Fear doesn’t necessarily mean something is scary. Eight tricks for transforming this intense human emotion
How do you get past fear? How do you function when you are overridden with the “What if’s,” when you are overcome by the possible horrendous depictions of the future that you see in your mind? I’ve got some answers for you.
Below is an excerpt from my book Getting Answers: Using Your Intuition to Discover Your Best Life. It’s almost the whole of chapter eight, which is entitled, “Secret Ingredient #3: Fear Transformed.”
I’m putting it up here because I see that people need this right now. They need tactics to see beyond their fear. They need to understand that experiencing fear doesn’t necessarily indicate that something is scary. What does it indicate? Read and find out.
Excerpted from the book, Getting Answers: Using Your Intuition to Discover Your Best Life
The only thing that fear indicates for certain is that your heart is still beating (probably rapidly), and you are still breathing in and out (probably very shallowly). The problem is not that we experience fear; the problem is when we allow that fear either to paralyze us or to dictate our actions.
In this chapter I will address some ways you can look at and understand fear so that you can avoid letting it control you. I’ll tell you some true stories and I’ll also give you a few tricks for transforming fear when it does come up.
FEAR DOESN’T NECESSARILY INDICATE THAT
SOMETHING IS THREATENING
Like most humans, I’ve experienced fear so many times in my life when it was not warranted that I could probably give hundreds of examples here. The one I am choosing to describe is something that happened recently.
Not too long ago I taught a weekend workshop on Getting Answers. Because my neighbor suggested this workshop to me—I spoke about it in chapter 5—and so, from its very inception, I felt that it was Spirit inspired. I wasn’t nervous in preparing for it. I knew I wanted to teach the Getting Answers formula, and that my role would also include being “the oracle” and giving readings to our students. I felt comfortable with both of these activities and had been doing for some time. I was co-teaching the workshop with another woman and, although we had just met, I trusted her knowledge and ideas. Even during the planning stages there was a synergy between us that I was excited about. I could tell that we were about to create something that would be really worthwhile for both our students and ourselves. The planning had gone off without a hitch and even the first evening went beautifully.
Then on the second morning of our workshop, the morning that I would start my work doing readings, I became overwhelmed by fear. I couldn’t tell how much of it was my own, and how much of it was the feelings I was picking up from the students. After all, each person there was about to receive a psychic reading in front of a group of virtual strangers. Although I knew that I would not get any information that would be unbeneficial for them to receive in this setting, I could see how someone not familiar with this process could be afraid. Regardless of where the fear was coming from, I felt it in my body. I felt petrified. That morning prior to class I had done all of my usual tricks to get centered—namely, going for a run and meditating. Still when we started class my heart was beating so fast I felt the pulse and strength of it might actually lift up my shirt. Luckily, I had to go on. And I did. Even though my heart was racing, my palms were sweating, and I could barely even feel my own legs, I moved forward. And guess what happened? It went perfectly! As soon as I started the first reading, I felt myself relax into the ease of what I do. I lost the fear altogether. By the end of that reading, my breathing and heart rates were totally back to normal. I lost the feeling of being under the siege of fear, and instead I felt thrilled.
I learned from this experience. It was so profound that I remembered it. The next time I felt this type of heart racing fear I was driving down the road. I don’t remember what I was thinking about that caused me to start panicking, but it didn’t take me long to wise up. Wait a minute, I said to myself, I know this feeling! This is the exact feeling that I had before the start of my workshop and look what happened there! It was a great weekend. Everything went off without a hitch, and even the student evaluations showed that everyone loved it.
Right then and there I decided that experience had taught me that I could override this feeling. The feeling wasn’t warranted. I’m not going to believe this fearful story, I told myself. It’s all bull. You know what happened? My body quieted down. Just like it had when I finally got down to doing my work in the workshop, my body relaxed. Apparently it just needed a reminder from me: We are not under siege. Our life is not on the line here. We are going to be okay. And presto. Ahhh! It was liberating to realize once again that I don’t have to believe everything I think!
