I remember a long time ago, when I was planning to escape from my husband. I had hidden the passports (mine and my kids’) in a drawer. I checked the drawer one morning – and they weren’t there!
I panicked – full of fear, heart pounding, l threw papers everywhere looking for those passports! I couldn’t see anything properly, couldn’t think and could hardly breathe.
We have all experienced some kind of fear at some time in our life – pounding heart, sweaty palms, panic, etc.
It’s important to know how to overcome fear, otherwise it can be paralyzing and people can get stuck in a really unhelpful mode.
In this short video and transcript below find out how your mind can create debilitating fear unnecessarily and some simple ideas for how to prevent or change that.
Fear can be frightening! If you are not aware of what you are doing that is causing your fear, it can be paralyzing and, as a result you can feel like you are stuck in quicksand.
A while ago, I conducted a brand new, very advanced training program that I had never done before. I was in a beautiful location with a group of my graduates but, because I was unsure of the new program, I felt like I was walking out on a limb wondering whether the branch was going to break or not.
You can imagine that if that is how I was perceiving the situation, I ended up being very nervous and afraid about giving this new program. And the problem was I didn’t catch myself in time. I had created a very compelling visual metaphor for this new situation: “going out on a limb wondering if it were going to break.” I was seeing this limb in my head with me walking on it, and the limb was very thin indeed, with a lot of distance underneath that I could fall down into! How can you help being afraid if you are see such a metaphor that creates fear?
I was not aware of the metaphor I was using and therefore I had a very difficult week. I did good work. I think my participants enjoyed the program, but it was very challenging and exhausting for me. Afterward I realized what I had done and how important it is to be aware of the metaphors running around in your head. A key question: How do you represent what’s going on in your life?
Another example. Recently I was speaking with a woman who was going through a nasty divorce, and she said, “I feel like I’m a sitting duck.” If you are seeing an image where you are like a sitting duck, how are you likely to feel? She was afraid and anxious. She said she felt paralyzed.
In our conversation, we changed the metaphor to one of her coming out of the woods and entering a prairie, where she needs to build some structures to house herself in. Isn’t that metaphor a lot better than feeling like a sitting duck? During the conversation, she came up with an even better metaphor. She is the powerful Wonder Woman, because she does not have to do what she does not want to do. She found it quite easy to represent her situation in a way that empowers her rather than frightens her.
So my first tip is to be aware of the metaphor you are using to describe a situation. What is the situation like? Become aware of that and then you can change the metaphor if it doesn’t help you or it doesn’t keep you moving in a positive direction.
The second tip for overcoming fear: Lighten up. Probably, at some point in the future, you are going to look back at this incident– or these series of incidents or this time in your life and say, “Wow. I was a little crazy there. I didn’t really look at all this situation with all the different perspectives that I now can.” Ask yourself: How is this situation funny even if it doesn’t seem funny right now? Your sense of humor, if you remember it, will be of enormous help to you.
Here are a couple of resources on metaphors, how you can think about them and how they affect your life. “Metaphors in Mind” by Penny Tompkins and James Lawley, is an excellent book. And so is “Clean Language” by Wendy Sullivan and Judy Rees. I highly recommend them. They will show you how people construct their metaphors and how you can use “clean language” to work with people, to help them understand their metaphor, their landscape, and how they can continue growing and developing.
For more Shelle’s Top Tips, please go to www.shellestoptips.com
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