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“The best way out is always through.” — Robert Frost
We at Learning in Action are here for our community, and we’re listening deeply to what’s needed in the world right now. And what we’re hearing is that there’s a need for resources and insights for working with fear.
We developed the new video course, “Moving Through Fear,” to help you name, tame and move through the fear of what you may be experiencing and would be so natural to be experiencing during this really challenging time.
Much has been written about how to handle fear of things we can control, like fear of flying, fear of public speaking or even fear of failure. But less is available about how to handle the fear that comes with situations like we’re experiencing now —those over which we have little to no control.
Whether they’re top of mind or running in the background, our questions and doubts can generate fear. Will life ever return to normal? Will I or someone I love get sick? Will I lose my job? What about my financial future?
And so that’s what this article — and the video course — is about. How do we work with fear in the face of great uncertainty?
According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, fear is “An unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.”
Fear is first experienced in the most primitive part of the brain, the limbic system. And it’s the amygdala within the limbic system that triggers our fear response. The amygdala sends a message to the hypothalamus and the hypothalamus is what regulates heart rate, blood pressure, hunger and stress hormones and determines our physical response to fear.
Our emotional response to fear is shaped by our life experiences, including our earliest relationships. There is no right way or wrong way to respond to fear; the important thing is to become consciously aware of our fear, and to name what we are experiencing. Then we can begin to work with and move through what’s there and what might be holding us back.
Fear is an emotion, and our emotions are critically important for each of us as they contain unique information that our thinking mind does not provide. And whether we believe it or not, or like it or not, emotions ultimately inform the decisions we make.
At Learning in Action, we like to say that every emotion contains unique information and a gift. If we don’t access an emotion, we miss out on the valuable information it can give us. The gift is what we get when we use that information to make a decision that benefits us. For example, fear. The information that is in fear is that we are being threatened or someone or something important to us is being threatened.
The gift of fear is that when we take in the information in it, that we feel threatened, then we’ll take action to maintain our safety. If we don’t feel fear, we don’t access the information within the fear, and we won’t take the action to maintain our safety.
“There are times when fear is good. It must keep its watchful place at the heart’s controls.”
Like a lot of distressing emotions, fear can be sneaky, operating outside our awareness. We can be feeling fear and not be conscious of it, and that doesn’t stop it from affecting our decisions and actions.
So it’s important to notice — and name — our emotional experiences. This is true with all emotions, not just with fear. It’s a part of mindfulness practice, and practice of emotional intelligence, which is noticing the feelings that we’re experiencing and being able to name those feelings.We can be feeling fear and not be conscious of it, and that doesn’t stop it from affecting our decisions and actions. #MovingThroughFear #HealTheDivide Click To Tweet
Neuroscience proves that when we have a distressing emotion and we name it, simply the act of naming the emotion reduces its intensity for us. It’s called “name it to tame it.” By bringing it to front and center and saying, “Ah, fear, I see you, and I’m experiencing you,” we can begin to release its grip on us.
We’ve created a worksheet to help walk you through the process of naming fear. Once you enroll, you will have the opportunity to download this worksheet and the others included in the course. In the meantime, begin by asking yourself, “What I’m really feeling emotionally is …,” and give yourself time and the benefit of a quiet place to think about your answer.
“Fear makes us feel our humanity.” — Benjamin Disraeli
There’s a story told about the Buddha and how he was often taunted by the Demon God Mara, who challenged him with fear and lust, greed and doubt. And the Buddha would calmly say, “I see you Mara. Come. Let’s have tea. Sit.” So when experiencing these distressing feelings, whether it’s fear, anxiety or anger, he would say, “I see you. I see you, fear. I see you, anxiety. Come. Sit. Let’s have tea.”
For some, it’s against our nature to explore emotions deeply. They can be perceived as a weakness or just a passing sense better ignored. In the Moving Through Fear video course, we walk through a guided meditation on how to track your thoughts as you engage with the fear that you’ve named. In the mindful and reassuring state that meditation brings, we’ll walk with you on a journey to open your mind and body to fully experience your unique emotions.
Let the fear sit next to you, invite your fear to tea, sense the traits of fear and begin to unfurl the wings of love and awareness, creating a larger capacity to hold it all.Let the fear sit next to you, invite your fear to tea, sense the traits of fear and begin to unfurl the wings of love and awareness, creating a larger capacity to hold it all. #MovingThroughFear #HealTheDivide Click To Tweet
Consider this excerpt from the book Life of Pi by Yann Martel:
“I must say a word about fear. It’s life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary. … It seeks to rot everything, even the words with which to speak of it. So you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don’t, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even managed to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.”
By naming and sitting with fear, we shine the light of words and understanding on it. To tame fear, we must work beyond experiencing it to meld it with our life experiences and explore more deeply where it’s coming from in our bodies and minds. Our course exercise, again, is a powerful and comforting guide for all to find our own answers and individual understanding.
The course also offers other powerful tools to help us move through fear, including how to develop or deepen a mindfulness practice, transition from a mindset of expectation to one of gratitude and how to move from fear to love and connection with others.
There is much we can learn from our feelings, and we encourage you to enroll in the video course, participate in the exercises and share your experiences in the comments below.
“Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I’d like to see you in better living conditions”. – Hafiz