Tuesday, 15 January 2013

"It's okay, I've got this."

It seems like the thought for the day is Fear. A couple of conversations and a blog post, all before my third cup of coffee this morning, point in this direction. As I've dedicated 2013 to the Flow, that's what I'm going to explore with you today.


Four small letters; big, big emotional and physical response.

Let's start with the basics. What is fear? At it's core, fear is the physical response to a thought or a situation. Fear is experienced through sweating palms, heightened heart rate, rush of adrenaline. What fear feels like, well, that is an entirely subjective experience. Some people experience nausea, their vision goes, bladder and bowels loosen. At its extreme, it's debilitating.

Human beings are born with two fears: falling and loud noises. 

The rest we learn along the way. Human beings are learning animals, that's what ensures our survival. Experience is our greatest teacher. Touch fire, it hurts. Great big things hurtling towards you, likely to be very painful, get out the way.

Fear, is a safety mechanism. It's essential to our survival. If we didn't heed the fear when considering whether it would be a good thing to step into a cage with a tiger, unless we knew what we were doing, we'd be tiger fodder. 

Fear keeps us safe.

When it's taken to extremes, that's when the trouble starts.

Phobias are an example of this. When I was doing my NLP training I met people who weren't only afraid of spiders, they were terrified of the thought of spiders. They would think 'spider' and then have a meltdown. They could see a picture of a spider and have a physiological response. 

Let's begin with the assumption that every fear has a purpose - to keep us safe - then must come the query: in a country where there are no poisonous spiders and they do nothing but make webs to be dusted, is this an appropriate response?

The answer has to be no. An emotional meltdown at the thought of a spider is not appropriate. Happily, the phobia techniques that NLP teaches enables people who suffer to ditch their fears and put them in their proper place, not remove it all together (that would be a Bad Thing). 

The thing that I really like about NLP is that it puts fear in it's proper place. It's a physiological response, a necessary survival mechanism; a practitioner's goal is to bring the emotional response into appropriate boundaries. I would like to take this one step further. 

I work with the assumption Fear is trying to be my best friend, it's bringing things to my attention that I might be missing. It's telling me I'm doing something unusual, the outcome may not be guaranteed, there is risk involved. I liken it with motherhood (because I am a mother and the metaphor works for me).

I am an over-protective mother. I own it totally. My Boy is 19 now, that makes no difference to me whatsoever; he's still my baby. My job as his mother, is to keep him safe. If I could have done, I would have wrapped him up in bubble wrap when he was learning to walk. The first time he fell badly and split his lip, I moped him up and became physically sick. That's how much I want to protect my son. 

However, for me to be a good mother, I had to learn to let him fall. I had to give him the space to bruise his knees, to make mistakes, to fail, because ultimately, that's how he would learn to make sense of this world. How was he to walk if he didn't fall? How is he to learn the value of love if he doesn't experience heartbreak? How is he to learn fortitude if he doesn't overcome disappointment? 

Boy rolls his eyes and we laugh together when I become too over-protective. He doesn't hate me for it, he knows it's because I want the best for him.

Love your fear, it's trying to do the best it can for you. But like your relationship with your over-protective mum or friend, create boundaries. Don't waste your energy fighting with it. You'll begin to find, once you acknowledge your fear, doing the Scary Thing becomes easier. You'll have spent time looking at outcomes, weighing up your options. You'll know whether the risks are worth it. You'll be make an informed decision and are prepared.

Don't let fear dictate what you can and can't do. Don't let it be the boss of you. The consequences can be devastating. Not doing something because you're afraid, to my way of thinking, just isn't good enough. It's not good enough for you and it's not good enough for those around you.


  1. I'm rubbish when it comes to heights. You'll find I'm the first to climb the ladder. Of course, that's because there will be someone to catch me if I fall...

  2. And yet sometimes you know in your bones that something is a very very bad idea.
    That's not fear I suppose. That would be gut instinct.

  3. Roses, be my Valentine! [mmmmwhaaa!]


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