Fear. What is it? It is an animal instinct, a natural response to an outside stimulus. How does it affect us? It stops us in our tracks. It freezes us. When we are afraid, we don’t move. Picture a cat. Like any animal, when it senses danger, it freezes. You can see every muscle in its body poised, taught, ready to fight or flee, whichever is necessary. But first – it freezes. It assesses the situation, and then, in a nano second, it RESPONDS. It MOVES. It DOES SOMETHING!
What do WE do when we are afraid? We freeze too, like any animal. That is a good thing, up to a point.
Let’s take an example: Last spring while on a walk in the Tuscan hills behind my house, a baby boar suddenly bolted across the path in front of me. Without thinking, I immediately froze, my ears literally pricked up (I could actually FEEL them move) and I listened for the mother boar, scanning the side of the path for the nearest tree to climb. I was poised and ready to run for the tree, should she decide to come after me. Then she exploded from the brush, grunted and followed her baby into the woods. Talk about an adrenalin rush! In this case, there was no doubt that I would have taken action if I needed to: FLIGHT not fight!
But that is where the similarities between us and animals stop, I think. One huge difference is that our stimulus can come from the INSIDE, from our thoughts. Our thoughts can cause fear and because our body does not recognize the difference between an outside stimulus and an inside stimulus, we freeze. We are literally paralyzed by our fear.
Let’s take another example: We have set our sights on a big goal, something we want to accomplish. We begin moving in that direction and something happens that triggers some sort of fear in us. “What if I’m not good enough? What if I fail? What if they laugh at me?” You get the picture – it’s easy enough for you to fill in the blanks here. We all have our own triggers, our own limiting beliefs that pop up at the most inopportune times!
So what should we do in this case?
By taking one step, however small, (this can be as simple as restating our goal out loud to ourselves: “I am going to do X even though I feel Y right now”) we have broken the “spell”. We are no longer frozen in fear.
We have recognized that our fear is coming from the inside. It is not “real.” It is something we “made up.”
The good news is, we can just as easily make something else up. Something like “I am capable. I am resourceful. I am committed.”
And then keep moving, always keeping the big picture in mind, the big goal. Picture it, feel it, taste it, smell it, love it, nurture it – make it as real as possible in your imagination. But remember to break that big goal down into small, doable steps, that are manageable in the NOW.
And little by little, one step at a time, you can achieve seemingly impossible feats.
So now, let me ask you again, what are you afraid of?