Getting comfy ¤ Listening to fear

What is your relationship with fear? I wish you and I were in a conversation right now, with cups of tea in our hands, so I could hear your response.. Is that relationship is similar to Avoidance? Do you Cope with your fears? Is the relationship like an Exploration or an Inquiry? Do you Embrace fear?

For many years I completely immersed myself in my Fears on purpose — soaking up to my neck in them as if becoming one with my Fear were the goal. You would not have found me “running” from them, to say the least! Convinced in the idea of “force it until you make it”, and “you can do anything you decide”, I thought these beliefs were the secret to my success, and made me unstoppable. Although I am a little embarrassed to admit it now {because I know it reflects my ignorance of my own ignorance at the time}, I actually used to say that I was “fearless”.  It was not the case, as I learned.

Everything began to change for me when I took a lead-fall while rock climbing about four years ago. Accelerating down through forty feet of air, I struck and rope-burned parts of my body until my fall was stopped by the rope.  My climbing was not the same for many, many months. I tried to climb, but I was utterly shut down! I wanted to reap all the benefits in personal growth that climbing provides. But no matter how ambitious, bold, committed and thirsty I was for the next step in my climbing life, I COULD NOT COMPEL MYSELF up the rock. I was missing something – I was not listening to Fear.

There are two categories of fear: we may call them type I and type II fear. Type I fear is of actual, bodily danger. It is a reasonable fear of a physical danger, much like the fear of an inexperienced lead climber who is new to outdoor rock.. Type II fear is a fear of what we imagine could be a threat to us. A good example of this type is when that same climber practices, prepares, and develops competence, but she still feels paralyzed on easy terrain.

What type of fear do you think I was feeling immediately after my fall?  What about 6 months after?  What about 12 months after?  I’ll return to that story in a moment.

I help folks resolve type II fears through hypnosis all the time, and the results are beautiful.  Since the mind protects us by associating “perceived dangerous” stimuli with negative outcomes such as pain, it stands to reason that social rejection, the loss of an important relationship, or unfulfilled needs are all painful situations that type II fears can pretty effectively help us avoid. The PROBLEM with allowing type II fears to steer the ship of our life is that it’s not really a strategy for happiness — only for being “less unhappy”.  The reason hypnotherapy is so life-changing is that it puts the ship wheel into the capable hands of our positive beliefs, while simultaneously resolving those phantom, type II fears.  Fear has a message, and confronting Fear is not the answer.  When the message is heard, type II Fear leaves on its own.

Now let me ask you this: can you {or should you} attempt to address a debilitating type I fear of real danger, like mine of a lead fall, through hypnotherapy? The answer is that Yes you may, with a caveat.  There are visualization and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) techniques which can be extremely effective in increasing the odds of survival, even in the face of actual danger, but there is no purely emotional remedy for real physical danger.  Much as you’d expect, hypnotherapy alone simply won’t be effective in cases of type I fear, without an actual, corresponding change in our environment as well.  How interesting is that?

I did go on to rock climb.  A lot.  I eventually overcame both type I and type II fears I was experiencing; I was extremely driven to be free of the paralyzing fears I was experiencing.  Not surprisingly however, that experience was not the last time I tried to “force” my way through Fear instead of listening to it.  It takes practice, but I learned to listen more these days!  Repeatedly I observe that Fear is not something to Manage, Confront, or Ignore.  We must listen.  And we can make something useful out of that.

About the author

Mandy Mandy's interests are in the brain sciences, consciousness, and human performance optimization. She has been passionately practicing Acceptance since 1983, and writing since she could write. Mandy has a deep caring for people, and works from an Economic, strategic, and creative lens.

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