What we do here:

Work on our stuff. Dissolve stuck. Play. Experiment. Rewrite patterns. We take sometimes-heavy things* and we make them more fun, playful, manageable.

I also write about my conversations with walls and monsters, and what it's like to work on a pirate ship. Good times.

* Sometimes-heavy things include: mindfulness and presence, pain and trauma, business-growing, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity


Talking truth to fear

A few years ago I took a course with some semi-famous biggified chick on getting over the fear of cold calling.

To be honest, I could not care less about cold calling. I was there for the fear.

Cold calling just isn’t really my style. And at this point in my business (gott sei dank), more people want to hire me than I care to work with.

So even if cold calling weren’t completely terrifying, the likelihood of me ever doing it … not so high. Actually? I pretty much don’t call anyone ever*.

*Which reminds me to go pick up the phone right this second before my mother pokes her head over here to “see what you’re doing on that blogsite of yours”.

Anyway, I didn’t want help with cold calls. What interested me, as someone who works with people on their stuck fear patterns all the time, was the techniques or insights she’d share for working through the fear.

I figured maybe I’d pick up a new cool thing to add to the repertoire. No.

You know what she said?

“Beyond fear is freedom.”

Your advice: it isn’t helpful.

I’m not even kidding. That was her whole thing. Beyond fear is freedom.

She put it out there, paused for dramatic effect to let this pearl of wisdom sink in and then repeated it about seventeen times.

It’s a good thing we were on mute or a hundred people would have heard me go, “Oh, puhleeeeeeeeeeeeeeze.

Okay, so beyond fear is freedom. That is true, yes.

It’s just that the truth of it is overshadowed by the fact that it’s a completely idiotic thing to say.

Well, let’s be fair. It’s equal parts true and stupid. True in that, “yes, that is what happens when you move past a fear.” Stupid in that, “hey, that is the most useless piece of advice ever.”

Even worse, that was pretty much the sum total of her advice. That if you just knew that once you got past the fear there would be freedom, you’d hurry up and do it already. Oh, and that you should just push through the fear like you’re a great big bulldozer.

A big, dumb, mean machine. Lovely.

To have fear is to be human.

Here’s the thing about fear. It is natural and normal. It’s a part of being alive. Fear and trepidation are going to show up all the time and in a lot of places. In the news. In your body. In your relationships.

Sometimes this fear is going to be based on things — or the possibility of things — that pretty much everyone would acknowledge to be legitimately, genuinely scary. Terrorism. Violence. Illness. Tragedy.

Sometimes this fear is going to slip quietly in to your unconscious mind and apply itself to things less obviously rational.

Like alektorophobia (fear of chickens). Or — if you’re Adrian Monk — fear of milk. Or — if you just got a weird feeling from the way I just juxtaposed those two fears — fear of things that aren’t kosher. Sorry about that.

Of course you can take conscious, intentional steps to work with your fear, dissolve your fear and get to know your fear — so you can distance yourself from it and heal it.

That’s part of life too. Maybe even the most important part.

But it’s interaction with your fear that is going to bring you into the place where talking about freedom is even relevant.

The interaction with your fear. Not the bulldozing through it or the stomping on it. And certainly not the knowledge that the freedom is there waiting for you to find it.

The myth of fear.

The myth of fear is that you’re supposed to overcome it or conquer it.

The truth about fear is that if you learn to talk to it and treat it with respect, it will teach you how not to be afraid.

Yes, it can be horrible and crippling and awful.

Trust me on this one. I know fear pretty well. I know the kind that causes full-body trembling and awful heart palpitations. And the kind that makes you think demons are flying at you through the windows. And the kind that has you sobbing and writhing on the floor.

Fear can be debilitating. So I don’t mean to be going off on some annoying spiritual kick about how it’s good for you or something. It’s just that you don’t want to battle it.

And not just because battling it makes the fear stronger (it does), but because — when you talk to it — your fear is the best teacher you will ever have.

As you might imagine, people come to me all the time wanting to know how to give their fears a good kick in the pants. And we always, always, always get through the fear together and back to the calm.

But we don’t do kicking.

Of course kicking sounds like more fun, and of course you want to do it. Good grief, I want to do it. I seriously wish it worked like that sometimes.

It doesn’t work like that.

Here is how it does work.

Your fear is a part of you. So kicking it is like kicking yourself.

You created it. Almost like kicking something you gave birth to.

You created it for a reason. It’s useful to find out what that is.

To protect you from stuff that is dangerous and bad for you. That’s a very legitimate reason.

Right now this protection mechanism isn’t working. Because this fear is paralyzing you instead of protecting you.

It’s not working because your fear — aka your desire to keep yourself safe — is preventing you from moving forward on the things you truly want to do. Exactly.

Instead of kicking fear, you can dissolve it. It can kick back, but it can’t dissolve *you*.

The only way to get the fear to dissolve is to interact with it. Just like you, it wants to be noticed and cared for.

