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Even for those of us who are so used to feeling anxious or afraid that we hardly notice it, fear has gotten our full attention. Whether it's about our personal insecurities, the job, finances, relationships, the future or the 'war' - fear seems to be gnawing at our every conscious nerve.

This level of fear can either propel us into futilely trying harder to control situations, lead us to hopelessness and self-neglect or motivate us to stamp it out of our lives - no matter what.

With the latter in mind, I hope to hear that this month's feature - Fear NO More - will assist you in putting the brakes on your fears and successfully setting your sights on building self- trust, optimism and inner peace.

J.

 









Recent quotes from Coach Joyce K. Reynolds have appeared in The Wall Street Journal; Chicago Tribune; USA Today; CareerJournal.com; American Airlines Magazine; Florida Trend; Microsoft's bcentral.com; Cosmopolitan; Working Mother Magazine; Learning/Discovery Channel/tlc.com; Sun-Sentinel; Glamour; Woman's Day; Sales & Marketing Management; Smart Money.



 


     
 

Webster characterizes fear as 'an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger' which puts this powerful emotion at the very core of desire for self-preservation. Sometimes this means we feel a need to protect our physical beings. Sometimes it expresses our struggle to achieve a sense of security or maintain good feelings about ourselves. As a life component, fear starts as a little trickle across our newborn minds. By adulthood, it has become grooved into our beings - bit by bit - into a powerful but silent underpinning. Thus, being afraid can feel normal to many of us to the point that calm or peacefulness may feel foreign or just plain uncomfortable.

Certainly, there are many times when fear is appropriate and useful - helping us to protect ourselves, even survive difficult times. However, because there is so little support in our society for healthy expression of fear, many of us have become controlled and manipulated by unnamed, repressed fear. In fact, for most of our lives, we work to confirm rather than relieve our fears. Unless we begin to conquer such free-floating anxiety, it can become an unassailable barrier to living life to its fullest. In other words, while fear is certainly a necessary component for survival, it needs to be in good balance to the rest of our emotions.

Here are some ways to start identifying and defusing our fears:

1. The High Cost of Fear.
Fear has many faces and, while there are universal dangers or threats that can spark terror in all of us, fear is unique to and defined by each of us, individually. The degree to which we live 'in' fear - instead of accessing it when appropriate - determines how much we rob ourselves of rich experiences that can make life meaningful. Fear can seriously inhibit our creativity, work performance, relationships, the very way we live. A fear-based life can cripple our ability to compete and can result in unnecessary self-defense and paranoia. It can lead us to becoming prisoners of negative thoughts that present a dim and uncertain future. It produces false courage which is just one disguise of fear. Intimidation, aloofness or withdrawal are often masks for fear. And, because our bodies cannot tell the difference between the real or the imaged, unwarranted fears cause as much physical damage as the real thing. In his book "Waking the Tiger," Peter Levine talks about how the repression of fear creates an energetic blockade in the body/mind that affects all areas of function. That many symptoms develop around the 'freezing' or repression of this necessary emotion, both physical and psychological, which will be relieved only upon the successful resolution and expression of it. Certainly fear is necessary for our survival but, this powerful emotion must curbed for it to be healthy.

2. As We Thinketh.
Marcus Aurelius spoke the truth when he said, "A man's life is what his thoughts make of it." The fact is, our internal beliefs drive our feelings and affect our actions in either positive or negative directions. While many of the things we fear never materialize - as Mark Twain put it "I've lived a long life and seen a lot of hard times...most of which never happened"- it's equally possible for us to invite unnecessary chaos and trauma into our lives as a result of powerful, negative, fearful beliefs or thoughts. At the very least, we run the risk of becoming the person Lloyd C. Douglas describes, "If a man harbors any sort of fear, it percolates through all his thinking, damages his personality, makes him a landlord to a ghost." Clearly, overcoming inappropriate, unnecessary fear is one of the greatest accomplishments to which we can aspire. Reaching that goal requires sorting out those fears that are healthy from those that are not. And, it all begins with harnessing our minds.

