I have to admit it – though, please, not in public and especially not in front of my kids: I am a scaredy cat. I get frightened very, very easily.
There are good days and bad days and on a bad day my mind races to find horror images of… whatever happens to scare me that day: from being burglarized, to my son being bullied, to never achieving my professional dreams.
For decades I had more bad days than good. Fear was running my life.
So I felt depressed a lot. I also made bad decisions, because fear is not the best life counselor. Not when there is no wisdom to talk to it anyway.
But that’s one piece of good news that you get as you run through those years: wisdom starts accumulating. If nothing else, you begin to see patterns. The scaredy cat parts begin to understand that sometimes (ahem… a lot!) they blow things out of proportion and things are never as bad as they themselves make them to be.
You begin to learn what works and what doesn’t – with yourself and with others.
The process never stops, really, but I know that it gets better.
Not too long ago I somehow stumbled into a way to switch from fear into growth. Even joyous growth.
A three-step process to… process fear and turn it into adventure, growth and joy
STEP 1: Put an age on it
From my many forays into self-help, as well as my own inner knowing and life experience, I’ve distilled an ounce of wisdom when it comes to fear, whether it’s a little bit of worry or a full-blown anxiety attack: if it is not proportionate with the situation, it is never age-appropriate!
Here is what I mean by that:
If you were in the jungle, at night, all by yourself with blood on your shoes, it would be entirely appropriate to feel afraid. No, strike that – it would be appropriate to go bananas with fear. Bonkers. Out for lunch – because you would be legitimately afraid that you could become lunch… or dinner.
But if you are sitting across the table from a date and you are panicking because you anticipate rejection, obsessing over what THEY think about you, then there’s a much younger part of you in there who is saying “Oh, no! Not again! This is JUST like when mom/dad said those horrible things… or are about to…”
Or you have a disagreement with your boss and you see yourself eating leftovers from restaurant tables, being chased away with the police.
That is also from another age – only you know which one.
So whatever the issue is and however much it frightens you, first try to put an age on it.
You don’t even need to be specific… you can simply say to yourself “Oh, this is from the past… when I was (much) younger…”
STEP 2: Take age-appropriate measures
This is where I branch out, like in those programming languages I actually hate so much…
But… if… then…
So: if the fear comes from the past, just do your best to soothe that part of yourself, much like you would a child, or a teenager, or a young adult who is scared and lost. Be nice – and patient. Talk to “it”. Take it for icecream or a walk. Tell it a hundred times a day that it will all be alright. Let your intuition guide you and behave just like you would with another human being who is frightened in your presence and that you would try to soothe and calm down.
If the fear is legitimate, in the present, then see what you can do about the situation – because the fear is giving you valuable information.
Fear is not the enemy, it is there to actually protect you.
If you are thinking about spending your last hundred dollars on a pair of shoes and you feel a pang of fear, then listen to it! Perhaps it is saying that you are better off saving the money and yes, fear would be legitimate in this case (if that’s all you have in your bank account).
Or if you are on a date and you see the other raise their voice at the nice waiter, be scared alright! You don’t want to be the next person being yelled at…
STEP 3: Enjoy the growth!
Whether you are in the first or the second situation, you won’t be able to help but grow!
You will have transformed fear. You will have learned something about yourself and about life. And you will have found a solution, I can promise you that!
Afterwards you will feel more confident too.
Every act of emotional alchemy is going to make you feel joy – and growth.
I would say it is a wonderful adventure then! Wouldn’t you?
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