Fear is paralyzing. The fear of rejection. Fear of change. Fear of success and fear of failure. We're afraid of clowns. Ok, scratch that.
Fear is a necessary survival instinct. It leads our decisions and helps us survive. We depend on our ability to recognize danger.
But 15 - 20% of people develop a phobia that limits the quality of their life and the results they are getting at least once in their life. This amazingly high number does not include all the "undiagnosed" cases of fear that limit our success, keep us from achieving our potential, and spoil our relationships.
Fear also keeps us from being seen, seeing, growing, and from touching other people.
Most of the time, what we are afraid of is only in our heads. It's not real. What we're afraid of is not happening and if it is happening, it's not half as bad as we imagined.
If we're able to turn fear around, it turns from a barrier into a compass.
A simple trick to fight fear
A very simple trick to fight fear that works well for me and clients, is owed to ancient stoics. It's about visualizing the worst-case scenario. The point isn't to fantasize about hell on earth but to look at things in a pragmatic and realistic way.
What happens if everything goes wrong? What will it look like?
Fear is in your brain. Often, there is no real danger. The fear is fictional.
We expect and demand certain results from ourselves. Fear shows us what happens when we fail our expectations.
I adapted the wisdom of ancient stoics as follows:
I recommend starting a conversation with your brain. If I am afraid to start a new project, a conversation might look similar like this:
You: Ok, brain, why do you say I should not do it.Brain: It's too dangerous
You: Dangerous how?Brain: You'll fail
You: But you don't know if I will fail before I even started. Brain: You failed last time
You: Yes, last time I failed. But that does not mean I will fail this time. Brain: But you could
You: That's true. I could fail. Or I could succeed. Why would it be such a problem to fail?Brain: Remember how it hurt last time? It will hurt
You: What exactly hurts about it?Brain: People will speak ill about you
... and so on. You will find that at the end of nearly every conversation, you are less afraid. By rationalizing fear and identifying the parts that are pure fiction or not worth letting go of an opportunity.
Interestingly enough, a common source of stagnation and hesitation is the fear of judgement by others. At the end of a "brain talk", you will find that
a) You cannot be sure that the same people will not judge you either way
b) The factual risk (minus the fiction) is worth taking for the potential win
c) People who are mischievous might not deserve the influence you voluntarily offer
Depending on your temperament, you might feel safer when you also think through how you can recover/repair as soon as possible should the worst-case happen.
Why it's important to face your demons
We're typically most afraid of the things we most urgently need to do. But they limit our life satisfaction or career success.
The brain, the very organ in control of your hormones, thoughts, physical sensations and even emotions, decides which parts of reality it will present us with. We can control that with our thoughts.
For that, we need to be self-aware and try to remove fictional, irrational fear as much as humanly possible.
It's all around us at all times. People who support us and indifferent people. Chances and hurdles. Problems and solutions. Red lights and green lights. Was there ever a bird on your balcony that woke you up on a Saturday morning? Perhaps you know the phenomena: As soon as you realize that the bird is annoying you, the noise takes up nearly all the room in your brain. The loudness of the noise didn't change. Just your perception.
Our brain is superb at creating self-fulfilling prophecies. It doesn't matter if your fearful negative thoughts are fiction or real. Your thoughts decide how your brain sets the filter. And which parts of the plethora of things around you it will show you.
Have a look at this picture.
It will probably move when you first look at it. Reading this article reminded you of times when you've been afraid - or the current fiction in your brain.
While you look at the picture, calm your mind. Breathe slowly and deep and empty your brain. The picture is not moving anymore.
It's semi-related but a great showcase. We don't see things how they are. Depending on our state of mind, we perceive things differently and we see different things. Especially when we are paralyzed by fear.
When will you have the first conversation and turn your fear into your compass?
The audio below contains brainwave-stimulating sounds. It's soothing and calming and might help when you are paralyzed by fear. Please read the disclaimer first (do not use when driving, operating machinery or if you have any form of brain disease.)
Some people's brains take a few times to get used to the stimulation comparable to a workout, others feel the impact right away. The effect grows stronger with continued use.
Watch it and if you like it, you can download this and other sessions in my store. The code is "enjoy"
Other resources:Letting go of anger and fear with the Sedona methodFear of Chance - 5 Life HacksThe neuroscience of fearThe little guyContinue reading
Martha is retired. She has trouble walking so that she hardly leaves the house anymore. She feels trapped even though she has an apartment in the middle of a capital city.