So, first and foremost, recognize that experiencing fear does not necessarily indicate that something is truly scary.
FEAR IS UNAVOIDABLE
You might as well just accept right off the bat that fear is an unavoidable sensation. Being human is enough to assure that you will experience fear from time to time. We are biologically programmed to feel fear. I like to think of it as a throw back to the days when saber tooth tigers could be looming around the next bush. This helps me remember that, at its core, fear is a warning mechanism designed to ensure my safety. Now, however, in the 21st century, the things that cause us fear have very little chance of causing our death. Face it, even though your heart may be beating at a rate you could hardly calculate, your hands might be shaking, and your palms might be sweating, that thing that you are afraid of is not really going to kill you. Teaching that class, talking to that person, taking that job is not going to cost you your life. Even if it seems like it, the truth is that your boss (co-worker, friend, etc.) is not literally going to open their jaws and bite off your head. If you speak your truth, you are still going to be okay.
Although fear is a natural human experience that we may not be able to control having, we do have control over whether or not we let fear dictate our actions.
One of the most profound lessons that I learned about fear came up one day while I was hiking in the Colorado Rockies. I was standing in the woods by myself eating a hard-boiled egg when three ptarmigan birds approached. They stood there watching as the crumbs fell from my hands, and before long they began to go for them. Gathering courage, they were soon snatching up crumbs practically off of my feet.
Their brazenness made me think they might even eat out of my hand. So I put some crumbs in my right palm and held it out. In a matter of moments a grey and white bird was flying straight at me. My heart beat so quickly that at the last second I jerked my hand away. Three times this happened. I was afraid–actually, I was petrified. Visions of puncture wounds from bird claws flashed through my mind. I saw the gaping hole that the beak was sure to leave in my palm as it grabbed the egg white. I wondered, Will I ever be able to use that hand again? What do I have in the car that I might wrap my wound in as I drive myself to the hospital?”
These thoughts were going through my mind and blood was racing through my veins, when it dawned on me that my own fear was robbing me of what could be one of the most amazing experiences of my life—having wild birds come to me and eat right out of my hand. Am I going to let my own fear deprive me of this experience? I asked myself. Just then, the words of my meditation teacher flash through my mind. She said, “A yogi is not one who does not experience fear, but rather one who stares fear in the face and watches it back down.”
I decided right then and there that I would not let fear destroy this moment. And I decided to get out and put on the thin gloves that I had in my glove box! Planting my feet on the ground, and taking a deep breath, I held out my arm with the glove and egg crumbs and stared straight ahead. The bird flew at me again and landed to grab the crumbs. For fifteen minutes the birds landed on my hand, staying longer each time. They began to eat standing on my (now ungloved) palm, not even bothering to fly away to swallow their treat. They were so gentle, perching effortlessly and pecking the crumbs without even grazing my palm. By the end they were perching two at a time, silently taking in long drinks of my appearance. I was elated! Standing in the middle of the forest looking into the eyes of wild birds perched on my own outstretched hand was an unbelievable experience.
It continued. A few hours later, as I packed up, I returned to the same spot, and opened my empty hand. Almost immediately the birds answered my call, their soft feathery touch alighting on my palm. Beady eyes met human eyes once more as we watched each other for several long moments. It was an experience I will never forget, one I come back to again and again as I think about and experience fear. It showed me the kind of magic that is waiting for me when I override my fear. And it taught me what fear most often indicates—it’s a launch into the unknown.
FEAR INDICATES YOU’RE HEADING
INTO UNKNOWN TERRITORY
In a concrete way, that experience in the woods taught me that fear comes up not in response to something that is truly threatening but as an almost automatic reaction to moving into unknown territory. In truth the birds were not a hazard to me. Their beaks and claws were gentle beyond my expectations.
The fears came from my mind, which, recognizing that I was moving into completely unfamiliar terrain, started circling through the list of possible outcomes and highlighting all of the negative ones, just so I would know. This is normal. This is what fear does. This is what that warning mechanism is really for. Rather than being a means of paralyzing you, fear signals you are moving into something new.
