Changing your relationship to fear

Published 23. June 2016.

Fear is a tricky. Ultimately unavoidable in any meaningful endeavor, whether we're talking business, creative, relationship, or life.

We learn from culture and personal experiences to treat fear as bad, a purely negative experience. Feeling fear is treated as unwelcome, unwanted, and absolutely not a feeling to solicit or risk intentionally.

Yet fear shows up before the most important challenges and worthy objectives we want to conquer. One way to tackle fear is to "feel the fear and do it anyway," which is an aspect of a good approach to handling fear. Simply by acting in the face of fear you do improve your ability to do the same again the next time.

But even with that it's possible we're still treating fear as a negative experience, something to push and suffer through to get to the good stuff.

What if it wasn't all negative? If experiencing fear was an integral part of the experience? Treating fear as your friend who tells you when something is worthwhile, or where your current boundaries lie—and whether you're pushing too far or not pushing enough.

Flipping fear from a negative sign to a guidepost for growth is an incredible way to shift the feeling in the moment from discomfort you just want to run away from to a feeling to dance with. Fear may be a challenging dance partner, but that's the type that forces you to grow the most. By letting go of your need to feel strong, utterly in control, and confident but acting anyway you open up the possibility for the highest experession of yourself. Going with the flow, instead of resisting it can take you to places you would never imagine.

My route into this experience, one which I'm still learning to embrace, is by putting myself in the path of physical fears. When you step up to a jump, try a movement that risks you falling flat on your face, or anything else that triggers a "whoa now, that looks like a bad idea, let's maybe not do this" response from your lizard brain (the amygdala) you've entered a dialogue with your fear. That fear is an adversarial ally, and now it is your task to ask it whether what it's telling you is a bad idea is just a bad idea because you're uncomfortable...or because it is genuinely beyond your current abilities or capacities? Through repeated practice the answer each time becomes clearer.

Do that often enough and your fears shift from loathed adversaries to welcomed partners in the process of pursuing your best life.