Tag Archives: fear

Feeling Out of Balance and Centered at the Same Time Part 2 – Imagination, Skills and Courage

By Barnes Boffey, Ed.; Director of Training, Aloha Foundation… www.alohafoundation.org

Following the imagination process through means getting very specific about our thoughts and actions. In the case of our relative, let’s say we have decided to work toward being strong, compassionate and detached (obvious derivatives of powerful, loving and free). We now need to create the thoughts and actions that might accompany those feelings. The list that follows is one version of what our new blueprint might involve.

Thoughts for strong:

“Getting angry is not going to solve anything,” ” I need to put my energy into action rather than reaction,” “ Not confronting my sister about her beliefs does not mean I agree with them,” and “ Closedmindedness and anger are the very things I say I am intolerant of.. time to prove it.”

Thoughts for compassionate:

“My sister made choices on her best information.” “I am scared, Ill bet she has been too.” “We both want the best for our country.” “I can lead the way to common ground rather than perpetuating the conflict.” “Shes doing the best she can with the information she has at the time, as am I.”

Thoughts for detached:

“Everything doesnt have to be decided and resolved today,” “Her beliefs do not mean I cant express and act on my own,”  “I obviously need to take action to show myself that I am serious about what I say I believe,” and “Our relationship is more important than our politics… she is my sister.”

With these thoughts  in mind, we can now imagine actions that would accompany them. (again, these are not “right” answers, just one version)

Actions for strong:

Make a commitment to be more politically involved. Move conversations to topics which nourish our family not pull us apart. Actually listen to my sister for amounts of time I can handle and show my strength by actually listening. Accept that reality has changed and plot a course that I did not need to in earlier times. Have the strength to change rather than holding onto my old patterns.

Actions for compassionate:

Tell my sister I am happy she won and that I am sure we both want the best future we can have. Forgive myself for not always being the person I say I want to be. Keep a journal to stay focused and write down as a first entry, “I was born not to pass judgement on my family but to love them.”

Thoughts for detached:

Instigate other community building activities in the family rather than just political discussions. Don’t respond in kind to what I perceive as outrageous statements. Pray that both my sister and I find the peaccouplee and courage to heal the wounds that divide this country.

With this information in hand, I have now achieved some early success in the imagination stage.

The second step is Skills. Here is where we explore the reality that although we may know what we should think and do, we may not currently have the ability to do it. We have to self-evaluate to see if we actually know how to gracefully exit a conversation, or not bite at a stupid remark, or reframe the family’s activity, or pray, or even keep a journal. There may be skills we have to learn and practice to be able to bring our imagined blueprint into being.

And the final step is Courage. By now we know what we would be thinking and doing, and we have hopefully learned some new skills to do it, but change can be fearful and fear can only be faced with courage. We may have fears about taking the steps we need to take. Some in this case might be:

“If I back down from fights will others think I agree with them?” “What if I really can’t be more tolerant of others?” “What if I try and fail?” “What if I replace anger with compassion and I lose the fire in my belly to actually take action?”

There fears are legitimate, understandable and normal. We need to remember, however, that whatever emotions we act on become stronger. If we act on our fears by not taking necessary steps to change, the fear will get stronger not weaker. So now it comes to “the moment of truth.” Do I have the courage to face my fears and change myself rather than insisting the world change so I wont have to. I often ask clients, “Do you really not know what you need to do, or do you know what to do but you are afraid to do it?” One is lack of clarity; the second lack of courage.

***

We have all put a great deal of energy into creating what we want and hoping that will continue. When it does not we can bemoan our fates and rage at the world, or we can go about the business of making the changes we need to make to be loving, powerful, playful and free in a world we may not like or want to accept. Our inability to accept reality does not mean that reality doesn’t exist. It simply means we are unwilling to go through the difficult process of imagining our new selves, learning the skills to put those selves into being, and having the courage  to face the fears that come with any major change in our lives.

Conquering Fear in a Relationship – So, How’s that Working for You?

By Alice Laby

How do we conquer our fears?  First, we need to identify what we are afraid of.  Be very honest with yourself – it may help to make a list.  I am afraid of anger and rejection when I communicate my needs to my partner.  In my previous long term relationship that was the response I received when I made my love and belonging needs known.