3. Name It and Claim It.
"From ghoulies and ghosties and long leggety beasties and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us!" Maybe we don't want to admit it, but this oft-quoted prayer proves that we're all afraid of all kinds of things. In order to successfully deal with our fear, it is urgent that we admit to and examine it. We need to ask how our lives are limited by it and get clear on just what we are afraid of. Those who experienced mistreatment during the formative years are left more fear-prone than most - even, oddly, loyal to their fears. If our subconscious minds and thought patterns are thus conditioned, we view everything through fear's prism even constructing unreal fantasies to support our way of thinking. We may be unaware of fear as our life underpinning or we may want to deny the fact. We may simply not want to see ourselves in that light. But, identifying our fears is the first helpful step towards overcoming them. We can begin by asking ourselves some critical questions - e.g. what will I not do that I would really love to be doing; does the way I live express or result in self-limitation; am I over-cautious and prone to anxiety or panic; is my overall view of life negative and suspicious. The clearer we are that we have them, the faster we can identify our fears, begin to sort them out and work towards diminishing those that do not serve us well. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience when you really stop to look fear in the face."

4. Follow the Leaders.
As we look for models, it is important to remember that we cannot judge a person by outward appearance or by apparent assets. It is even more comforting to note that many of the most successful people in the world have also been challenged by great fears. The example they provide is that they move towards full expression and actualization of their talents by facing and overcoming their fears. One author put it this way, "Writing is easy. You just sit down and open a vein." Gifted artist Georgia O'Keefe provided another example, "I've been terrified every day of my life but that's never stopped me from doing everything I wanted to do." Great people are not the only ones who can choose to be bigger than their fears. We all have that potential. We can begin by identifying and utilizing the healthy components of fear such as genuine excitement. Putting positive focus on feelings of trepidation can fuel our efforts to tackle new and unfamiliar things that attract but scare us. We can recognize fear as a challenge that, once met, provided an opportunity to expand our comfort zone. When we use fear to our advantage in this way, it can become an ally.

5. Mantras, Hail Mary's, Om's and the Now.
Making our way through our alarm, beating back anxiety and building courage can be facilitated in any number of ways. One very effective strategy is to relentlessly put something in place of fear - e.g. the mind-clearing repetition of a chosen mantra, I am safe in this moment; the focus on a chosen talisman such as a set of mala beads or a special pocket stone that reminds us to take courage; the reverent reiteration of a favorite prayer or sound either bringing calm to our fears. When we take deliberate and well-prepared actions to ease or ward off our fears, we gain energy and strength. We give ourselves a rest from the negative and fearful by temporarily abiding in a quiet, internal, safe place that we have prepared and willingly access when we feel fearful. In the same way that we simply turn on a light to rid a room of frightening darkness, we can rid ourselves of fear by putting concentrated practices in place that redirect us to calming, reassuring thoughts. Allowing ourselves to know that we are okay in the moment is also a powerful strategy. As Mel Brook's suggested, "Let's have a merry journey and shout about how light is good and dark is not. What we should do is not future ourselves so much. We should now ourselves more. Now thyself is more important than know thyself."

6. Tune It Out.
To say we live in uncertain times, that we have no control of the world around us is to state the obvious. What we do have control over, however, is how much access to ourselves we allow that world at large. Reducing fear in our lives requires that we put a deliberate line in the sand and say 'enough.' That we invite attitudinal healing into our lives by consciously refusing to live in the land of devastating possibilities. In other words, we have to be willing to stop the constant barrage of terrifying 'news' - real or promised - by turning off the television, putting down the newspaper, flipping the radio to Brahms. We simply do not have to cooperate with 24/7 broadcasts of fear and mayhem that can all too easily kick up our fear-based belief systems. Refusing to focus on the sounds of fear is one of the most difficult and courageous things we can do for ourselves. And, it is one of the most rewarding. Speaking out might be even more effective. Case in point, a group of British psychiatrists found that people involved in campaigns and demonstrations experience a sense of euphoria and overall improvement in their psychological well-being that helps them overcome stress, pain, anxiety and depression. In fact, the feelings are so strong as to last for extended periods of time. So, instead of trembling with fear, we can stamp it out. Getting involved with something greater than ourselves helps a lot.

7. Face the Worst.
It has been said that "a brave man is not one who is never afraid. Such a person is only a fool. A brave man is one who though being afraid goes ahead and does what is practical." While we know that facing fear builds confidence and emotional strength, facing our imagined or projected fears can go even farther. It can simply eliminate them. Many of us hold ourselves back from taking important steps that will improve the quality of our lives because we imagine possible negative outcomes. We predetermine the worst. If we wait to be proven wrong or for fear to disappear on its own, we're in for a long haul. If, on the other hand, we are willing to go to the end of our fear - looking at every bad thing that could arise out of a particular situation -we are able to more clearly see the reality of things. We also give ourselves a chance to see that - even if the worst happens - we can still survive. More promisingly, once we have thought through or written down our fears, we will be able to acknowledge that most of the tragic outcomes we envision will likely never happen. The key is to pull the cover off the fear and take the mystery and imagining out of it. The happy result is that we are left with more manageable reality.