In the case of your questions and answers, experiencing fear may actually be a good sign. It indicates you are about to do something that you have never done before. Clearly if the status quo had been working, you wouldn’t have been asking for a new solution. So the way I see it, if you are about to try something new—that is a good sign.
So, learn to recognize fear not as a sign that you should stop in your tracks, but as a simple signal from your body that you are moving into new territory. Just because your mind runs through every negative outcome doesn’t mean these things will actually happen. Fear’s presence is more like a biological alert system. It’s giving you the message to stay alert and present—notifying you that you are about to enter new terrain, or make new tracks. This is not dangerous; it’s just unknown.
When you think about it, you have already entered into new territory thousands of times in your life, and you’re still breathing. This moment will likely not be any different.
FEAR IS ALL IN YOUR MIND
The truth is—it’s all in your mind. When I was afraid while driving down the road the other day, it was all in my mind. The state of panic elicited in my body had nothing to do with my being behind the wheel. Likewise, the hand-eating birds—a figment of my active imagination. The next time you experience fear, take a look around you and become aware of what is happening at that moment. Are you driving your car, lying in your bed, sitting on your couch? Is anything truly scary happening right now? I can almost guarantee the answer will be no. Really, you’re fine. You’re just lying in bed worrying, drawing a bowl of worst case scenarios from a stew of infinite possibilities. Well, stop it. Recognize that nothing is scarier than those thoughts. Even the experience itself will be less frightening than the frantic thoughts you’re having about it. Especially when that experience involves applying the advice you’ve been given, and acting on your answer. So remember—it’s all in your mind. That’s where the fear starts, and that is where you can end it.
TRICKS FOR TRANSFORMING FEAR
This check-list has all of my best advice for overcoming fear.
- Override fear; don’t let it stop you—The best way I’ve found of dissipating fear is to do the thing that you know you must. In some cases, as with the class I had to teach, you will be forced to override your fear. I mean, I suppose I could have just copped out on the class, but that was never really an option for me. But sometimes you will be all alone, as I was with the birds, and no one but you will make you do it. That day in the Colorado forest, I could have walked away from that experience—and completely missed the magic. Thank God I did not. There will be many times when you too will have the chance to walk away. Don’t. Fear looms huge. It can pretty much take over every other emotion you experience, and shade everything you do, but there is another quality to fear—it has the ability to dissipate immediately. You only see this once you do the thing you must do. Then, poof, like smoke after the fire has been put out, fear disappears. It’s almost like fear was never there. The moment you take action, or do the thing you are afraid of, you find out all those scary ideas were just a bunch of baloney. With those “what if” warnings obviously superfluous, fear just simply vanishes. Gone.
- Recognize the physical signs—Increased heart beat, shallow breathing, panicked thinking, sweaty palms, shaky hands, taut body, hunched shoulders—you are afraid. Translation—you are entering into the unknown. This is your moment to recognize fear, look it in the face, and watch it back down. If you want, you can thank fear as it heads out. It did, after all, give you the clever warning signal that you are about to do something you’ve never done before. Thanks for the heads up. Now, bye-bye.
- Identify fearful thoughts—Do you feel frantic to do something, anything? Do you hear yourself thinking about all of the bad things that could happen to you if you move forward on said thing? Do you find yourself creating wonderfully horrific futures for yourself in your mind? Fearful thoughts are negative, frantic, and inconsistent. One day they tell you that you can’t because of this, the next day they tell you that you can’t because of that. Is this good advice? No. Do not heed these frantic thoughts. Acknowledge these thoughts, but do not act on them. This is just fear doing what it does—warning you of every possible scenario, giving you a head’s up on every worst case. These are not your cases. You are acting on your answer, which will bring you good.
- Get perspective—Think about it. In all cases whatever is bothering or frightening you is not going to last forever. You are not going to spend the rest of your life worrying about said thing. You absolutely will not be stuck in this experience. The shaking of your hands will pass, your heart will also eventually calm, and you will be able to feel your body again. So take heart. No matter how huge your fear seems right now, there is going to come a time in your life when you won’t even remember this moment. How many times has this already happened to you? Personally, I can’t even count them. Sometimes fear just takes time to dissolve. Wait it out. It will end.
