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We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.

 

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.

82 Responses to Talking truth to fear

  1. David
    Twitter: sparkyfirepants
    says:

    “Beyond fear is freedom.”

    Ya know, that kind of simple, short statement actually helps me. I’m trying to come up with some clever allegory to explain why, but I’ve got nada.

    So I won’t try to explain it. It just helps.

    Davids last blog post..Getting better all the time

  2. Tara
    Twitter: blondechicken
    says:

    Wow. Pondering…
    This is actually how I handle fear, I just couldn’t have expressed it so clearly. I sort of poke at it for a while (“Am I afraid of this? Really? Why is that?”) and then reassure it (“it’s ok, self, the fear isn’t debilitating, let’s go on with the plan, but carefully!”) and give it a shout out every now and then (“it’s ok, I know you’re there, I’m being careful, see? No need to rear your ugly head, just lay down now for a bit, mkay?”)
    So I guess that’s sort of #1, except instead of a duck, I think about a big grumpy cat. Yeah, it’s dangerous, but it’s also just a kittycat that wants some attention.

    Taras last blog post..How to cheer up a Wednesday

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

    That’s the truth – I found myself fed up one day saying, “I’m so tired of this! Where is it coming from? It’s not helping me!” Got to a breaking point and had the breakthrough I needed.

    Admittedly I have a vision board for this year and on it are the words “From fear to freedom”. I knew it wasn’t enough, but it was a reminder that there was “more”. Happy to say I made it and it is freeing.

  4. Good stuff, Havi. In my experience, non-stuck people are much better at contextualizing than stuck people.

    Non-Stuck Person: “Whoa – that’s a real setback. Dang, that sucks. . . . I wonder what might make it suck less?”

    Stuck Person: “Whoa – that’s a real setback. Dang, that sucks. Why does my whole life suck so intensely, and why does the universe always work so hard to make me miserable forever?”

    Or thoughts to that effect.

    In my experience, when I’m un-stuck, I experience a normal range of emotions — amusement, euphoria, fear, annoyance, etc. — but I process them a lot better. I think you’ve given some excellent advice here on how to process fear better.

    Tim (@Twalk) Walkers last blog post..How could I persuade you to subscribe to this blog?

  5. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi
    says:

    @David, @Stacey – Oh, good. I’m actually glad the freedom part works for you because then it’s really just my stuff. It’s reassuring to realize that someone could actually find the value in that instead of being completely full of resistance (me). Stacey, I love that you went straight from realization to moving right through it. Awesome.

    @Tara – Your explanation and your grumpy kitty image are so, so great. Brilliant.

    @Tim – I just laughed out loud. Have totally been both those people so many times! Love it. Thank you.

  6. steph says:

    WOW. (I swore, actually, but I deleted it remembering this isn’t Naomi’s blog). That was a very fine post! I’m just now writing on the fear and self-doubt that writers experience. I’m not sure which bit yet but, Havi, can I quote you in my ebook? (It’s on how to get published and the section is Overcoming Obstacles, fear being one of them, of course.)

    stephs last blog post..Finding Your Voice – And Sticking with It

  7. Sonia Simone
    Twitter: soniasimone
    says:

    I have had fear teach me some amazing stuff. Unfortunately, in the past I’ve been a basket case for a really long time (like, years) before I could lighten up enough to let the message through.

    I really like “Even though.” I’m going to write EVEN THOUGH on a little card and stick it on my bulletin board.

  8. Alsymer says:

    Wow. That is one of the clearest explanations of how to work with (not against) your fears that I’ve read in a really long time. I’ve always hated how personal fears are always considered enemies that must be “overcome”, “beaten”, “defeated” or “removed”.

    I like how you’ve acknowledged that our fears are there for a reason, and until we’ve come to an understanding of what those reasons are, we’ll still have issues with our fears.

    Very well put!

    Alsymers last blog post..My Neglected Life

  9. Mark Silver
    Twitter: MarkHeartofBiz
    says:

    Thanks, Havi, for opening this up. There’s no way to bulldoze through fear without creating a big mess- that’s my experience.

    And I have compassion for that poor teleclass leader who had somehow moved through her fear, and wasn’t conscious of the process, so she couldn’t share it in a way that was effective for you. Ugh!