8. Massage the Fear.
Newsweek Magazine recently highlighted a study conducted by University of Miami's Touch Research Institute on 60 school children who had been traumatized by Hurricane Andrew. It was found that fear and depression dropped in kids who received 30 minutes of massage twice a week for a month whereas kids who watched a relaxing video showed no improvement. Further, cortisol levels, the body's marker for stress, declined significantly in the massage group. In addition to physical hands-on or a good workout, there are other ways to massage and alleviate our fears. For example, we can arrange to have kind, supportive people in place to talk to before and after taking difficult but necessary steps. Then, regardless of the outcome, we end up in a positive situation with someone who can help us manage our feelings. Most of all, we can massage the inner message by practicing the frequent return to calming, positive inner dialog.

9. Bring in the Clowns.
Mel Brooks once said, "If your enemy is laughing, how can he bludgeon you to death?" Which is not an entirely new thought if we harken back to the Crusades during which time a satirist would be carried on the shoulders of a soldier in the front line to hurl abuse at the enemy. Unfortunately, this did not always work and the hapless comic was often the first to be killed. However, in the late 50's, Dr. Norman Cousins proved that laughter, indeed, has great powers to not only defeat fear but to heal. In fact, Cousins laughed himself back to good health from a devastating, typically fatal disease with the help of countless 'I Love Lucy' shows. Likewise, comedy, humor, laughter can help us address our fears even during the darkest of times. Take, for example, the courage of comic Christine Basil who - on the heels of September 11 - went out on stage and slowly inched into her monologue, bravely, winding up here, "We're all sitting there watching the television. That incredible live footage of the plane going through the building. But what they didn't show is the CNN footage of a red-haired kid in Central Park with a remote control, looking up, saying - 'Uh-oh, I didn't think that would happen!'" That's big, risky stuff. But, it gave her audience an opportunity to laugh, momentarily shake off fear and heal a bit. So it is that, in those few moments when we can laugh at the worst of our fears, the darkness lifts and the enemy is ordered back.

10. Let Freedom Reign.
In America alone, anxiety disorders reportedly affect more 19 million people each year showing us to be a significantly fearful nation. In the face of these statistics, if we hunger for freedom from fear, we must learn how to turn problems into opportunities, blocks into stepping stones and inner power into the conqueror of fear. Joseph Campbell said, "The conquest of fear yields the courage of life. That is the cardinal initiation of every heroic adventure - fearlessness and achievement." Achieving freedom from fear requires that we liberate our own minds and venture forth. In the words of Dr. Seuss, "If you want to catch beasts you don't see everyday, You have to go places quite out-of-the-way. You have to go places no others can get to. You have to get cold, and you have to get wet, too."



 


 
 

Finding Serenity in the Age of Anxiety
Robert Gerzon

We human beings have always had a love/hate relationship with anxiety. We say we would like nothing better than to be free of anxiety, yet at the same time we seek it out. If our anxiety level gets too low we call it boredom and seek more anxiety - negatively in the form of emotional crises and addictions - or positively - as novel experiences and new challenges. We might as well admit that we are as attracted to the thrills of anxiety as we are to the bliss of serenity. Because anxiety is always there motivating us in some way, how can we use it to guide us?

Amid the cacophony and confusion of our swiftly changing society, many people today are searching for their own true path, thinking, "How can I find the right career, the right mate, the right place, or the right spiritual path?" Joseph Campbell's sage advice was, "Follow your bliss." A vital companion piece of advice is: Follow your anxiety.

To become our true, authentic selves is both our greatest desire and our greatest anxiety. Because of this paradox, if we follow our bliss we will inevitably meet our greatest anxiety along the way. And if we follow our anxiety it will unerringly lead us to our greatest bliss. But most of the time we are not at all certain where to find our bliss, while we have no trouble knowing exactly where our anxiety lies. Because it is usually right there with us, anxiety provides a convenient place to start our journey. Only when we confront the true source of our anxiety can we find the wellspring of serenity and joy--the full ecstasy of being alive. Anxiety is the call to adventure, a hero's journey into the dark forest. The secret of anxiety is that it is the hidden path to inner peace. Rightly used, it can lead us to where we have always longed to go.