- Use your breath—Breathing is one of the most affective ways to
affect what is happening in your body. If you feel calm and relaxed you naturally breathe more deeply. The moment that you are stressed and afraid your breathing becomes very shallow. Try using your breath to regulate your emotions. Give your body the message that everything is okay by inhaling deeply. If you start to do this regularly when you experience fear, it will become an automatic calming reaction to fear.
- Exercise—Exercise is good for so many things. But I’ve noticed especially during times of stress, it is a great way to keep anxiety from lodging in the body. I run it out. If you are feeling particularly fearful, try going for a run yourself. It worked for our ancestors. Even if you just run break-neck speed down the street for a few moments, it will help. What’s especially effective is setting the intention before you start to release your body of any excess and unwanted fear or anxiety.
- Tell your friends—Another good way I’ve discovered of dissipating fear is to tell my friends about it. Oftentimes, the moment you vocalize your fear, you realize how ridiculous it is. Either that, or they
will. I was talking to my friend Dana not too long ago when I told her about this great fear of mine. I wish I could remember what I actually said, but I can’t because the fear is gone now. It dissipated because of Dana’s reaction. She was silent for a moment and then she said, “I’m sorry but when you say that I can’t help but want to burst out laughing!” Of course I started laughing too. When your friends laugh at something you’re afraid of, you can take it as a sign that it is a totally bogus fear. Even if they don’t laugh—or you don’t—you’ll find that speaking your fears has the profound effect of releasing them from your body. It frees you from carrying that fear inside, and like your breath on the wind, it disappears.
- Find a role model—Now I know she’s a character from fiction, but one of my favorite models of fearlessness is J.K. Rowling’s Luna Lovegood. Just watch the 5th Harry Potter movie, Order of the Phoenix, and you’ll know what I’m talking about. There is a scene where Harry and his gang are wandering the halls of the Ministry of Magic. It’s the middle of the night. They’ve broken in. And as far as you can tell, they may be about to face the Dark Lord himself—or at least his henchmen. These are the wicked wizards responsible for the torture and murder of several sets of parents among Harry’s crew. They are not the sort of people you would wish to see on the street in daylight, let alone in the middle of the night virtually on your own. What is Luna Lovegood’s reaction? She looks like she’s wandering the halls of an amusement park. The underlying emotions betrayed on her face are amazement and curiosity. Fiction or not, I was truly inspired by this. Watching someone in the face of possibly imminent death not immobilized put my life into a whole different perspective! This character is so at home with the mysterious, so accustomed to the unknown, that it doesn’t even occur to her to be afraid.
Now, answer this for me: who is more likely to succeed in any given situation?
- a calm person
- a frantic fearful person
The answer—and please notice that this is the only answer I’m giving you in the whole book: A.
Okay—so, it doesn’t have to be Luna Lovegood. It could be Mahatma Gandhi, your six year-old daughter, or any inspiring person of your choice. But locking onto a role model you feel has been particularly un-thwarted by fear is a good way to help yourself transform your own fear. If you have to, the next time you experience a panicked thought, pretend you are that person—become your own role model of fearlessness.
The motto is this: Fear happens, don’t let it control you. You may not have a choice about whether or not you become afraid from time to time, but you do have a choice in what you do about it.
EXCERPTED FROM THE BOOK,
GETTING ANSWERS: USING YOUR INTUITION
Aimée Cartier is a psychic and the author of the book Getting Answers: Using Your Intuition to Discover Your Best Life. Getting Answers teaches you how to use your own intuition to get the real answers that you crave for your life. She is also the founder of Intuition University where, in either private or group sessions, Aimée works with students who are ready to understand, enhance, trust and rely upon their innate psychic skills and intuitive knowing in order to further empower their life.
More about her work is available at www.AimeeCartier.com