    May I add in a piece I find helpful? At one point in my spiritual life I realized that the voice of fear is actually TRUE, it’s just incomplete. That the core of the fear is truth, but the statement just doesn’t go all the way.

    I wrote about it here. Oops- it wasn’t on my blog- it was an old newsletter. I just posted it on my blog:
    How to Get Fear Off Your Business Back.

    Does that help add to the discussion? I don’t mean to be link-pimping inappropriately. What’s the etiquette for a situation like this?

    Mark Silvers last blog post..How to Get Fear Off Your Business’s Back

  10. Karl - Your Work Happiness Matters
    Twitter: partybizconnect
    says:

    Talking to your fear is a great way to put it. When we create a relationship with our emotions they stop being so big and concrete, they become malleable. I read an article in the NY Times that discussed self talk. We are losing this ability because of all the noise in our lives – TV, video games, and the like. We’ve lost a connection with ourselves.

    We can gain this back by learning to talk to our fear. Asking it why we feel the way we do, when we run it only gets stronger. When we join it, it becomes a friend. We disconnect with our fear and therefore find a way to understand it.

    Great post! Love the angle!

    Karl – Your Work Happiness Matterss last blog post..Failures You Should Either Release or Keep Pursuing

  11. Yes, yes!

    I work with all my strong emotions that way – talking to them, seeing what they are about, what they are needing and wanting from me.

    Internally, I always refer to myself as “we”. As in “What do we want to do today?”, “How do we feel about this?”. Then all the little voices chime in. It’s like holding a committee meeting in my head.

    Cause, like you, I got assloads of resistance.

    I also talk to my business that way. Like it’s a person.

    Pretty much I talk to myself all the time.

    Good thing I live alone, LOL. =)

    I’ve found NVC (non-violent communication) to be an excellent tool for this kind of self-talk. Translating the incoherent fear-babble into “Ok, so you are needing reassurance and safety?”.

    I know you know NVC, but in case other people in the thread don’t – it’s super helpful for this kind of thing!

    Emma

    Emma McCrearys last blog post..Differentiating Your Goals From Your Heart’s Desire

  12. James | Dancing Geek
    Twitter: dancing_geek
    says:

    Ooooooooooooooh – insights, insights! Yey!

    Yet again you right something that is just perfect for where I am right now.

    I’m trying to find a balance between the stagnation of comfort and the screaming, brain-melting fear of massive change. The idea that the fear is protecting me from going overboard and getting carried away (which I tend to do when I’m excited) means that I can see it as a friend. “Hello friend!” I can say, “Why are you here?” and bingo I’m noticing that I need to prepare a bit more or slow down the pace a little or just reassure myself that I’m ok by doing a quick review and seeing where I’m at.

    Now I get to be grateful that I’m afraid. How sweet is that!

    James | Dancing Geeks last blog post..Is it art or self-indulgence?

  13. I dig even though. “Even though I’m afraid, I’m going to get on with my shit.”

    I’ve found — and I know you and I talked about this — that I like telling myself I’m allowed to be afraid, or panicked, or overwhelmed. As afraid or panicked or overwhelmed as I want. But I have to do it later.

    Like the first teleclass phone adventure. I was like, if you want to freak out, that’s fine. You just have to wait till the class is done.

    One of the things that helped me the most with this was becoming a parent. Michael is afraid of wasps. I am also afraid of wasps. Things used to get pretty ugly when the orange little bastards were around. But by getting all panicked, I make an unpleasant situation virtually intolerable. My job is to help my son. I can’t do my job when I’m panicking. Panic later, when the kids are in bed.

    By that time, I don’t want to panic. I just want a damn glass of wine. Crisis averted.

    Naomi Dunfords last blog post..Fear, Failure, Opportunity, Success, and Po Bronson

  14. Avital says:

    Thank you so much for this excellent post. I was so overwhelmed that I have shared it, dug it and added it to my Facebook profile… Every time I have tried to follow a fear, rather than to be perplexed by it (or paralyzed) I could figure out one more thing about myself and get forward, or at least shed some more light on the way forward (which I have not always taken – but that is another problem). You are so right about it. Fear is a safety mechanism and you have just provided the perfect manual.