There should be input from both you and your partner about what your needs are.  Does he or she have a high freedom need?  Is your loved one’s biorhythm different than yours? Listen,  communicate your respect, and be supportive of your loved one’s choices.

It helps if you write about your fears in a journal before you express them verbally.  If you have started to conquer your fears, write about it in your journal as well.

Celebrate your differences!  Adding a dose of humor is a very good way to open the discussion about the contrast between you and your partner.  I like a folk music song by the trio Gathering Time called The Highest Walls Guard the Greatest Treasures.  Do you build walls to keep yourself protected?  Does your partner?

Fear: Part 3

I Think I Can Get Away With It

by Barnes Boffey, Ed.D

Director of Training, Aloha Foundation… www.alohafoundation.org

I know a relatively large number of people who are having trouble with anxiety as they move into their elder years. They are anxious about the future, anxious about money, kids, weather and just about everything else, and they spend a great deal of time acting as if it were not their fault that they are feeling this way. Like a compulsive overeater who continues to eat bread and sugar but seems continually dumbfounded that they are gaining weight, denial and “hoping we can get away with it” go hand in hand.

As the anxiety becomes more pronounced in their lives, they generally  don’t want to hear that the state of anxiety they are dealing with now is a direct result of their not facing their fearing and anxiety in earlier years. Essentially they hoped they could avoid facing their destructive patterns; they hoped they could outrun it, evade it or deny it long enough so that the full force of the pattern wouldn’t catch them. They would then have gotten away with allowing themselves years of unchecked fear and anxiety without having to pay any price. Every emotion has a cost; some are very expensive (anger, resentment, jealousy) some have very little cost (generosity, gratitude and kindness), but there is “no free lunch.” Just as we can’t continue to spend well beyond our income, the cost of certain emotions can bankrupt us if we continue to create them over time.

We can get addicted to emotions just as we can to substances, and the root of much of this is the false belief that “I can get away with it.” We think we can stay angry at a spouse and not have it eventually cost us our relationship; we think we can stay resentful at our sister and not have it affect the family strength;  we think we can continue to be fearful and anxious without eventually weakening the entire framework of our mental health and happiness. With discipline, courage, thoughtful planning and good tools (see Fear #2) we can change directions. Without all three, our future may have more unpleasant surprises for us than we would hope for.

 

 

 

Fear: Part 2

Emotions You Act on Grow Stronger

by Barnes Boffey, Ed.D

Director of Training, Aloha Foundation… www.alohafoundation.org

One of the most destructive patterns we can engage in is the belief that by giving into fear that it will decrease in strength. For example, if I am scared of telling someone the truth and I gave into that fear and don’t talk with them, my fear of doing it will increase, not decrease. Any emotion I act on will increase in strength; it’s like using a muscle. If I act on courage, I will become more courageous; if I act on forgiveness, I will become more forgiving; if I act on fear, anger or jealousy, I will become more fearful, angry and jealous. We don’t feel our way into new way of acting. We act our way into a new way of feeling. The tools we use to get there are these:

  1. 1. Admit how we are feeling at the present time. (“I am feeling very angry.”)
  2. Decide if this is how we would like to be feeling in this situation (“Do I want to continue to be angry?”)
  3. If the answer is yes, there is no problem. If the answer is “No,” then we ask ourselves what emotion we would like to create to replace the one we dont want. ( “Instead of feeling angry, what would like to be feeling in this situation? …. I think I would rather be calm and forgiving.”)

As a general rule, it is important to remember that “We don’t push away the darkness, we turn on the light.” We don’t remove what we don’t want in the world of emotional well-being, we create what we do want and the non-desired emotions are replaced. When we go into a dark room, we don’t spend our time pushing away the darkness, we turn on the light and the darkness goes away. And, like emotional well-being, if we turn off the light, the darkness returns.

  1. Begin to think and act in the manner that someone would who felt the emotion you want to feel (and here’s the crucial part) even though you dont feel it. Your action and thinking will eventually create the emotion you desire. (If I were feeling forgiving, what would I be saying to myself (my thoughts) and what would I be doing (my actions). I need to start doing those now even though I realize I don’t feel like it.)

Traditional wisdom would have us wait until we change our emotions before we change our actions, but that is a self-defeating process.

