Fear is our most basic human shadow. Fear of death, rejection, failure, confrontation – even fear of success end up unconsciously running our show.
In order to overcome fear, first identify what your typical fear response is.
KNOW YOUR FEAR RESPONSE
- FEAR FREEZE: When faced with fear, is your instinct to freeze, procrastinate, make excuses? Do you clam up in a meeting – afraid to speak up or offer your opinion? Do you avoid confrontation? Freezing also looks like turning to addiction, having a glass of wine or smoking pot instead of speaking your truth and actually dealing with the challenging circumstances in front of you. You may even have a physical body response and freeze in your place, become tamasic or lethargic, avoid exercise and notice a general despondency.
- FEAR ATTACK: When you feel threatened or vulnerable, do you jump to blame, criticize or attack someone else. Do you get easily get amped up, angry, irritable or want to break someone else down before they can ‘get’ you? If you tend to cast blame, gossip or self-beat – attacking is most likely your style. Remember: harshness, criticism and anger is perhaps most often turned inward toward oneself.
- FEAR RUN: Denial, avoidance, lying, pretending you “don’t know” and keeping oneself busy are attributes of the ‘fear run’. The yogic (Sanskrit) term for this is rajas. Rajas is over-activity or excessive movement which leads to instability. Common addictions of this response are work, exercise and geographically moving from place to place. This could look like someone who breaks up with a partner prematurely, before the other person breaks up with them. Or, a person afraid to say “I Love You” first – for fear of rejection.
DO THE OPPOSITE
One of the prescribed anecdotes in the yoga psychology is to do the exact opposite.
“Prathi Paksha Bhavana”
Prati means the other/opposite; Paksha is side/aspect; Bhavana is feeling. It is to consciously cultivate the opposite emotion.
If you’re feeling lazy, hesitating or procrastinating out of fear – literally get your body moving. Take action. Ask yourself what is the next right step. Just do it.
Fear is tamasic or stagnant energy. As soon as you physically shift your state – your psyche will follow. Go to the gym, a yoga class, a brisk walk or run. Exercising will immediately shift your bio-chemistry by helping to flush out the stress hormones of adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol, while producing more “feel good hormones” of oxytocin, serotonin and melatonin.
Take baby steps towards a conversation that you are resisting and afraid of.
NAME YOUR FEAR
This also means, name your fear. Practice telling the truth. Silence is the conspirator of fear. As soon as you break the seal of silence – fear begins to dissipate and lose its power.
Call a trusted friend and name your fear. Or, as my teacher Mona Miller taught me, write in your journal the spontaneous, stream of consciousness answer to:
- I am afraid of…
- My fear looks like…
- My fear feels like…
- My fear acts like…
- Fear reminds me of…
Opening the Pandora’s Box of fear begins to dissolve the shame accompanying fear and is the first step in building courage.
Get honest about your fear so that you are not stuffing down, repressing and shutting down all the very valuable and valid inner voices.
Please leave a comment with what tactics work for you to overcome fear!