  15. Monica says:

    Regarding fear- My therapist told me that as long as I don’t get hit by a bus, I will be ok. Yes, things will go wrong, bad things will happen, etc, but in most cases I can’t do anything about those things (so why worry?).

    In spite of said setbacks, I will continue to breath, my life will keep going and I have to get used to it, and regroup and move on.

    So when I’m scared or worried, I remember that if I’m not getting hit by a bus (or dying in some other way)I have to keep moving and keep trying and keep doing… otherwise what is the point in taking up space on earth?

    Monicas last blog post..I’m having a really bad week so far

  16. steph says:

    Havi – Hmmm. You’ve just inspired me to be that much more conscious of what I’m writing. I’m not going to call my section OVERCOMING Obstacles. I’ll find some other word…

    stephs last blog post..Finding Your Voice – And Sticking with It

  17. Janet Bailey
    Twitter: janetbailey
    says:

    This is key, and thanks for acknowledging it: <>

    What bugs me most about “beyond fear is freedom” is the implication that once you do the scary thing, you’ll feel great and everything will be fine and it won’t ever be scary anymore.

    Well, no, not always. Sometimes, and that’s great. Other times, you do the scary thing, and it doesn’t work out (that’s what you were scared of), so you feel really bad… or it does work out, but you feel drained. Not annihilated, but not like you can be an official dragon-slayer, no problem, from now on.

    What’s helped me is to (a) think of it as stretching an emotional muscle and (b) separate the feeling from the goal. I.e., “My goal is to do xyz. My goal is not necessarily to feel safe and comfortable while doing xyz.”

    What helps *really* the most, honestly, is huge infusions of support and confidence from trusted humans, right up to (and during, if possible), and immediately after doing The Thing.

  18. Janet Bailey
    Twitter: janetbailey
    says:

    Hmm…my quote-back didn’t come through in previous post. What I meant to say up front was, This is key: (quote) 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 (end quote)

  19. […] called Talking Truth to Fear, and here’s a teeny tiny excerpt: Your fear is a part of you. So kicking it is like kicking […]

  20. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi
    says:

    Wow, these comments are all so thoughtful and inspiring, I kind of don’t know what to add.

    But …

    @Mark – thanks for that. You’re right. I wasn’t even thinking about what this woman was going through, but yeah, she found an answer and didn’t understand how much we needed to be walked through it.

    Your comment also made me think about how deep visceral full-body spiritual understandings can be so profound, but sound so dumb when you try to explain them? You know, we’re all one, or it’s all love. It feels so blissfully ecstatic but when you put it in words, no one can get it from that.

    And thanks for the useful link! Of course it’s not link-pimping, it’s sharing relevant, important information with my favorite people! Don’t make me drag you into my non-icky self-promotion course! :)

    @Emma – Yes yes yes. NVC is a great way to talk to yourself, to fears, to the body. Nonviolent communication, everyone.

    I could seriously be here for another hour writing the world’s longest comment so I’ll stop, but this is all just great stuff. There’s so much good, useful, compassionate food for thought in here.

    Loving and enjoying it all ….

  21. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi
    says:

    No, I have more to say!

    @Steph – That’s why I ended up calling my ebook “Dissolving Procrastination” even though everyone wanted it to be Kicking or Blowing Away or whatever.

    We don’t have a lot of “soft” vocabulary for talking about habits because our language is completely grounded in the idea that habits are the enemy and it’s all about self-mastery.

    (I bet some of you remember my noozletter on “Self mastery is a big ole waste of time” … talk about a total rant … http://www.fluentself.com/blog/newsletter/forget-self-mastery/)

    @Janet – “What helps *really* the most, honestly, is huge infusions of support and confidence from trusted humans, right up to (and during, if possible), and immediately after doing The Thing.” Yes. A hundred times yes. That’s so great.

  22. Linda says:

    Great topic Havi – thank you.

    Given the nature of my biz (working with folks w/cancer & other serious illnesses), fear is almost always mentioned.

    I too bristle when it’s suggested that one needs to get rid of the fear, move past it, battle it etc … In my work, fear opens the door to a portal that when walked through – leads the way to the possibility of enormous healing. I also feel that fear is not the problem; it’s what we do with it that creates difficulty.