Fear: Part 1

by Barnes Boffey, Ed.D

Director of Training, Aloha Foundation… www.alohafoundation.org

When I hear people saying that I am “overwhelmed by fear” or “I can’t face the fear,” or “the fear is terrible,” I know they are only making things worse by the manner in which they are perceiving “fear.” They have a perception that there is something called “fear” out there and that that fear is somehow attacking them or burdening them by coming into their lives. Fear is not outside us; fear is inside us. Fear is an emotion we create when we look at the world and begin to tell ourselves stories about what we see. “I won’t be ok,” I’ll never figure this out,” “I’ll lose what I have and not get what I want,” are all messages that create the emotion of fear with in us.

If we can begin to own the fear and understand we are creating it, we can take steps to change what we are doing rather than trying to change something outside us which was never at fault to begin with. We can stop dealing with fear as though it is a commodity and some kind of external entity, and start telling ourselves things like.” I am creating a lot of fear in this situation.” or “When I look at the future, I start to fear what might happen;” we can begin to take more effective control of our emotional state. This does not mean that we can just easily change from “fearing” to creating other emotions like “faithing,” or “being brave” or being courageous with the snap of our fingers, but we can begin the process and decrease the amount of fear we are creating.

Fear is not an irrational emotion. What is often irrational and destructive is the amount of fear we create in situations which are not as threatening as we think they are. There are “healthy fears” and “unhealthy fears.” Trying to determine which is which and then create the appropriate amount of fear is never easy, but always worth it.

I can choose to see clearly…

by Dr. Ken Larsen

focus1I can choose to see clearly.  I do this by how I focus my attention.  To focus is to see clearly.  When you look at these pictures you can see that the only thing that changes is how the picture is focused. 

All the pieces are there in each picture.  The pieces might represent our experience of life and our memories and perceptions.  They are all there.  It is important to recognize that we can choose which of those perceptions or memories we bring into the focus of our attention.

This shift in focus is a very important component of maintaining our mental health and happiness.

focus2We carry fearful images of what has happened or what we fear might happen.  Those images become part of our present perceived world which tells us how to interpret what is presently happening.  Here again it is a matter of focus.  We can focus on the fear driven images and produce more fear.  Or we can focus on what is actually going on and choose to respond to what is real rather than what is feared.

In my dental practice I would use this insight to help patients deal with their anticipated fears.  If I could get the patient to focus on what was really happening and report to me what they were experiencing, this shift in focus could override the anxiety producing anticipation of an experience that didn’t happen.

The first time I saw this shift in focus at work was when my young wife was in labor with our firstborn.   She gripped my hand and looked at me.  “What’s going to happen is going to happen.  The only choice I have is how I deal with it.”  That lovingly courageous insight deeply impressed me.

One bad habit that I continually am working to change is how I “pre-interpret” a present experience or an upcoming event.  It is easy for me to “awfulize” and anticipate a not so good outcome.  What I’ve learned to do is to shift my focus, realizing that there are no future facts, and “be here now” with curiosity and attention to my present experience of life, which in reality is all I have.  I can’t live in the past or the future.  All any of us have is the present fleeting moment. 

 

Choose FEAR or Love

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

choicesRight now, at this very moment I am standing at a crossroads. As I look in one direction I see doom, peril and potential ruination. In the other direction I see nothing. It’s as if vaseline is over my eyes and I cannot see anything except blurry blobs of ill defined shapes and sizes.

I blame myself for being in this predicament. If I had done a better job of paying closer attention perhaps I could have taken steps to avoid arriving at this particular spot in my life’s journey.

Hold on though. I am not a careless person. Each decision I’ve made along the way was based on doing the best I could at the time with the information that I had. Hmm . . .

I’m discovering that too frequently I blame myself for circumstances, events and outcomes that were not dependent only on my actions or inactions. If blaming is among the deadly habits that contribute to the deterioration and destruction of relationships, how does my blaming myself help me? Hmm . . .

Am I willing to dig a little deeper? Instead of going to self-blame can I better understand my frustration, anger and confusion?

Upon further reflection and some helpful meditative reading I discover that I’m full of fear! If I wasn’t afraid would I be stuck at the crossroads?