Your fear needs to know that you are taking steps to keep yourself safe. So give it some reassurance.

Talking to your fear.

Think of it this way. Your fear is like a knight. It has a mission or a quest or whatever to keep you safe from failure and humiliation and things going horribly, horribly wrong.

So it keeps you from working on the thing you want to do. It shows up again and again, with worry and doubt and what-iffery.

A misguided strategy, yes. But well-intended. Annoyingly well-intended.

If you want your fear to stop scaring you silly, you’re going to need to reassure it that its mission has not been in vain.

In fact, you can tell your fear that you’re going to release it from its quest and take over the mission of looking out for your own well-being.

Talking to your fear is a great way to achieve distance from it. When you’re talking to your fear, it isn’t you anymore. It’s just a temporary part of you. You contain it, but you contain a lot of things.

This distance, paradoxically, allows you to befriend it.

Befriending it, paradoxically, allows it to become something else.

I know. Argh, stupid paradox. Is it scary to talk to your fear? To even acknowledge its shadowy presence in the room? Absolutely. I’m sorry. Hug.

Three ways to work with fear.

Obviously this stuff is part of a life-long process of working on your stuff. No “three tips” or “five tricks” are going to heal a lifetime of hurt. It’s just more stuff to use in your practice.

But hey, it’s better than being egged on with “beyond fear is freedom”, right?

So here you go. Three things I do to work with fear to achieve the distance that ultimately allows me to get closer to myself — the part of myself that isn’t living in fear.

1. Turning your fear into a duck.
Yes, this is a little odd. I pretend that I my fears have been turned into ducks. That they’re little wooden ducks that follow me on a string.

And then I turn around and say, “Oh, are you guys still there?”

2. Using “even though” sentences.

Even though I have this fear, I’m getting better at noticing when it’s showing up. Even though I want to kick it, I’m reminding myself that it’s a part of me and that it won’t be around forever.

The “even thoughs” acknowledge the fear and give it legitimacy, while still allowing you to introduce new ideas and new energy into the mix.

3. Reminding yourself about the quest.
If your fear is a stout knight sworn to defend you from harm, you’re the knight’s best friend who’s like, “Dude, the war is over. It’s time for you to go home and court Guinevere.”

You want to be constantly, lovingly reassuring the fear that some other part of you can this role of protector now and that you’re going to make sure that everything gets taken care of.

So — that’s the sum of my wisdom today.

Your fear is normal. Your fear is legitimate. Your fear is talking to you. Find out what you need to know.

Much love to you.

By Havi Brooks. You can also read a couple thousand other things or check the current list of beloved posts. Our sweet peaceful corner of the internet has been around since August 2005 and you are welcome to come play.

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82 Responses to Talking truth to fear

  1. James | Dancing Geek
    Twitter: dancing_geek

    @Amy – I can’t believe I missed your comment about Bunnies until know, cause hey look what I blogged about! :)

    Sorry, shameless plug but…bunnies!

    James | Dancing Geeks last blog post..Learn about your fear from rabbits

  2. […] October 12, 2008 in Emotional Intelligence, Healing the Struggle Note: The word “biggification”, which I’ve been bantying around lately, was invented by the illustrious Havi. I like it, for it’s non-icky connotations. Mad props for the word itself go to her. Go read her awesome blog. […]

  3. […] does. And if you have serious fear issues, you should really go and read this blog post  by her – Talking truth to fear. Its pretty wonderful. And extra helpful. She also has a duck. Which possibly  makes her even […]

  4. […] from the Fluent Self and her sidekick (Selma, her duck) have put together a fantastic “get your stuff done and stop […]

  5. I’ve been wanting to read your fear posts for a while now and finally got around to it. I’m so glad I did.

    Fear is a friend I’m learning to recognize. I’m getting good at noticing when it’s simply blowing its horn for no real reason. It feels very psychobabble touchy-feely, but it seems to help.

    And because I had scanned this post about a week ago before reading it carefully, I’ve absolutely caught myself pretending my fear is a duck. It kind of works. It says, “Okay, that’s allowed to be there.”

    I’m a big fan of The Sedona Method (see the “Stuff I Recommend” section of my site). It’s based in part on the Jungian concept of “What you resist persists.” Sedona’s method of dealing with fear (or any negative emotion) is to acknowledge it, allow it to be there, and then to “let it go.” Sounds simple. Is simple. But it works.

    (Sorry to be so serious!)

    Johnny Truants last blog post..Unfortunately, pants

  6. Insightings says:

    […] idea comes straight from Havi. If you’re afraid of less-than-perfect, then somewhere in your life it was useful for you to […]

  7. […] idea comes straight from Havi. If you’re afraid of less-than-perfect, then somewhere in your life it was useful for you to […]

  8. […] it would help if I turn those two-dimensional characters into three-dimensional ones. Figure out why they besiege me (because that’s what it feels like – a full-blown medieval siege, with […]

  9. p_q says:

    Dear Havi.

