I had my first panic attack when I was about seven years old. My panic attacks didn’t last long, but they were fierce. And utterly frightening.
I’d wake up in my bed completely disoriented, unsure of where I was, and who I was—I didn’t even recognize my dad or sister.
I still instinctively knew who my Mom was, and I called out for her right away. But as soon as she started to walk towards me. it was too much, too loud, too fast. “Don’t walk so fast!” I’d cry out. “Don’t talk so loud.”
She tiptoed toward me, whispering gently.
Though they lessened in their ferocity, my panic attacks stuck with me until my late twenties. Slowly but surely, they got further and further apart, and easier and easier to handle.
Eventually, I learned not only how to handle them but to prevent them. Most of all, I learned how to create a life that nearly eliminated them. I haven’t had one in years.
But fear and anxiety? That’s another story. I have a hunch it might eventually end the same way the one above did, with me writing about how I learned to conquer it. Until then, I’ll keep using my tried-and-true techniques for facing your fear, and doing it anyway.
Because, like lots of you, I’ve got big dreams. And I refuse to do anything less than live my dharma, and give everything I’ve got—even if it scares the $--t out of me.
Here are some tips to help you face your fear and do it anyway:
1. Accept your feelings.
Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, said it, and I’ll quote him for the rest of my life. “What you resist, persists.”
In other words, the more we resist fear by trying not to feel it, the more fear hangs around. So step numero uno on the path to overcoming fear of fear is to say to ourselves, Hey, it’s ok to feel fear. Everyone does at some point or another. It’s a very normal part of our human experience.
2. Get curious about your fear.
The unknown is hard to get a handle on. And so long as fear stays bafflingly unknowable, it’ll continue to have a handle on us.
So how do we get to know fear? We sit with it. We get really curious about it. What does fear feel like? Where does it live in our bodies? What physical sensations are we feeling when we’re thinking of doing the thing we’re afraid of?
This part is the biggie: when we break fear down into its tiny little parts—the detailed physical sensations—and sit with, rather than run from them, fear gets smaller and smaller and smaller. And our sense of ourselves and our own strength gets bigger and bigger and bigger.
3. Question fear-based thinking.
If I do that, everyone with think...
If I say ‘no’ to that, people with think I’m...
It’s not okay to rock the boat.
What other fear-based thoughts do you have?
Notice them, write them down, say them aloud. All of these things will help you recognize their impact. Even greater: question the thoughts? Really? Will everyone really think that? Or are you thinking of one specific person? And, while we’re at it—do you even value that person’s opinion all that much?
Face your fear. Do it anyway. Leap even before you think you’ve grown the wings to fly. Dare to dream. Take turtle steps towards your vision. You got this.