Her neighbor is home all day too. The problem is that, according to Martha, he makes a lot of noise.
In the beginning, Martha was able to ignore the noise. She would just turn the radio on or go to another room.
Over time, the noise started taking over. Soon, the sound was the only thing Martha could focus on and the anger was starting to eat her up. Being angry has become the dominant mood.
How do you deal with anger, compulsive thinking or fear? Did you know that there is a simple way to change your emotion?
The art of letting go and the Sedona method
A lot of people have problems letting go of things. May it be anger or fear. That is a returning "theme" I see with a lot of clients.
For a few years now, I use the Sedona method with so much success that I am sharing the simple trick that will help you to let go of thoughts that you do not serve you.
What is the Sedona method?
The Sedona method is a very simple 4-question release technique developed by Lester Levenson. The physicist from New Jersey, who lived from 1909 to 2009 developed his simple but powerful formula for happiness in 1952.
It has been adopted by many leading coaching experts.
Four simple questions:
Can you accept the emotion at this moment?
Could you let go of the emotion just for now?
Would you let go of the emotion?
Let me explain in more detail:
Why not try it right now or the next time you are angry, afraid or cannot stop thinking about something compulsively?
How the Sedona release technique works
Close your eyes, travel within and think about the person, situation or thing that frustrates you at the moment.
Feel the emotion caused by that "thing."
1. Can you accept the emotion at this moment?
You cannot win a war against your own brain. Therefore, suppressing your emotion, fight it or pretend it does not exist will not work in the long term. Most of the time, the unpleasant emotion only grows stronger.
Back to our question: It doesn't matter how you respond. What matter is that you are honest with yourself. Answer spontaneously without thinking about your answer or trying to find the "right" answer.
Perhaps the emotion is so strong that you have to accept it. Or it's a physical pain and you know that you have to endure it. But you can also decide to refuse to accept the emotion. It's up to you.
2. Could you let go of the emotion - just for a moment?
This question is tricky. You are not being told to let go of the emotion. The freedom of choice is yours in theory. In practice, we often do not have a choice.
As before, it doesn't matter how you answer. Just spontaneous. Without thinking.
The point is that you dig inside and experience the emotion. Often, we're content with symbolism or constructs like "I am angry." Or "I am stressed."
But there is more to it. Please focus on the physical reactions. Do you feel pressure on your shoulder? Is your face getting hot?
It's easier to let go of concrete physical sensations than diffuse words like "stress", "fear", or "anger."
Many of us are able to let go but you are not always aware of it. Imagine you feel afraid and your kid runs into the room because he feels down and has a bloody nose.
Where is the fear now?
Or imagine you are fighting with your partner and the phone rings. Most people will answer it with a totally normal voice. It might change back to the "anger voice" as soon as they hung up, but the fact of the matter is that they ARE able to let go.
It's easier if we do not force ourselves. That makes the indirect question "Could you..." so powerful.
The question represents merely a hint and that does not cause aversion or pressure.
3. Would you let go of the emotion?
Answer honestly and spontaneously again. The question is not about your ability to let go. It's about your willingness.
You might cover up another emotion or fear and learn about yourself that you are not willing to let go. Or you discover why you held on to an emotion that did not serve you for so long.
And now to the fourth and last question:
When? When would you let go?
Change does not happen if we are not brutally honest with ourselves. Ask yourself the question. As before, it does not matter what you reply. There is no right or wrong.
Now? Tomorrow? Never?
This question helps you to the here and now and you will get a sense that change is possible.
You can break the pattern. You can let go. When would you like to let go?
If you reply with something like "the day after tomorrow" or "when I have time" you have already agreed that you would like to let go AND that you can.
You will probably already feel a difference if you did not just read this article but went through the process of the four questions.
The best is to ask yourself these four questions again and again.
The Sedona method is not limited to emotions
You can use the method also to let go of unpleasant thoughts, limiting beliefs, nasty habits and besetting fantasies.
It works because thoughts, beliefs and even fantasies are connected to emotions as well.
Why is this simple method so powerful?
The questions connect you to your inner self. The characteristic of a problematic situation is that we're not grounded but kept the hostage of our brain. Compulsive thinking, worst-case scenarios etc. (Related article: "The default mode network and why it matters to you")
Often we are not aware what causes a certain emotion and this is where the Sedona method is gold.