Here are some discoveries that have helped me:

FEAR = thinking + time. Decrease either and fear disappears

                                    F.E.A.R. – FORGET EVERYTHING AND RUNor

                                                     FORGET EVERYTHING AND RISE

                                                                                    (Thank you Dave Romanelli for this idea

Happy is the new Healthy, 2014)

What if I face my crossroads, my potential peril, doom or ruination with love instead of fear? Now what?

Yes! Yes! Yes! The choice of direction is clear even though the clarity has not eliminated the blurred and unclear road before me. With love as the guiding light and my total behavior of loving in every step I am propelled forward with confidence and competence.

I choose LOVE and with that choice my Mental Health & Happiness improves. Even though the present “bump in the road” felt more like an overwhelming and insurmountable mountain, with each loving step I am able to continue moving forward.

Are there areas in your life where you’re choosing fear instead of love?

 

Feel what you’re feeling

by Dr. Ken Larsen

There is a phrase that I’ve heard from people who practice mindfulness.  “What we resist, persists.”

insides_kenFears that persist in our lives can have a devastating impact on our mental health and happiness.

While practicing dentistry I would see patients who were nearly paralyzed with fear.  This fear was connected to anticipation of the dreaded Novocain injection.  The images dancing through the minds of these people were associated with all the signs of stress and anxiety.  They were not without courage, however.  To show up for a dental appointment carrying that kind of fear was very courageous.

As I talked with these patients, I would hear them describe their struggle with fear.  “No matter how I try to fight it and overcome it, it is still there.”

If I could gain a bit of trust from the patient, I would get their permission to try something.  Usually there was a wary nod of the head.  I’d smile and say something like, “what I’d like you to do is feel what you are feeling.”  This usually elicited a puzzled look. I would then do something like touch the patient’s cheek with my finger and ask them what they felt. They would reply that they felt my finger touching their cheek.  Then I would ask them to stay focused in that mental state of feeling what was actually happening.  I would tell them that I was going to administer the anesthetic and I wanted them to feel precisely what they were feeling and then report to me after the injection just what they felt.

The results were amazing.  Most people got kind of a goofy look, remarking something like, “I hardly felt a thing.”  Or “I felt a little stick and then some pressure.”  We would then briefly discuss what they had learned about the difference between “feel what you are feeling” compared with reacting to an imagined fear.

I would further encourage them by remarking that it was OK not to like getting a shot.  I would smile and say, “I think I’d worry about you if you enjoyed it, but you have discovered that it is a manageable experience and doesn’t have to paralyze you.”  At that point there was usually one of those moments that we sometimes experience when two people understand one another in a new way and a good way.

I’ve come to see that his principle can apply to other fearful thoughts and memories and expectations that assail our imaginations.  Do you struggle with an unwanted, unwarranted fear that is interfering with your mental health and happiness?  I think if we understand the dynamics of “feel what you are feeling” we can make progress in getting free from those fears.

Try it sometime.  Notice your fear or anxiety, then notice what is going on around you.  Slow down, focus on your breathing and notice what you are feeling and where you feel it in your body.  Just feel it and breathe.  You might ask yourself how long you want to feel it and when you are done feeling it let it go.  This sounds too simple doesn’t it.  I used to think that, too, just as I thought that touching a person’s cheek could free a person from a paralyzing fear.  If you sit with it, breathing comfortably, you will notice the phenomenon of what has been called “urge surfing.”  The urge to fear will fade, just as a wave in the surf comes along, builds up, and then fades away.

Part of this process is to examine the reality that surrounds you.  Usually you will not see an actual threat.  Then you can realize that the fear is coming from your imagination.  That does not mean it is not real simply because it comes from our imagination.  It is very real.  The wonder is that you can develop the skill to make the choice to diminish and perhaps even eliminate the power that the fear has over you.

I am obviously summarizing the practice of mindfulness which is being used all over our country to manage stress and the resulting anxiety and fear.   If you want to go deeper with these principles, there is much material available.  I would recommend Tara Brach to start.  She has a wealth of material freely available on YouTube.

Comparing your insides with others’ outsides

by Dr. Ken Larsen

insides_kenI’ve been with Toastmasters for a couple of years.  One of the most frequently reported reasons for joining Toastmasters is to overcome the fear of speaking in public.

After hearing person after person report the same fear, I began to see this as a “normal” response.