    You are a “fear artist”(?).

    I’ts sounds weird, but is kind of like you seem to be.

    Maybe you would say “fear dissolver artist” or something more beautiful, or interesting.
    I just want to say it.

    I’ll keep learning to flow.

    See you on the river,


  10. […] due to her ideas and concepts and the way she presents them. The way she talks about >monsters and fear and asking questions and all kinds of useful stuff that really helps me out. I can’t talk about […]

  11. […] it would help if I turn those two-dimensional characters into three-dimensional ones. Figure out why they besiege me (because that’s what it feels like – a full-blown medieval siege, with […]

  12. Ginger Allard says:

    The phrase “Perfect Love casts out all fear” has just take on entirely new meaning for me! Your entry is completely inspired and brilliant.

    Wishing you a blessed Rosh Hashanah and a contemplative ten days of “Awe” preceding the High and Holy Day of Yom Kippur.

    All Shalom,
    Ginger Allard

  13. Peg
    Twitter: mogland

    I tried this speaking to my fear the other day. As I am weaning myself off of anti-anxiety medication, I am battling the fear of fear! HA! It is like my brain is so afraid of having panic attacks, it tries to bring them on, just to make sure we (me and my brain :-) can handle them – which of course starts a whole cycle of mounting fear. Anyway – I tried this conversation instead, recognizing that it is trying to help, not hurt. It really is a loud scared kitten (more like a lion), that needs to be reassured, and also just needs to know that someone knows the risks and is prepared (me). Relinquish that fear part of taking full responsibility. Also, it just changes the inner dialog – out of the loop and into a conversation. So thanks – it really helped, and I’ll continue using this along the way. :-)

  14. Johnny says:

    I am scared to ask questions in class? How can i make a conversation with my fear? Thanks

  15. Garry says:


    This approach to dealing with your fears and acknowledging them and respecting them is indeed profound. I love it.

    It certainly allows one to grow in spite of their fears (mine) and as you mentioned I would not be kicking, battering, beating to a pulp or otherwise destroying something that was a part of me!

    That always seemed so counterproductive to me to be in the destructive mode. And you captured that essence for me in this post. Thank You.

    I can now move forward with this rather knarly litter of cute puppies, who, when ever one gets upset or offensive, they ALL seem to jump into the fray. When that happens I get so wrapped up with all of them, that I stop everything else and get consumed with all of their little, not so nice actions.

    So I have put a bunch of doggie treats in my pocket today, and we are all heading out for a nice walk around the world today.

    You have a new fan in the neighborhood –

  16. Kaushik says:

    After twenty years of debilitating episodes of anxiety, I was chagrined to discover that fear is something that we can easily let go of. It’s something–a thing, body sensations plus thought-stories. I let it be, allow it, welcome, talk to it, and then let it go. It’s that easy. It’s not easy in thinking mind, but the actual experience of it is natural and easy.
    .-= Kaushik´s last post … You don’t need no F-thing =-.

  17. […] to speak to myself as a young, scared kitten. I guess since we all feel fear, we may all have a scared kitten who’s just trying to protect […]

  18. […] read a really great blog post by Havi Brooks called, Talking Truth to Fear that I feel I need to re-read on a regular basis. She talks about how fear is not something that […]

  19. […] making a change. I can’t let myself start thinking this way. This time will be different. I found this post about fear, by Havi Brooks to very helpful in changing how I view this fear and just the idea of fear in […]

  20. Maria says:

    Hi Havi,
    I had read this post many months ago but yesterday I really understood (not with my brain but with my whole self – if this makes sense) that my fear wants to protect me. And I thought it’d be nice to thank you, so here: many thanks for writing this things you write.

  21. […] care of myself throughout all of the changes that I want to see happening in my life.  I’m learning to talk and interact with my fears, though for now I’m mostly talking to them, as I can’t hear […]

  22. […] up. If you can just allow yourself to feel it, and not react to it, you often realize that being afraid isn’t as scary as we allow ourselves to […]

  23. […] Meine Angst, der schwarze Ritter* Von agata | Veröffentlicht am: 24/10/2011 *Die Idee hab ich von Havi. Ich wälze mich auf dem Boden, winsle und rede mit einem schwarzen […]

  24. […] already a part of you. Havi Brooks from The Fluent Self gets very in-depth with this concept here. This article (and her very unique site in general) are an excellent read and I highly recommend […]

  25. […] that howls and yowls in your mind and tells you don’t go on, you’ll fail. Also, this Havi Brooks woman is one smart cookie […]

  26. […] towards true success. This is insidious because it’s so easy to fail to see this for what it is: hidden fear. Fear you don’t acknowledge in […]

  27. […] spent a lot of time this week in Fearlandia. In a really good way.  In a conscious and awake and loving way.  There is no way to bring a dream […]

  28. mark phillips says:

    great article.

    AND i got to learn a new word — alektorophobia (fear of chickens). I love it!

    yours in mindful defearification
    markie x.

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