Emma Storris

Fear is a bad counsellor

fear is a bad counsellorI mentioned it earlier in my blog about stress: fear is in my opinion the ultimate source of the most debilitating stress. Fear to lose, fear to get hurt, fear to not be able to pay your dues, fear to be laughed at, fear to die, fear to live. Fear is evolutionary a good thing. It cautions us in dangerous situations. It makes sure we tread carefully and we think before proceeding into a place which might endanger our lives. Through history it has kept us alive long enough to make it to our current, less immediately dangerous world. But what if fear, through all kinds of mechanisms, starts to get out of hand? What if fear has become that which actually keeps you from living? Then you have two choices. Either you let the fear dominate your life and limit your world more and more. Or you overcome the fear, judge it for what it is, a warning sign for you to take into account and go ahead anyway if you decide that it still is what you need to do.

Fear of losing control in a overstimulating society

As said, fear evolutionary had a very good reason for its existence. Its ultimate goal was to keep us alive. But in our current day society for many of us fear has become more about control or rather, not losing control. Our senses have gotten into trouble when the input started overwhelming them. And now we are holding on like mad to retain some sort of sense of being in control. The discerning reader would now ask him or herself why losing control would be such a problem. What is lying underneath all that desperately trying to keep a firm hold on everything while everyone knows that no such thing is possible? The answer is simple yet profound: because ultimately we are afraid that we can’t handle it. Whatever it may be. Bankruptcy, losing a friend, not making a brilliant speech, illness, death, life. We are just afraid we are unable to deal with whatever life hands us. And why do we think we are unable to deal with it all? First of all because there are many situations around us that we have never been prepared for. But more importantly, because we tell ourselves that we can’t handle it. And if we don’t tell ourselves there are always people around us who will.

Turn around that innate urge to focus on negativity

Our biggest enemy in the battle against unreasonable, paralysing fear, are our minds. We are excellent downtalkers. We know exactly how to tell ourselves that we cannot deal with something just so that we believe it. And you know what? That is precisely what happens: we believe what we tell ourselves. Research has shown that we downtalk ourselves our body reacts as if the negative thoughts are the only reality. Just google-scholar it. For instance, when we tell ourselves we are weak, our body responds correspondingly and loses muscle strength. In other words, we create how we perceive the world around us ourselves. Sure, shitty things happen all the time and I mean, really rotten, horrible experiences come our way constantly. But if we tell ourselves that we can’t handle these situations and we will go under in the torrent of their waves, we will.

Talk yourself up instead of down

Thank goodness it works the other way around as well. When we uptalk ourselves, our body responds just as positively as it responds to downtalk negatively. So the solution is easy, just tell yourself you are able to deal with what life is presenting you with. For some reason, however (and that might just be due to the evolutionary advantage that fearful people had, they stayed alive more often), we are more prone to downtalk than to uptalk. But practice helps… a lot. Incorporate uptalk in your daily routine and you will improve your fearful life. You will move from feeling weakening fear to functional fear.

Deal with what you can influence and otherwise trust the process

When we starting thinking about leaving the Netherlands, we took our sweet time. We knew that we couldn’t live our lives the way we wanted to there and had to settle for less than we stood for when it came to raising our children. The latter was what finally moved us, literally. Fear of losing friends, family, being alone, but also fear of financial consequences is what kept us so long. We were in the situation that our house was for sale, but due to the crisis didn’t move fast enough. And two houses is not very bank account friendly. Scary stuff. Getting on top of our fear by acknowledging we can handle everything that comes our way and a solution will present itself, whether it is by going to the left or going to the right, got us to take the plunge. A year and a half later we are still very much afloat and we have dealt with all that we had to deal with. The house still isn’t sold, but we trust that will also solve itself.

Just happy to be here

I’m not saying this is an easy task. Even the most practised uptalkers can be caught off guard every now and then. Just this morning I found myself floundering, because it hit me that my husband and I are apart again for the next three weeks and that is hard for us. At a moment like that it takes a lot not to dive head first into the depths of feeling sorry for myself where I can only believe that all is lost. It takes all of the routine that I have gained over time of affirmations, consciously being in the present and thankfulness to keep me from swooping over the edge. But it does work and I am able to go outside and happily drink a cup of tea while listening to the larks in our garden, honestly appreciatively of all that I have around me. Really look around me and be amazed that I can be here and do all this. Knowing I can deal with it all.

For those who could do with some help

For those of you for which this rings true (who I expect will be many), there are many books dealing with fear (and all other names by which it goes). The best one I have come across which pretty much sums it up if you ask me, is the classic written by Susan Jeffers. Her book Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway gives you a plan of approach to tackle your fears. For the Dutchies, it is called Niet Durven, Toch Doen. Unfortunately, it is out of print in Dutch, but there are still some second hand books around. Her style of writing is very accessible, so you might give the English version a shot too.

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