Harnessing the Power of Fear

Harnessing the Power of Fear

“The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.” – Henry Miller

Fear can be so incredibly powerful. Have you noticed? It makes us doubt our gifts, squash our creativity, and leave our dreams unfulfilled. If you ask me, that’s no way to live.

I have been studying fear for years, and here is what I have learned. You can’t beat it, overcome it, ignore it, suppress it, or deny it. Push fear away or pretend it doesn’t exist, and all you get is more of the familiar effects of fear – limitation, confusion, and disappointment in yourself.

The only sustainable, intelligent way to deal with fear is to take away its power. How to do that? By making fear your friend. Make the radical choice to turn and meet your fear.

Making Fear Your Friend

It may sound counterintuitive, but here is how it works. Resisting fear empowers it. Fear that is not fully seen creeps into your mind and takes over your body. But giving it your full, open, loving attention brings it out of the shadows.

Once you learn to recognize how fear drives your choices, you can choose differently by letting aliveness, enthusiasm, wholeness, and love guide you. It’s the end of the small fear-fueled self and the beginning of truly living.

Become familiar with fear in all its faces. Make a lifestyle of studying it. Learn to recognize how it clouds your judgment and convinces you that you are not your brilliant, magnificent self.

Become an expert in your fear, and it will lose its power over you. Make it your friend for all time, and your life will begin to sing its own, unique, beautiful song.

The Body of Fear

Some of us come into the world with a body inclined toward fear. You might be prone to feeling tension, anxiety, and inner agitation.

Make a practice of getting to know these physical sensations. Then you will be able to recognize the seed of fear starting to take hold. From the most loving place inside you, bring your attention right into the tense and contracted places. Don’t analyze them or push them away. Simply feel and breathe, feel and breathe.

Know that these are just physical sensations. No need to create a story around them or let them guide your decisions. Simply notice them, then move on with the business of living your beautiful life.

Take good care of your fear-prone body by exercising, doing yoga, practicing deep breathing, walking in nature, and meditating. Be a kind host, even if fear is visiting. Know that place of essential wholeness in you that has never been touched by fear, and live from there.

The Mind of Fear

Fearful thoughts are all about “no.” They tell us that we can’t, shouldn’t, aren’t capable of. They convince us we will be judged, rejected, or abandoned if we express our true heart’s desire. They make our minds spin endlessly with worry. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • I can’t disappoint him/her.
  • I might fail.
  • I doubt if I can do it.
  • I might get overwhelmed.
  • I will have to work too hard.
  • I know they will disapprove.
  • What if I am criticized.
  • I will be outside my comfort zone.
  • What if it gets difficult.
  • I don’t know how to start.
  • I’m scared, I’m scared, I’m scared.

These thoughts weave a familiar web that leaves you frustrated and unable to change. But none of them is your true voice.

Here is how fearful thoughts work. They pretend they know what the future will bring, and they assume only negative outcomes.

What is actually true about the future? You don’t know. You don’t know if you will fail or feel overwhelmed. But your fear-fueled mind persuades you that you will. And if you believe these thoughts, no wonder fear paralyzes you.

What if what actually happens is amazing beyond your wildest dreams? What if you let yourself stay with the truth – that you don’t know what the future will bring – and allow life to unfold naturally?

Why go one more second believing limited thoughts with dismal outcomes that aren’t even true? Here is the medicine for your fear-fueled thoughts.

  • Pay attention to your mind so you can learn how it works. Become an expert in recognizing your fear-driven thoughts.
  • Take the intelligent approach. Don’t believe them. Realize what is actually true – that you don’t know what the future will bring.
  • Feel the freedom of being released from a gloomy future that hasn’t even happened yet. Life is now full of possibility. Can you feel it?

The Courage to Act

Now, you understand how essential it is to befriend your fear.

  • You know how fear shows up in your body.
  • You see how fear invades your mind.

