Fear Spotting – It’s More Places Than You Think
January 12, 2013
I used to think that fear really wasn’t my problem. I wasn’t afraid of spiders, heights, or snakes. I wasn’t afraid to stick my neck out, try new things, or go on adventures. I wasn’t afraid to walk home alone, meet new people, or drive in the snow. I’m a big dude. What did I have to fear? Interestingly, a trip to a yoga class made me aware that fear was acting in my decision making, sometimes on a minute by minute basis.
My wife wanted me to try yoga, and surprisingly, I liked it. So after trying it a few times, I went by myself this time to attend a class and purchase a 10 pack. On the way to the studio, I began thinking…”Can I really afford this?” I had images of this being the final straw that put me in the poor house, even though that’s far from the case. I began thinking…”What if I don’t use the card? I’m worried that it will just sit in the drawer?” I began thinking, “What if I look stupid, if I’m the only guy in there, if I’m as graceful as a linebacker in a ballerina class?” I began thinking…”I have lots of work to do. This is going to put me behind!”
I then I began thinking…and labeling…fear, fear, fear, fear, fear. All these thoughts were fear based. Fear was dictating the story line in my head. Now these aren’t big fears, they’re not obvious fears, and they’re not life debilitating fears, but they’re fears none the less — fear of being poor, of wasting money, of not fulfilling my own expectations, of others perceptions, and of being behind at work. And the more I thought about it, the more these ‘little’ fears seemed to be infiltrating my daily discussion with myself.
The remedy? Just like in sitting meditation, when a thought comes up, you label it ‘thinking’, gently acknowledge it and let it go, the same holds true here. I just label it as I’m able to identify it. I don’t feed it with anxiety nor do I push it away. I just say ‘yup, that’s fear’. Maybe I’ll reframe it a bit, something like, ‘yes, these class are expensive, but money is meant to be spent, its worth it, and I can afford it…legitimately.” And then two minutes later, it will come up again, and I’ll label it again. And through the process of thinking, feeling, labeling, thinking, feeling, labeling, it loses its anxious edges. It becomes less a fear, and more an ordinary thought. You see the old man behind the scary fascade of the wizard.
See if you can spot and label fear in your own life. Doesn’t have to be the big obvious fears, but those that come up in day-to-day thoughts.