(Meanwhile)

Find a way to love your life. If you are living a life that does not feel like your ‘real’ life, because your work is unfulfilling or your relationships are unsatisfying, don't stop loving your life. When life feels off-track, it is easy to give in to self-pity, bitterness, shame, or vague hopes. Anxiety can trick us into misinterpreting our dissatisfaction as a sign of our unworthiness when it is actually evidence of our greater potential. Nonjudgmental acceptance of where you are is the first step to moving forward. Avoid the comfort-zone trap and use your desperation creatively.




 


 
 

Are You Filled With Fear?
Mark Victor Hansen

Albert Einstein once said, "Everyone has two choices. We're either full of love...or full of fear."

This could not be more true. Look around you. I bet you can determine whether someone is filled with love or fear in a matter of seconds. People who are filled with love (or at least getting there!) are optimistic, excited, helping, listening, cheering go-getters – it shows on their face, in their spirit and seems to refresh everyone they meet. Those filled with fear are paranoid, pessimistic, envious, demanding, overbearing downers – it shows on their face, in their spirit and seems to suck the life out of everyone they meet.

Which one are you? Are you filled with fear or love? Or are you a combination of the two? Which one do you want to be?

That's a silly question. You want to be full of love.

So, why aren't we all full of love for everyone, including ourselves? Maybe it's just easier. You don't have to put forth much of an effort to be a pessimist. Heck, the world seems to be geared toward SATISFYING pessimists. Just listen to the nightly news or read the morning paper. Nothing but bad news and more bad news!

But I'm here to tell you – that's no excuse. If you want something, you have to work for it. Creating a positive attitude based in love takes work – especially when almost everyone around you is telling you, "Why bother? The sky is just going to fall in anyway." Let them talk. Their negative Chicken Little belongs to them. Not you.

Change your attitude, and your outlook changes with it. This, in turn, will change your life and change your results – period. It just takes consistent and conscious effort to stay in that place of warmth and positivity.

The opinions or negativity of other people do not have to become your reality. You determine whether you allow that to happen. It all starts in your mind.

You need to have a strong self-image and belief system within you – an impenetrable core based on a positive, optimistic, anything-is-possible mindset – so that when those negative folks start jabbering, you can sit quietly within yourself and know who you are.

When you're trying to be more optimistic and filled with love, you can TRY to avoid those people who bring others down, draining the very life-blood of hope and possibility, but . . . unfortunately, this avoidance tactic rarely works.

They will find you! Once you have embraced a positive, energy-filled, think-out-of-the-box, the-sky-is-not-the-limit mindset, these people are somehow automatically drawn to you, like bees to honey.

Don't worry. It's just a test. The Universe wants to know if you're serious about your new way of living. Don't be afraid of the test – just look these people square in the eye with love and joy, and sit there within yourself knowing that they sadly just – don't – get – it. They don't understand that life wants them to be successful and receive abundance. They believe that everything is a struggle and there is only a limited supply that everyone must fight for. They don't get it and they won't get you. They may even challenge the new you.

This hardly gives you the permission to look down on these people, or think snidely of them in any way, shape or form. You're not better than they are. You may be more consciously aware and living in more abundance and gratitude, but that doesn't make you better than them. Understand that these people are suffering. They are suffering from lack – lack of self-esteem, lack of energy, lack of love. You don't have to explain your new attitude – they will sense it immediately. That's what has drawn them to you in the first place. Your new self is now radiating energy out and attracting people to you.

At the same time, their being drawn to you, does not mean that you should spend all of your energy trying to change them. In many cases, your kind-hearted efforts will deplete your energy levels. The best way you can help these people is to be an example of what can happen when your mindset is based in love and positivity.




 


 
 

A Deer Lesson
Reverend J. T. Pugh

Suppose you were looking out your kitchen window. You saw a beautiful deer grazing in a field behind your house. All at once the deer lifted its head and fled from the field. It gracefully jumped over the fence and disappeared into the woods. You stood at the window and constructed in your mind where you think the deer might have gone.

Maybe deep in the woods near a patch of briars, the deer is quietly laying down, and in time tucking its head in its flank and going to sleep.

Now let us look at some of the things the deer would not have done.

1. He would not have reproached himself for running away. He did that which was natural. He was only attempting to preserve himself.

2. The deer did not lay in anguish and think of what he should have done. He simply made a decision and carried it through. The matter was over.

