Three steps to letting go of fear

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Fear is one of the major causes of suffering for we humans. It can keep us awake at night, ruin our relationships, make us addicted to our devices, distract us from pleasurable experiences, stop us making decisions, work too much and just generally feel unhappy — even miserable.

Clearly, being able to deal with fear is a major life skill, and one of the many that ought to be taught in school, but isn’t.

Step 1: Name it

One very simple way to reduce fear is simply to name it: to write it down and — even better — tell someone about it.

As Yoda said, ‘Named must your fear be before banish it you can.’

I’ve been working with a client who was so fearful that he was having intense nightmares and having to change his clothes twice during the night, because he was sweating so much. He’d wake up feeling exhausted and anxious.

Until we spoke about it in our session, he had never articulated the specific thing that he was afraid of.

I could tell that just putting it into words led to a little bit of a release.

What was immediately apparent was that he was convinced that this fear was something that was definitely going to happen.

It can also be very helpful to name the sensations you are experiencing in your body, such as a tight chest or butterflies in your belly.

Step 2: Is it true?

The next step after you have identified the fear is to ask, ‘Is this definitely true?’ The fact is, the vast majority of the time, we’re safe and our fears are imaginary.

As Mark Twain said, ‘I am an old man and have known many troubles, but most of them never happened.’

One way of playing with this is to keep asking, ‘And then what will happen?’

For example, I was feeling anxious that no one would sign up to my course. My friend asked me:

‘And then what will happen?’

‘I’ll lose confidence.’

‘And then what will happen?’

‘I’ll give up teaching mindfulness.’

‘And then what will happen?’

‘I’ll get a job as an estate agent.’

‘And then what will happen?’

I’ll feel depressed, my fiance will leave me and I’ll die alone under a bridge.

Most fears seem to come down to death and abandonment!

It became ridiculous when I played it out, and the absurdity took the power out of it. But when it was just a vague sense of impending doom in my mind, it was much more difficult to deal with.

That client is now also experiencing much less anxiety and fewer nightmares since we talked through exactly what the fears were.

Step 3: What if the opposite were true?

What if I sold out the workshop? What if you asked her out and she said yes? What if your new business were successful? What if Covid doesn’t cause your holiday to be cancelled?

It can help to imagine what you’ll do, say and feel when the positive outcome happens. My mum has always said that anxiety is praying for what you don’t want to happen, so how about focusing on what you do want?

This is a process you can go through on your own, but it’s much more powerful to do it with a partner. You can bring your issue to them or, if someone tells you they’re anxious, you could ask them if they’re willing to try going through the steps with you.

If you’d like me to support you in dealing with fear, you can book a free consultation here.