“You can’t get rid of all of your fear.” That was a comment made by one of my clients after concluding my class, Transform Fear Into Action. That’s an interesting perspective, and my class isn’t about getting rid of all fear, but rather it’s about working on the fears holding you back. But for others thinking the same thing, let’s walk through this challenge.
In my way of thinking, there are two types of fear: Survival Fear, where your life is in danger, and Submission Fear, where your life isn’t in danger but you have the real sense of fear — you’re “submitting to” the fear rather than transforming it and moving forward. Some call them “rational” and “irrational” fears. Whatever the label, the idea is to get past them.
For this discussion, I’m addressing only Submission Fear. You don’t want to “get rid of” Survival Fear, which is likely what was causing the student’s confusion.
As I designed and taught the class, my intention with the idea of transforming fear was to not let your fears hold you back, to be able to master your mind and body to act through fears. Fear can be called anxiety, stress, resistance, worry, and any number of other emotions. That feeling, that I’ll continue to call fear, can keep you from living your life to its fullest if you don’t learn to take charge and work through it. Time and again, I’ve learned that taking action helps me work through my fears. I’ve seen it with my coaching clients and students, too. So, the focus is, in my mind, how you define or think about “getting rid of all your fears”. That, essentially, is what I teach: how to take charge and get through it by transforming the fear into action. It sounds hard to so many, but isn’t if you apply the tools I teach.
When you have developed respect for something that used to cause you fear and hold you back, say of driving over steep mountain passes, is that a situation where you still hold the fear, or have you transformed it into action? By action, I’m thinking that you have learned how to deal with the situation so that you can drive carefully over the steep mountain passes.
You recognize that if you aren’t careful, you could actually drive off the edge and at least be seriously hurt. But you recognize that when you are careful, you drive between the lines and stay safe. You focus on where you’re going rather than focusing on where you don’t want to go. That is taking action to transform your fear. Do you define that situation as still having the fear? Some do define that as still having the fear. I don’t. If you had the fear, you wouldn’t attempt to drive over the steep mountain passes. And this is definitely a place where you really do want to transform your fear since you’ll actually be much safer without your fear clouding your judgment.
The client who lay the challenge on the table seemed to think that if you even think about the situation that used to cause you fear, you still have the fear. Because of my definition of transforming fear, I have to disagree. Thinking about it indicates it’s still part of your memories — and that’s all. Moving past it and taking action despite the memories means you have transformed it.
I’m not urging carelessness or rash action. I’m urging that you work through the fear to a rational conclusion so that you see the fear you’re submitting to is of your creation, not a life threat. Ironically, if you don’t work through the fear, it could cause you to act irrationally; we don’t think clearly when we are in the flood of cortisol and adrenalin for long periods of time.
Actual vs Potential Threats
A face down with a tiger is life-threatening. A tiger in the woods isn’t life-threatening. The potential is there, but there is no imminent threat. The potential for getting hurt while driving over a steep mountain pass is there, but it’s not imminent. Imminent danger is a situation that deserves fear as a response. Potential danger deserves respect, care, and alertness. Potential danger isn’t life-threatening, only actual or imminent danger is.
Still not convinced? Talk to me, then, about what is life-threatening about driving over a steep mountain pass. You could get hit by an oncoming car? That could happen anywhere and is part of the danger of driving cars. By being a defensive driver you will better respond to that situation and take evasive action. You could drive off the road and over the edge? Again, careful, attentive driving keeps you between the lines. You don’t worry about going off the road in other places. Driving over the steep mountain pass indeed has a life-threatening potential, just like driving in other places, but in and of itself, that action is not life-threatening.
If you define Survival Fear too broadly and Submission Fear too narrowly, then life is scary. When you keep the two fears in perspective, life is full of wonder, adventure, and joy. And when you embrace the concept of transforming your fears into action, you will live your life to its fullest. You will appreciate the wonders of your world, enjoy the adventures life presents to you, and experience joy with the big and little things that make up your life.
Why would you want to believe that a memory of a fear means you still have the fear? Why wouldn’t you want to accept that a memory is just a memory and actually represents living in the past? Choose to live in the present and rejoice that you have one less thing in your life holding you back from being engaged fully in your life.
Being engaged in your life is the ticket to having a bright and joyous life. If you need help with this, it’s what I do for a living. Get in touch.
Watch the video of More thoughts on “Getting Rid of Fear?”