    Linda

    Lindas last blog post..Transformative Power of Illness

  23. Diana Maus says:

    “Dude, the war is over.” But Havi, what if it’s not? To some of us it seems like there is a bus careening around every corner. I like your calming strategy, but does it take into account existential anxiety? I hear two things here today…
    1. There is a bus but it’s not going to hit you.
    2. There is no bus and it’s safe to come out now.

    Unfortunately, there is that third possibility.
    Are you only speaking of irrational fears here?

  24. David
    Twitter: sparkyfirepants
    says:

    Havi, I’ve read over your post a few times since and I can really appreciate what everyone is saying here. It seems that everyone has a very personal way of dealing with fear and some people are great at passing along their techniques.

    I guess I’m a little thrown off because it seems like every way of dealing with fear is appreciated and supported… except bulldozing through it, and feeling like a rock star afterwards.

    I get the impression that’s…wrong.

    It’s valid if it works for you, right? So it works for me. I wish I could explain it in detail, but I can’t.

    Do I pass that on to my kids? Nope. I don’t because they will have their own way, which could be something we never thought of. I’m not going to tell them to just bulldoze their way past it like I do. Of course I’ll help them figure out their way, that’s what I’m here for.

    I bulldoze through my fear. I tell myself to get over it. I do the thing. When the thing’s done, I tell myself, “Oh. Yeah. You were right, that wasn’t so bad. Thanks for telling me to suck it up, Dude.”

    I am a bulldozer. I guess that’s why I hear, “Beyond fear is freedom” and understand what it’s saying without thinking about it too much. Some things just work.

    It’s like when I’m hiking up a steep hill and the guide says, “It’s only another half mile, we just have to push through.” I get that. I’m winded and sore, but I imagine the reward and it calms me down.

    Again, it was really cool to hear all of these different ways of dealing. I gave thought to each one and when my kids need to figure out how to deal, I’ll suggest some of the stuff I learned here. It just might be their thing.

    Davids last blog post..The Big TR says…

  25. @Diana,

    I’m curious what Havi will say but I wanted to share my experience with the “existential” thing. My big thing was existential angst. I would go around and around about it until one day a friend said to me something like “Dude, pain isn’t existential. It’s from real things that happened (or didn’t when you needed them to).”.

    I had developed a habit of going into “existential stuff” as a kid to avoid the pain and fear that was overwhelming. And as an adult I was still going into my head and what I needed to do was hang out in my body, because that’s where the pain was. And once I learned to do that, and cleared some of that pain, the existential stuff just dissipated. I wasn’t afraid of existential pain, because I knew I could heal real pain. I wasn’t afraid of existential fear because I had experienced healing real fear. So I would say: try it and see.

    Regarding the busses:

    Yes, sometimes, there are busses. Definitely, check both ways before crossing the street. That’s a rational response to a real threat (hit by bus = ouch).

    If someone won’t even go out on the sidewalk to look because they are too busy worrying about the potential busses – that’s irrational. And they would be very right that hit-by-bus = ouch! But it’s not the point.

    The fear of busses hitting you IS a rational fear. It’s the fear that no streets can be safely crossed that is irrational.

    And when you have an irrational fear – and you can see that it’s irrational – then you can do the stuff Havi is talking about. So you can learn to come out, look both ways, and cross the street. And get to the other side.

    Emma

  26. Alex’s fear-handling ways:

    1. Go into a self-doubt spiral
    2. Experience fits of super procrastination followed by bursts of super productivity
    3. Get super sensitive to anything the bf says to me
    4. Cry a lot
    5. Realize I’m a total basket case, have a complete and utter meltdown
    6. Get on with it and discover that there was nothing to fear in the first place.

    It’s a little rough on the bf, I have to admit. Fortunately he loves me lots. ;)

  27. […] started a conversation about fear yesterday. My other business-spirituality-buddy Mark wrote a post in response. Here’s mine! […]

  28. @David,

    No, it’s not wrong at all! I think it might be different than the kind of “bulldozing” that *doesn’t* work. I think actually it’s a stage of the process – but sometimes people are too panicked to do the “do it anyway” thing – and if you “bulldoze” through in that state, it can do a lot more harm than good.