It helps to get a distance to the problem or emotion. To look at it unbiased from afar. That might sound like an oxymoron (how can you connect to your inner self and at the same time have more distance?)
The difference is that the question forces you in the here and now.
Is there anything I can help you with? Why not book a session right now?
It is now 20 years ago that Steve jumped from the rooftop of the office building in Frankfurt, Germany.
My colleague AND friend, Steve (Dr. Steve R.), was an extraordinarily good Management Consultant. Even though he did not speak German, his expertise and sincere interest in supporting clients made German companies overlook that fact.
No one saw it coming. We let the last weeks and months pass in our heads over and over and over again, searching for signs we overlooked. We did not see any.
Two days before he jumped, he told me stories about his evil cat and we laughed and giggled for hours. He told me how his mean cat hated and terrorized his wife and him. She might grab her purse and find ... (how do we call this here? Typically, I do not talk a lot about the liquid that must not be named) ... yellowish cat liquid in it. Or he might find one of his slipper in pieces.
I am not aware that he had financial, health or any other problems. He was not drunk. In the middle of preparing an offer, he left his desk went to the rooftop. And. Jumped.
The selfish feeling of guilt is still with me. Guilt that I did not even realize that my friend was in a very dark place. There were times when he seemed to be far away. Similar to when I wake up and have to come to my senses. He looked at you, but did not seem to see you until he was back in the "now".
With what I know today, I could have helped my friend to save himself.
Depression is a scary beast. It´s not always obvious. The ones who the beast is already holding in its firm grip, might not talk about it. Or care, for that matter. They might not show "classic" signs.
Depression changes the brain and is a serious condition.
Some overdiagnose every bad mood - some do not even acknowledge depression as a serious condition.
Symptoms of Depression
When to get help
Having a bad or sad day are normal parts of life and are usually nothing to worry about. Setbacks in our personal life and our careers can give us the blues, just like the loss of a friend or a loved one. It can be hard to find the balance between taking yourself and your symptoms serious and taking yourself too seriously which can lead to self-created symptoms.
That is what makes it even harder to tell if you have a problem.
Just today I saw a Forbes article on my LI feed "Stop the excuses. The truth about burnout". There is still a social stigma. "Boys don´t cry" - and business people don´t get depressed or suffer from burnout. Vulnerability, authenticity and empathy classes reflect an ideal-world scenario that is not always compatible with our reality.
What are symptoms of depression?
A "bad mood" or sadness becomes the norm or lasts longer than two weeks without improvement
Not everyone will show every symptom, some might have a few - others have many
The sadness and empty feeling are accompanied by a feeling of indifference
You need a lot of sleep. You could sleep all day long and would still be tired. The energy level goes down
Sudden loss of appetite and weight - or the opposite
Thoughts of suicide ("there´s no point")
You just want to withdraw and the consequences matter less and less
Your hobbies and what you loved to do (even sex) become irrelevant
Getting yourself to do simple tasks is becoming more and more difficult and exhausting
You suddenly seem to get angry easier, you´re restless and/or irritable
Everything and everyone goes on your nerves
You feel helpless or unworthy or
Pessimistic and hopeless
Sometimes sudden ongoing digestive problems, headaches, and aches that do not respond to treatment accompany depression
Statements like "It would be better if I wasn´t here" or similar
Problems concentrating, remembering details, making decisions and focusing (a depressed mind has trouble remembering positive and neutral events, it tends to store all of the negative events of a day)
My personal definition of what I have learned from clients who book my EI and mindfulness training is: You stop loving things/people. You just stop loving life.
None of the symptoms listed are exclusive to the state of depression so that it is really hard to self-diagnose. The symptoms also vary depending on the state and severeness of the depression.
This is not a complete list of symptoms.
If you know someone who is in a bad place warning signs can be
they suddenly start seeing people from their past that once meant a lot to them
they get their things in order (for instance write their will)
all of a sudden they are super happy, nearly euphoric
Please seek help for yourself or anyone you might know who could be suffering from depression.
10 % of depressive people kill themselves. It is estimated that as many as 1 in every 8 teens and 1 in every 33 kids have depression.
1. Hotline: at 1-800-SUICIDE
2. Can mindfulness change the brain
3. The default mode network (20-minute presentation about changes depression causes in the brain)