Dealing with fear

January 8, 2010

I was inspired to write this when I received a query from Eileen Flanagan about how we cope with fear.  Do look at  her blog,  which is about “Spreading Serenity, Courage, and Wisdom”.

How do I deal with fear?

First, I own it.  As an articulate, well educated, and generally successful person, I might tell myself that I shouldn’t be afraid.  No matter.  The truth is that I am.  I feel fear when a nurse wants to draw a bit of my blood for testing, when I’m about to go down an intermediate ski trail, when I’m about to photograph a new dance piece that I’ve not yet seen.  I’m feeling fear right now, writing an article about a topic I’ve never addressed in print.

Then I ask myself, fear of what? For the examples it might be fear of the momentary pain as a needle is inserted, fear of being out of control on the ski slope, fear of having to create a great image.

Next, I refine that question, to, If my worst fear came true, what would happen? I might feal pain, or hurt myself on the ski slope, or not be able to write an interesting and informative article.

Some fear help protect us from real dangers.  So, I’ll proceed to ask whether this fear is playing such a role.  “Is this fear protecting me from real danger?” Clearly, having a shot of pain, or a dull and uninteresting article, is not dangerous while going down a trail for which I’m not prepared may be.

When I’ve identified a real danger, my next step is to take reasonable actions to reduce the risk.  I’m afraid of heights, but wanted to renovate an old house and needed to work on a ladder.  So, I bought an industrial strength 28′ ladder, learned about the proper way to “set” it,  and decided that for any work higher than that ladder would reach, I’d hire people.  I might be afraid being on the ladder, but knew that the ladder was more than solid enough to hold my weight.

Focusing just on fear is a mistake.  An important part of dealing with fear is identifying my own strengths. While I might have felt fear while writing this article, I knew that I’m articulate, have something to say, and would probably end up with a satisfactory result — or better.  Such confidence may not cancel the fear, but it might counter balance it.

At the same time, I need to listen for messages from the fear.  I’m often afraid to drive after having just one or two drinks, even though my  blood alcohol may be well below the legal test.  That fear informs me, and I am well served letting it guide my action (and thus, keeping me from driving).

It’s also important for me to step outside myself, and ask, “Am I on center, grounded, clear, in touch with Spirit?”  The fear of having blood drawn may be a habitual reaction to that unpleasant activity — and not a deep expression of real concern.  On the other hand, my fear experienced while trying to create a new work of art might come from a deep place, as I seek to find visual expression of an important experience.

Finally, I’ll ask myself, “Am I safe?”  Here, “safe” can refer to my outward condition (e.g. I’m not “safe” riding in a car without the seat belt fastened), or to an inward state (e.g. I’m not “safe” entering into a business relationship with somebody whose values are suspect, and whose integrity is in question.)

Fear informs me, get in the way, guides me sometimes.  When it overwhelms me, I may need help. But it’s a frequent companion, and we do need to learn to get along.

9 Responses to “Dealing with fear”

  1. Thanks, Arthur. This is very thoughtful and correlates with much of what I’ve been thinking about the importance of sifting the fears that serve us from those that don’t.

    • Arthur Fink said

      I appreciate that word, “sifting”. Indeed, I am trying to separate those fears that I can just notice and perhaps ignore, from those that require a significant response. For some, the response is a physical change. In other cases it’s seeking inward clarity or spiritual guidance about something of importance.

  2. Me said

    Good points, I think I will definitely subscribe! I’ll go and read some more! What do you see the future of this being?

    • Arthur Fink said

      Not sure what you mean by “the future”. Parts of this will certainly become a book. Many of these posts should inform potential clients, who will end up working with me. I hope that the whole blog becomes more of a discussion forum, in which we all can learn. I’m interested in your views, or your hopes.

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  4. Thanks for writing about this. There’s a heap of solid tech info on the internet. You’ve got a lot of that info here on your website. I’m impressed – I try to keep a couple blogs pretty current, but it’s a struggle sometimes. You’ve done a solid job with this one. How do you do it?

    • Arthur Fink said

      Heidy Sonini asks “How do you do it?”

      I just do! For quite a while I tried to write a post a day. I’ve fallen way behind that recently (some medical and other crises), but recognize that much of that content was clearly formed and just waiting to be written down. Now I have to be more thoughtful, perceptive, aware.

      When I’ve an idea for a post I start it. It may be a sentence, a theme, a question. But I start writing with that core, and know that at some point it will be ready for publication.

      It should be clear … what I’m describing here is what I tell my “coaching” clients who claim to have “creative block”. If you can’t create something great, just create something. It may grow on you. And we have to exercise those creative brain cells, those writing cells, those imaginative faculties with which we are born.

      The “dealing with fear” post came suddenly. A friend asked for comments on that subject in her blog, and I started writing. Before I knew it, this piece had arrived on my screen. I posted it here, and linked to that on her blog as well.

  5. Lee Karker said

    Thanks Arthur. I am often aware of fear in a variety of situations, but haven’t really developed a framework for dealing with it head-on. This was very helpful.

  6. I lately came across your blog and have been learning along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have loved reading. Fine blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

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