    I was so excited about the distinction that I wrote a whole post in response: Fear: Should You Bulldoze Through It?

    (It even has a graphic!)

    Emma

  29. James | Dancing Geek
    Twitter: dancing_geek
    says:

    @Alex: I can relate really rather too strongly with your checklist. I’m half laughing/half cringing at seeing myself in what you’ve written. As for my current fears around freelancing:
    1 check
    2 check
    3 check
    4 check
    5 check
    6 – hmmm, here’s hoping!
    And yes, I’m on Navi’s SPFW course ;)

    @Janet – trusted friends are amazing for getting through fears. My fear of heights was vastly reduced by being able to do via ferrera, a sort of ‘rock climbing with harnesses’, with a dance friend who I trusted to keep me safe (kinda necessary if they’ve got you held upside down suspended over a dance floor).

    The idea of letting your fear know that you’re ok, you’re looking out for yourself, worked for me here because I trusted him so much that I was able to confidently tell my fear that everything was fine, nothing to worry about, and it worked! It was such an odd and immediate change from before, when even pretty small heights had me going dizzy and nauseous.

    James | Dancing Geeks last blog post..The Lazy People series

  30. Mynde says:

    Fear, fear, fear. I love fear. Seriously. It has become my greatest tool for self-discovery.

    In fact, one (of the many) reasons I was compelled to take your course (aside from the powerful way you both created resonation using transparency and pure awesomeness) was because it talked about fear. I am always adding to my “lifeskills” toolbox and therefore enjoy ALL of Havi’s hippieness because they are SKILLS people :)

    I have discovered that the scariest places are an access point to unimaginable joy. The natural by-product of this joyful place is pure freedom… to love and be exactly who I am.

    Thank you Havi for this post! heart heart heart

    I am willing to practice “seeing” my fear and making new self-loving, compassionate choices from that awareness!

  31. This is so timely because I JUST GOT off the phone with my sweetheart who gave me such a loving and precise talk about how fear is stopping me (and has been in some profound ways for like two years) and then I read this, which is just what I teach especially at the Writer’s Retreat (at which Havi will be joining me next year!!!!!!!) and sweetheart said, “You would never let your clients talk to themselves the way you are” and he’s right.

    SO time to talk to the fear and see what it wants. Duh. Big hug for waiting so long to figure that one out, Jen.

    And how FUNNY (as in Duh funny) that my last blog post is http://www.comfortqueen.com/suffering-optional

  32. Tim Brownson says:

    I get sick to death of posters telling people to ‘drop the fear’ One of my real bugbears is all the list type blogs that tell people what to do, they just don’t tell then HOW to do it. In fact I’m not even sure of many of them know the difference, after all they only got half way through ‘The 7 Habits’ before getting bored.

    In my experience 85% of people know what to do but they haven’t got a clue how to implement it and that’s the help they really need, not another list of 10 ways to stop procrastinating with such stunning words of wisdom as ‘Get up earlier’ ‘Do the hardest job first’ and ‘make a list’ Then there’s the usual list of “Great post” “This came at just the right time for me!” and “I’m going to print this out and nail it to my forehead” Yeh, that should do it.

    Anyway, I’m rambling now, but I just wanted to say great post, this came at just the right time for me and I have already printed it out and nailed it to my forehead. As well as, it makes a change to read something that didn’t have me rolling my eyes and tutting to myself in a condescending manner like the bitter old cynic that I am.

    BTW, I found my way here after reading the wise words of Kelly from She-Power.

    Tim Brownsons last blog post..Get The Balance Right

  33. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi
    says:

    @Alex – You are so adorable. Sounds like your method works great. And yeah, everyone can identify with it! Hmm, maybe you’ll end up writing a post about how to land a gorgeous, sensitive Spanish boyfriend …

    @Tim – AWESOME. You know, that was my whole backstory impetus for creating the Procrastination Dissolve-o-Matic package. Because I realized that if One More Person said “break things down into steps” and then acted like this was supposed to actually solve any of my problems, I was going to unleash.

    Totally started writing it at first more for my own sanity than for my clients!

    You are so right about it all or mostly being implementation. There’s a huge difference between knowing the what and the how and the why, and then understanding what’s actually keeping you from doing it and then doing it.

