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365 Ways to Get Results: Day # 56 – The Feeling You Are Afraid to Feel is Running Your Life

Fight or Flight – you’ve certainly experienced it. Your heart rate and blood pressure elevate. Several hormones are then released into the bloodstream – the most significant being epinephrine or adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones temporarily boost your ability to focus, remember and react spontaneously. But once the intensity reaches a certain level these drop off and concentration, mood and flexibility are compromised.

Many people say they work well under pressure – for a while. They are on the adrenaline rush. Research supports, however, that prolonged exposure to stress results in a decline in physical, cognitive and affective wellbeing. And then it gets ugly.

Recently I had the privilege to spend some time with Author and Coach Rhonda Britten of
Fearless Living and the former national television program “Starting Over.” She profoundly stressed something that I believe is the root of much unhappiness, anxiety and tension in the world, “The feeling you are afraid to feel is running your life.”

Think about it. When you react badly it is generally when you feel pressured, threatened, stressed, overwhelmed, unhappy, frustrated, depressed, etc. All of these are avoidance symptoms. They are what bubbles up within you when you are protecting yourself from something that is a part of you which you don’t want to confront. In the face of stress, you may find that you overreact, lash out, cry, are overly defensive, act irresponsibly, withdraw, ignore or any other of the avoidance behaviors. When the dust settles you feel shamed and beat yourself up with “Why did I do that? I know better than that.” Unfortunately reacting rashly when stressed inhibits your effectiveness in work, love and family relationships, friendships, and social encounters. Thus you become less respected, effective, understood, revered and content.

So how do you fix it? There are many effective methods to reduce stress – more than I can list here. But they are only a band aid over the bigger issue – what are you really afraid of? You can’t let go of something that you haven’t defined.

There are a number of articles on my web site on fear at http://www.startingovernow.com. Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreement holds two Agreements that I think are the biggest reasons we end up feeling anxious and afraid. He wisely advises us: “Don’t take anything personally,” and “Don’t make assumptions.” Our life experience has led us to internalize our own and other people’s perceptions of us which leads to negative head trash like, “They’ll think I can’t do it.” I’ll end up alone.” “I never get a break.” “He doesn’t really care about me.”

In order to eliminate the head trash you must learn not to eliminate your fears – that is impossible – but to co-exist with them.

Uncover Your Fear

1. Pay attention to your reactions. When do you react badly? Is it when you feel someone is challenging your performance? Is it when your loved one makes plans without you? Is it when someone challenges your perspective? Is it when someone is behaving hypocritically? If you are not sure keep a list and write down when this has happened and exactly how you felt at the moment you started behaving outside of your authentic self.

2. Imagine yourself right smack dab in the middle of that critical moment when you lost it. Just before you said or did that thing that you regret, totally immerse yourself in the situation – all of the negativity, judgment, insensitivity, assault language, feelings of abandonment, your own insecurity, and anxiousness. Now flash freeze everyone and everything in place. Nothing and no one is moving, breathing or talking. The silence is deafening. You are the only one freely moving, inhaling and exhaling, and thinking at this point.

3. What is your fear saying to you? At that moment the only sound you can hear is fear. It is trying to protect you, however negative it is – what is it trying to protect you from? This is not yet your true fear. But listen to what it is saying.

4. Ask yourself if the answer to #3 comes true, “What will that mean?” What would happen is the worst case scenario if what you thought you feared came true? This is what you are truly afraid of. This is where you feel devalued and threatened. This is what send you over the edge outside of yourself.

How to Release the Fear

5. Clear the Chaos. Now imagine that all of the negative energy in the room as well as your fear is like a shower curtain around you – all of the feelings of rejection, abandonment, judgment, inadequacy etc. Gently reach up and move that shower curtain aside and along with it all of that negative energy.

6. What do you think the people left in the room fear? Look at the people before you. They are behaving as a result of a feeling. What is that feeling? What could their fears be?

7. How can you serve them better? Focus on their needs instead of yours. This will take the anxiety out of the situation and give you a purpose that is not in reaction to your own fear but in service to the fear of others. You’ll feel valued. Not devalued.

8. What percentage chance does your true fear have of occurring? Post this number with the percent sign next to it where you can see it every day. Look at it and realize that what you fear has only that chance of occurring.

Now that you understand what you are truly afraid of, live with it. Understand that it is not your authentic self but a voice outside of yourself trying to protect you. Woosh it aside like the shower curtain when you notice it and assure it, “I can handle it.” Start now!

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Mary Lee Gannon is the president of StartingOverNow.com – Leading Productivity Solutions for People and Organizations. With more than 16 years of experience as a CEO of organizations with up to $26 million in assets, Mary Lee consults with businesses on strategy. She is a graduate of The Duquesne University Professional Coaching Program and an alumnus of the 2010 Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital Coaching in Medicine & Leadership Conference. Her personal urnaround came as a stay-at-home mother with four children under seven-years-old who endured a divorce that took she and the children from the country club life to public assistance from where she earned success to support her family. Services include: Workshops, Meeting Facilitation, Coaching, Webinars, Speaking and Management Consulting. Areas of Specialty: Strategic Planning / Board Development / Healthcare / Public Relations / Goal Setting / Meeting Facilitation / Training / Leadership / Time Management / Life/Career Transition. Her book “Starting Over – 25 Rules for When You’ve Bottomed Out” is available in bookstores or at Amazon. Get her FREE ebook – “Grow Productivity – A Leader’s Toolbox” on her web site at www.StartingOverNow.com.