wisdom. But many of us equate risking or trying something new with the possibility of losing everything or of putting what we worked so hard for in jeopardy. But without taking risks, without experiencing something new we become passive passengers on our own journey. We stop making decisions and instead hope nothing will happen.
But if we want to feel energized and curious it is imperative that we balance our fears with the excitement for the new. So how do we do that?
- Give some thought to the new endeavor/experience remembering the answer you are looking for is not necessarily should we do it or not, but if we do it, will this be of benefit to my life? To better answer that, imagine what your life will feel like by going through this experience.
- Once you decide to try something new, take one step at a time. Like a mountain climber you shouldn’t keep looking at the peak. It can be overwhelming. Instead think about the next step you need to take. Look at what is right ahead of you.
- If anxiety hits, remind yourself you have thought through the risks and decided the process of going through the change was worth it. Then take a deep breath and again think how exciting it is going to be to try something new and how great it will be to achieve your goal.
Once you get used to putting your fear in check, taking risks, growing, changing, will be as exciting as having the greatest ice-cream at a most beautiful beach.
Much has happened lately that has kept me away from writing my blogs. A couple of weeks ago my 86 year old dad contracted a very serious pneumonia. It was touch and go there for a while. It was stressful, painful and transformative.
First, let me just say that as of a couple of days ago, he is stable. Yesterday he sat up for the first time in three weeks and today he has made his first sounds.
While at his age, contemplating the end of a relationship is not out of the ordinary, when the situation does present itself it brings about much fear, acceptance and contemplation.
Grief has been very much on my mind lately. I’m not doom and gloom, but I believe I’m coming full circle in understanding the structure of grief, and most importantly how grief can be turned into healing.
As we go through life we lose friends, relatives, parents, looks, youth, wealth, health, jobs, reputation, possibilities, opportunities, love and at the end of it all, life itself. Wanting or not, loss is part of the human experience. Denying it leaves us in limbo.
Great grief takes away the ground from under our feet. We falter and look for support. It hurts and often feels like it’s going to swallow us whole. It also announces a period of mourning, introspection and the possibility of growth.
There is a “good fear” and a “bad fear”.
The “good fear” is a mechanism that goes into place when something harmful is about to happen to us to increase our ability to survive the event. In this case certain areas in our brains such as the amygdala and the hypothalamus are activated to control the first physical response to fear. Chemicals such as adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol are released into the blood stream causing certain physical reactions such as:
- Rapid heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Tightening of muscles
- Sharpened or redirected senses
- Dilation of the pupils (to let in more light)
- Increased sweating
All of these reactions take place to help us focus and do what we must to survive.
Now the “bad fear” is a consequence of our interpretation of who we are in society and how society sees us. And it is often not real.
I’ve experienced fear and its first cousin anxiety in small and large doses throughout my life.
First the big doses:
When leaving a bad eleven year relationship where I was emotionally and psychologically dominated, I wondered if I would survive. I was then told by my partner I would never be anything without him. I fearfully wondered if that was true.
When I lost a job and my financial security because I was involved with a man who talked me into doing something that became a professional conflict of interest, I went on downwards spiral blaming myself for what I had done to my own life. The blame was so great, it created an overwhelming state of anxiety.
When I knew Chris was dying, I experienced tremendous fear of what the last moment would be like and all the moments after.
These are just some of the huge events that happened in my life that brought tremendous anxiety into my mind and system. But in each circumstance I went through the following steps:
- Slowed my breath down
- Carefully analyzed the situation
- Accessed my courage to accept the situation at hand
- Reminded myself life is a learning experience
- Reminded myself I still had life ahead to experience and change what needed to change
- Thought of realistic steps – even if baby steps – to take to come out of my situation
What about fear of saying or doing what we think because we don’t know how we will be perceived?
1. I won’t approach him or her because they are going to know I like them. And what if they reject me? What happens to my self-esteem?
2. I won’t share my idea because what if others think I’m silly or stupid?
3. I won’t tell others what I really want because if I don’t get it, others may think of me as a looser.
This type of fear is crippling and it’s self-created. It often originates from a place within where we are not sure of who we are and of our own worth. When I have these fears this is what I do:
- Who cares? I ask myself. Don’t make everything in your life so serious. So if you tell a guy you are interested and he rejects you, does that mean you are not worthy? NO. Who knows why he rejected me. Maybe I reminded him of his mother J There is no movement forward without risk. If I want something I have to come out of your shell and ask for it.
- Because something doesn’t work out it doesn’t mean I’m less than. It just means it didn’t work out. I move on. I’ve learned not to make everything a judgment on who I am and what my worth is.
The more I get to know myself the more I learn to rely on my instincts and to respect my own values. As long as I am in harmony within “bad fear” is something I can process and eliminate fairly quickly.
I hope this makes sense to you. And if you are in fear, remember, all of us no matter who we are dealing with our own.
I’m in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the city and country I grew up in, visiting my parents.
I have not lived in this city for over twenty years, and so being here is always very emotional as I reconnect with past feelings and history.
I am here staying with my parents who are now in their 80s. I’m aware of their frailty and our time together coming to an end. I’m not living the pain of loss, but I recognize the beginning of my own grieving process. I honor my feelings while I create new experiences.
As I deal with my emotions, thoughts come to my mind: would it have been easier if I had let past disagreements have broken us apart? Would it be easier now, if I had stopped myself from loving them as much as I do?
As I entertain those thoughts I realize that’s what so many of us do with our relationships, wishes and desires.
Life is not cast in stone. It is cast in sand.
That’s what I told my fifteen year old niece when talking to her on the phone today. She was feeling insecure about the classes she had chosen to take this semester. She said “I want to make the absolute right decision.” I tried to explain to her there are no certainties. We make what we think is the best decision and then we move forward with certainty.
I also tried to tell her life is ever changing and having the ability to let go of the past and live in the present was more important than making the absolute right decision.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Jalal ad-Din Rumi
Why are we so self-destructive? Often the answer is fear. Somehow we are afraid of both succeeding and failing in the things we consider important and we turn to aggression and self-destruction as a way of keeping us from truly going after what we desire.
This life dynamics starts early in our development. Think back to when we were kids and we liked the girl in pigtails or the boy with the banged up knees. Most of us pulled the girls’ hair or ignored the boy instead of demonstrating how much we like them for fear of being exposed and rejected.
While that behavior can be cute when we are ten years-old it is destructive when we are adults.
I am standing on the edge of a big change and honestly, I’m scared. I see the big picture, I know it must be done, but being and acting differently brings up a lifetime of habitual behavior based on ancient feelings about myself.
I know what I need to say to this man must be said and I know I will do it. The reasons I’m writing about setting limits again is: 1 – It’s very much on my mind, 2 – I process things by talking or writing about them 3 – I want to share the fear so if anyone out there can identify with this issue or is going through something similar right now, we can do this together 4 – Show others that fear and uneasiness are part of change.