    It’s like a book I read once about how to follow-up with people that was all, “you need a strategy” and “just do it”. What?! But enough ranting. I just really wanted to say Hooray!

  34. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi
    says:

    @Diana – It sounds like you’re feeling anxious because you think I’m telling you that your fear isn’t legitimate.

    So I think it’s possible that you may have misunderstood the point I’m trying to make here. I never meant to say that your fear isn’t valid. In fact, I’m emphatically saying that it is.

    In fact, I’m saying that fear is always valid just by virtue of the fact that it’s there. If it’s real to you, it’s real.

    I’m also saying that this fear deserves our attention. That if we give ourselves attention and love and respect when we’re in fear, then the fear won’t need to be as loud.

    I’m definitely not talking about calming it. I’m talking about acknowledging it. The calming comes later, once you’ve allowed it to be there and given yourself permission to eventually maybe even not be impressed by it. It’s the side-effect, not the goal.

    And yes, I’m talking about all fears.

    You said:
    I hear two things here today…
    1. There is a bus but it’s not going to hit you.
    2. There is no bus and it’s safe to come out now.
    Unfortunately, there is that third possibility.

    I assume you mean the possibility that a bus might hit you. That’s exactly the fear I’m talking about. Being able to recognize the fear when it shows up and not trying to repress it, but instead saying to yourself:

    “Whoah, I am feeling very, very afraid right now that a bus might hit me. Even though I hate feeling afraid, this is what’s going on for me right now in this moment. This is what is true for me right now.

    “And even though I’m struggling with this, this is my fear and I’m allowed to have it. It is okay that I have fear of being hit by a bus. I’m a human being and I’m allowed to be afraid sometimes. Even though I don’t know for sure whether or not a bus will actually hit me, this is me acknowledging and noticing my fear.”

    Does that clear things up a little?

    I would never, ever imply that existential anxiety isn’t an issue. Of course it’s an issue. All fears want attention and reassurance and all fears are worthy.

  35. Amy Derby says:

    Havi, you and your wooden ducks… :-)

    I’ve taken such workshops, but none on cold calling (because I think cold calling is stupid). Usually the theme is: Do it anyway, don’t let the fear stop you, and once you do it a bunch of times the fear will lessen. While this makes sense, I already know this and don’t see the need to continue to pay new people to tell me.

    You have your duck(s). I have rabbits.

    They teach me important lessons about stupid behavior. My rabbits are smart. They know which toy is the “run-with-it” and which toy is the “humping bunny” (don’t ask). If you ask them if they want a big carrot, they know the difference between “big carrot” (which is a treat) and the itty-bitty carrots I normally give them. Yet they’ll bite electrical cords repeatedly, never learning that every time they do it they’ll get shocked and go flying across the room. One jumps into the garbage can on a daily basis, forgetting he won’t be able to get back out until I notice he’s in there and come rescue him. Bunnies are fearless, because they don’t understand fear. Doesn’t mean they’re stupid.

    When I’m afraid, I feel stupid. I think I should be smart enough to not be afraid of something so stupid as talking to a group of people.

    So in my wacked out mind, when I have to do something that terrifies me I tell myself to be a bunny. The worse thing that will happen is I’ll get thrown across the room or end up in the garbage can.

    Amy Derbys last blog post..Why List Posts Leave Me Listless

  36. Diana Maus says:

    “It sounds like you’re feeling anxious because you think I’m telling you that your fear isn’t legitimate.”

    Yes, exactly. Especially if you add “If it’s real to you, it’s real.” Because the bus is real and it’s coming and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. I can pull smaller fears behind me like ducks…fear of public speaking, fear of being judged (even for this post) or rejected, or poor… but not this one.

    Okay, so I love that you recognize there is a third space that is quite complex — a stubborn animal that always remains. I think you can move it around a little but it never goes away (existential anxiety). It seems you may have found a way stop running from it. (I am listening.)

    “if we give ourselves attention and love and respect when we’re in fear, then the fear won’t need to be as loud.”

    I like this comment very much. Wasn’t part of my upbringing. Perhaps that’s why I connected with your guided imagery and with your site in general.