Then when I see the frequently reported hierarchy of fears, with public speaking ranked above death, I am once again convinced this is a normal reaction.

Don’t misunderstand me.  Just because I see it as “normal”, (which is actually a statistical term not a psychological description,)   I wonder just what causes this nearly universal terror that seriously afflicts the mental health and happiness of many.  Especially five minutes before giving a talk in front of others.

I have a suspicion, however, that one cause of this terror is the conviction that to be afraid of public speaking is NOT normal, and it is a sign of weakness or some character flaw.  This is often triggered by seeing an apparently confident speaker seem immune to stage fright, giving a relaxed talk with no evidence of nervousness.

This is what I call comparing your insides with someone else’s outsides.

The fact of the matter is we don’t know what is going on inside the seemingly confident person.  I remember Johnny Carson talking about his anxiety before giving his nightly monologue.  And this was after decades in broadcasting.

Bruce Springsteen talks about using the energy of the pre-performance jitters to push his performance to a higher level.

I believe that once we accept the fact that just about everyone else has the same butterflies before a performance, we can settle down, accept our jitters, and move on.

Buddhists have an interesting insight into suffering from an affliction.  There is the affliction itself, such as fear of speaking, and then there is what is called “the second arrow”.  This second arrow is when we add to our affliction by thinking of ourselves as weak, or inferior, or in some way different than the rest of our species.

If we will choose to avoid this “second arrow” of self-blame, we can focus on doing what others have done before us.  Feel what you’re feeling, understand it for what it is, and then move beyond it.

This is an important part of our ongoing quest for mental health and happiness.

It’s Scary Out There

By Michael Rice

scaryoutthere_mikericeSeveral years ago, when I had become a first-time parent, my son of age 4 was going through that stage of development that Judith Viorst refers to as Separation-Individuation.   Chris had already learned the first separation stage when he learned how to walk and was able to go where he wanted to go and not where others wanted him to go.  He had also learned a few years prior how to say “no” to indicate his own wants.  Yet he was still not very much aware that he needed his parents in order to survive.  He wanted to test his independence.

One night, as I was putting him to bed, he said something, which I don’t precisely recall, that indicated that he wanted to go out in the world on his own.  It was just a matter-of-fact statement he made and not one of defiance or anger.  I played along with him and asked, “Are you sure this is what you want to do?”  In his little boy voice and a nod of the head in replied, “uh huh.”  So I got his little travel case out of his closet and he and I began to pick out the clothes he thought he might want to pack for his trip out into the world.  He was very serious and seemed determined to follow through on his desire to find his own way in his own world.

We headed for the front door.  It was night so I turned on the porch light and opened the door.  Continuing to play along, I said, “Be sure to let us know where you will settle down and if you need anything, just ask, okay?  Write or call us when you find work.”  He stepped out into the darkness and I closed the door behind him yet keeping an eye on him where he couldn’t see me.

He looked around without looking back and it began to dawn on him that he had nowhere to go and no way of getter anywhere.  He sat down on the porch stoop next to his little suitcase and just looked out into the darkness for several minutes.   At the same time, I was struck with a terribly sad emotion relating to exactly what he must be feeling at this moment:  Fear and the sudden realization that he didn’t have anyone to help him as he looked into the dark abyss that awaited him. He was alone. . . a dreadful feeling for a very young child.  I was feeling it too.  He was learning that he wasn’t quite as separated and individuated from his parents as he thought.  And I, too, was realizing that I was feeling the fear of becoming separated from him . . . and not willing to do so.

I opened the door and said something to the effect of, “It’s pretty scary out there isn’t it?”  He agreed and I said, “Why don’t you come back in where it’s not so dark and scary.  I’m glad you came back.”  He came back in the house and we went back to his bedroom and I got him ready for bed and tucked him in.  I was sure glad to have him back home even though I knew he wasn’t going to go very far.

While it has been over 35 years since this happened, I remember it like it was yesterday.  In fact, I couldn’t help but recall the emotions I had at that time while writing this story.  A lump came up in my throat and tears welled up in my eyes.

Several more stages of separation-individuation occur in development that includes adolescence, college/military, and marriage and families of their own.  While it is true that our children grow up too fast, the best memories tend to be those that we have from the early years with them.  Those memories and our children are marvels to behold that will always bring joy and recollection of happy and loving times.