3. He did not snub the smaller deer who came around. An inferiority complex was not created because of his running away. He did not need to take this out on his fellow animals.

4. He did not seek to break down the bushes nor destroy anything else about him as if they were an enemy to him. He did not project his frustration out on his surroundings.

5. He did not convert his humiliation into sickness. Sleeplessness did not go from his eyes. He did not form a stomach ulcer. The matter was carried through, over with, and forgotten.

Luckily, unlike humans, the deer does not have an ego to protect.




 


 
 

Question:
I'm a Sr. Project Manager for one department and I get thrown into some projects with a woman from another department. It's supposed to be a teamwork thing where we are working on the project together. Instead, every time it ends up with her telling me how it's going to be done and giving me directions. She never asks "what do you think" or "what do you want to do." She just seems to take over. I feel intimidated by her overwhelming personality. Around her I feel incompetent and silly, and I usually just end up smiling and agreeing and doing things her way, when I really want to ask her "are we going to work together, or are you just going to tell me what to do?" She's not my boss and she doesn't work in my department. I'm really angry and frustrated about the whole situation and mostly can not understand why I feel so afraid of her. How do I deal with this?

Answer:
Working with someone in a new situation that has not been clearly defined can be unsettling especially when the co-worker is perceived to be too much in charge to the point of intimidating. Part of determining a positive course of action will be to objectively establish what is creating this uncomfortable dynamic.

The description of your behavior as being the antithesis of what you really want to do - e.g. smiling and taking her lead instead of stipulating a more teamwork attitude - indicates that this is a set reaction to the sound of authority and may well refer to some old fear. The additional fact of your feeling incompetent and silly would further suggest that this scenario returns you to the powerless days of your childhood.

You will want to consider the possibility that your co-worker is taking charge because you - playing an old subservient role - don't appear to be taking the lead. Remember, the fact that you feel helpless to assert yourself - which, understandably, is making you angry - is not your co-worker's fault. She may even be unaware of how her take-charge attitude is affecting you. If you determine that this has, in part, been the case you will want to immediately begin to change this dynamic by asserting your peer status.

Your aim is to achieve a win-win solution where each party comes away feeling like they got what they wanted. Getting that win-win takes negotiation - which means - communication. Therefore, the best first course of action will always be to talk through the situation, honestly and directly, simply stating that you'd prefer to work peer-to-peer on any future projects.

If you are afraid to be that direct, try putting some things into place that will change the interaction between the two of you. If possible, ask whoever makes these assignments to bring the next one directly to you. That will allow you to take a more leadership position at the onset. Your co-worker's response to this will also make clear whether or not she is deliberately trying to override you.

Next time you feel intimidated, focus on staying calm and telling yourself mentally that you are not stupid or weak. That your fear is unwarranted. If you don't wish to directly challenge the person's assumed authority, try breaking the behavior pattern by asking questions. Do the unexpected to change the interaction. Side-step any power-play. Offer alternatives to the way she wants to handle things. f you begin to feel fearful, helpless or angry - stop. Take a deep breath. You do not want your fear to manifest in anger that will spill over onto this person especially when you are probably at least as angry with yourself for not being more assertive and self-caring.

Understand the difference between responding - which is positive - and reacting - which is negative. In dealing with people, we will be most successful if we remain in control of our emotions and ourselves and respond from that place - rather than react to something they are doing.

If your fearful, non-assertive behavior has become passive-aggressive - which almost always leads to self-sabotage, loss of self-control, sometimes angry outbursts - you must consider the idea of confronting the situation either directly or through a mediating supervisor. Do not blame the other person for the situation Instead, approach it as a 'we' issue. Ask for direction in creating a better balance of the workload between you. Stay in your mature self as you participate in any such meeting even though the little kid in you might really be wanting to run for cover or throw a good tantrum. (That's something you can do at home with your pillows when everyone else is out of the house!).

Finally, remember, that fear, pain and discomfort are our teachers. They make us pay attention to things that need to be confronted and changed. Use this work situation to achieve a big step forward in becoming a person who takes good care of herself. Ask for the help you need so that you can grow and make progress on your job - and in life.


 

 
 
©2003 by Joyce K. Reynolds. Duplication with credits only please. Click here for easy access to all books referenced. For complimentary 20-minute Coaching session e-mail jreynolds@jkr.net or visit www.business-coach.org. Click here to send this newsletter to a colleague. Executive Business Coach on bluesuitmom.com Click here to Unsubscribe. Newsletter maintained by Web Factum, LLC.