  37. Diana Maus says:

    oh, forgot…
    @Janet “What helps *really* the most, honestly, is huge infusions of support and confidence from trusted humans, right up to (and during, if possible), and immediately after doing The Thing.”

    I really think that is the key to comfort–or courage– despite fear.(Wish we all had such support available.) Thanks for putting it so well. And it ties in so well with Havi’s idea of self-support.

  38. Diana Maus says:

    sorry guys, I’m new to posting, should have done these posts all at once.
    @Emma Thank you for your insight. You are right, of course, about the personal vs. the existential. I have been in analysis (the whole enchilada) for 28 years (alright, I hear some of you laughing…no fair) But I think that like peeling an onion, after you’ve examined the personal roots of your fears you are left with a now well-examined existential fear. That’s my take. What a great blog subject!

  39. Sundi says:

    I bet you never thought somebody would pass this on to their kids! No, I’m not a boomer with middle-aged kids…I’m talking about my ten year-old. I especially like the “even though” statements for him but I really see the six year-olds getting into the ducks! Never thought I’d find a parenting tip here Havi! Some days I need them more than I need to conquer my own fears. Great stuff!

  40. @Diana

    Ah yes, *that* kind of existential anxiety. That’s where spiritual practice comes in, for me.

    One time in college Gary Snyder was a guest professor in our class and I asked him “Whats the deal with the whole “Life is Suffering” stuff in Buddhism? I don’t like that worldview! Sounds sucky!”.

    He said a better translation is more like, “Life is never going to be quite satisfactory in some permanent kind of way.”.

    I perked up. Oh yeah! That’s what it feels like! Life never is quite satisfactory! What’s up with that?

    It took me awhile, but I’ve come to understand that cultivating and renewing a daily connection to Source (in whatever way works or however that looks like to you) is the way to deal with this kind of basic fear of the impermanence of life.

    Life *is* impermanent. You never do *know* when a bus might just hit you out of nowhere. And…there’s nothing you can do about that. Except learn to ride the wave of life and trust that even if that bus does hit you, there will still be Source, because Source is the only permanent thing in the Universe.

    Here’s a simple way I think of it: take refuge in the breathe. Refuge means “put stock in the permanence of something”. If you take refuge in “I won’t get hit by a bus”, well, that’s just not wise. Cause you might. Taking refuge in the breathe means (to me), to put stock in the permanence of one breath following the other. And breath in the larger sense – life breathing in and breathing out. The waves and cycles of life. Whatever happens to us, something else will happen after that. No situation lasts forever. So that means you gotta let go of something you cherish sometimes, but it also means even the bad situations eventually shift and change.

    Meditation, mindfulness, spiritual practices that bring you into your body, they help to expand the body’s ability to just be present when that bodily anxiety is going on. It expands your capacity to be present to more situations. And by “be present to”, I mean accept reality and still stay connected to your own grounded sense of yourself even when confronted with “bus-hitting-you” situations.

    Having that confidence that you can be present in many situations that inspire fear will lessen the overall anxiety I think. Because you will know, OK, whatever it is that happens, I am pretty confident that I can breathe, take it in, take care of myself, etc. That takes awhile to teach your body, but it provides immense relief.

    Emma McCrearys last blog post..Differentiating Your Goals From Your Heart’s Desire

  41. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi
    says:

    @David – Sorry, had to percolate with that for a bit.

    My sense is that you’re feeling uncomfortable because you think that I think that your way isn’t legitimate.

    So maybe I also wasn’t clear or maybe we’re also talking past each other with certain words and their associations.

    Will try to rephrase and maybe that will clear things up .. and maybe it won’t. Who knows? :)

    It’s not that I think bulldozing is illegitimate; just that when you crush something deliberately it will keep coming back. That’s the nature of resistance and repression — struggle creates more struggle.

    Of course you can do whatever you want with your fear. It sounds like you’re talking about choosing to deal with fear in a certain way, while knowing that there’s a choice and you’re choosing it. It’s conscious and intentional. I think that’s great. That’s what this is all about.

    The thing is, most people don’t know that. They don’t know they have a choice. Our entire culture is centered around “fight it” and “kick it” and “beat it to a pulp”, so most people have no idea that there is also another way that’s less violent and with a better chance for long-term results.

    Naturally you always have a choice. For everything. Someone else could also choose to repress anger or to shut himself off from love, and that’s their decision. I just think it’s important that they know it’s their decision and not the default solution. Most of us are raised with the default.

    In terms of your hiking example …


    It’s like when I’m hiking up a steep hill and the guide says, “It’s only another half mile, we just have to push through.” I get that. I’m winded and sore, but I imagine the reward and it calms me down.

    To my way of thinking, that’s not bulldozing at all. It’s motivating and encouraging. Like, come on! Light at the end of the tunnel.

    There’s a huge difference between saying “I get that you’re tired and hungry, and I appreciate how hard this is for you, and we’re going to have to work hard to get through this rough spot. Let’s go!” (COMPASSION, ALLOWING, ACKNOWLEDGING) and saying “Hurry up, you lazy piece of crap!”

    The latter is what I think of as bulldozing: not acknowledging pain and insisting on repressing the fear.

    It seems like your definition of bulldozing is more like firm motivation, which is really powerful and could be totally compassionate as well. The way you describe it is full of allowing and acknowledgment for what you’re feeling, which is exactly what I’m talking about when I talk about meeting the fear.

    So I think we’re not as much at odds as it might seem on the surface, linguistically.

    And I hope you know that no matter what you think, you’re welcome to think it and welcome to think it on my blog. I certainly didn’t mean to give the impression that I think your way is the wrong way.

    And like I said to Mark, “beyond fear is freedom” is probably a totally deep spiritual truth that just doesn’t work for me as instruction because I need some to-dos. That’s why for me the conscious acknowledging and processing is so powerful. Hope that’s helpful …

  42. Lynn Crymble says:

    First I have to admit that I didn’t read everyone’s comments because, well I’m either lazy or just need to get this out now.
    Here’s the thing – I have no clue what any of this means or looks like. I’m a pretty smart chick but when it comes to the kind of exercise you’re talking about, I’m utterly baffled.
    So my fears are some sort of object/animal behind me. Do you know what happens when I try to put this into practice? I spend a ton of time trying to make sure I come up with the right animal and when I forget to do it, I beat myself up.
    “Why am I even trying this when I know it’s not going to stick?”
    Self-defeating, maybe. But it’s more that my brain, and I’m sure everyone’s, is always overthinking and overprocessing that I can’t ‘remember’ to do the things that require more brain power and focus.
    Does that make sense?
    I emailed you and Naomi a question (for the Non-Icky Self Promotion course) that is very much along these lines – how fear is paralyzing.
    And even though I appreciate that I should deal/interact with my fears, I have no idea how to break through all the other noise in my head.
    Boy, I sound like such a whiner!

    Lynn Crymbles last blog post..A Friendlier, New Kind of Book Review: First up, a business book not like other business books

  43. […] 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 […]

  44. […] though to get only slightly off topic for a quick sentence, I have to say that Havi Brooks’ post called “talking truth to fear” has really had a wonderful effect on me. I’m […]

  45. Kyeli says:

    I am a relentless fear-facer! This post makes me incredibly happy, Havi!

    I’ve been working on facing fears and figuring them out, listening to them and digging up the reasons behind them for years. It’s amazing and gratifying work! (:

    Thank you so much for writing this. It’s really good to read (I’ve read it three times already!). (:

    Kyelis last blog post..Do I look holier-than-thou in these pants?

  46. […] social standards. There are exceptions like actors and other artists, but the rest of us are often locked down by our fear of being labeled “weird.” The weird guy in the office doesn’t get asked to join […]

  47. […] week Havi Brooks over at The Fluent Self wrote about fear. In the post, she talked about how fear is a part of us and we should let it teach us instead of […]

  48. […] week Havi Brooks over at The Fluent Self wrote about fear. In the post, she talked about how fear is a part of us and we should let it teach us instead of […]

  49. […] been reading “The Fluent Self” from Havi Brooks. An interesting take on dealing with patterns that hurt […]

  50. […] what do you do about it? Well, I really stole this idea from Havi Brooks and her fantastic posts about fear and how to approach it. Not face it, overcome it, battle it, or squelch it, but approach […]

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