This is where the rubber meets the road. The choice is yours. With fear no longer driving you, what do you really want? What do you want your life to be about?

Harness the power of fear by knowing it fully. Then find your true voice – the one that is alive inside you, the one that can’t be squelched no matter how afraid you think you are. And, when you are ready, step out and sing a note of your glorious song.

How has fear held you back? How have you learned to work with it? I’d love to hear…

Photo by Kevin Tiqui

Gail Brenner

Gail Brenner, Ph.D. writes at her blog, A Flourishing Life.She offers inspiring articles that support people to untangle self-defeating habits and live conscious lives of authenticity, fulfillment, and joy.

Latest posts by Gail Brenner (see all)

27 Comments

  1. Here they are a few famous fear quotes:

    “Do one thing everyday that scares you.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

    “Don’t give in to your fears. If you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart.” ~ Paulo Coelho

    “Find out what you’re afraid of and go live there.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk

    Reply
  2. Fear is indeed paralyzing!!

    You have created some revolutionary methods to deal with it.

    Thank god I read everymorning so I can stumble upon articles like this.

    I think this can be of great benifit to many.

    Thanks,

    sw

    Reply
    • Thank you, Steve. What works is to be as conscious as possible in our lives. Then fear can’t take control.

      Reply
  3. if we learned to face our fears we will be able to reach our maximum potential
    thank you jail for the inspiring post

    Reply
  4. Gail,

    It’s ironic, but I’m amazed at how much fear has to teach us. If you’re whole, the lessons come easy; if you’re not whole, fear offers you a way to get there.

    By the way, I really like the catchy point to ponder from Henry Miller, pointing as it does to our reward for making fear our friend and moving on from there.

    Great post. It captures the essence of how to turn fear into fun!

    Christopher

    Reply
    • It is ironic, Christopher, the paradox that paying more focused attention to fear is what disarms it.

      Then we are available to the “joyous, drunken, serene, divine” life that is possible.

      Reply
  5. Wonderful post Gail – FEAR “False Evidence Appearing Real”….that’s what we do. My past was full of fear for I was taught to fear as I grew up. As I became an adult, I’ve had to go my core beliefs (my blueprint) and face the fears – embrace them and I set out on my journey. A 2 year journey of moving to unknown places with no family or existing friends to face the fear of getting out of our comfort zones. To know no one and enter into life’s adventures.

    It’s been a beautiful road I’ve been on and I now look back and smile…for I embraced FEAR and now am friends with it….

    In gratitude,
    Nancy

    Reply
    • Nancy,

      I feel the fruits of the journey you describe. You have done what it takes – to put everything up for grabs and bravely go to all hidden corners of your being. That is the beginning of truly living. May your light shine brilliantly…

      Reply
  6. Hi Gail!

    As usual, I enjoyed and got a lot out of your article (I’m a big fan).

    I too have found the rewards of making friends with my fear. I remember clearly the day I stopped running from my fear, instead I made an about-turn and met my fear. Since then, fear has been a great teacher of mine as it has taught me so much about myself and life.

    It brings to mind what I often tell my clients: “The place we fear is where we deeply want to go.” This is the great paradox and a source of inner conflicts. If only more of us could be guided to gently meet, recognise, understand and befriend our fears…

    Keep doing what you do, Gail. Your words are like droplets of magical potion that has the power to liberate us from our pain.

    In Gratitude,
    Amyra

    Reply
    • Hi Amyra,

      I appreciate your insight that the places we fear are the ones that are asking for our attention. Fear is about avoidance, so the question is: what is actually being avoided? This is an area ripe for investigation for most of us.

      Thank you so much for your kind words.

      Reply
  7. Hi Gail,
    Thank you. Just a thought, what if we equated “fear” with Yes or with something Positive?
    So every time we feel fearful (except for snakes, spiders & crocodiles) it could mean that this “fear” is telling us to do it rather than not to do it……this fear is a positive for us rather than a negative…..could this ease us past the pain of “fear”?

    be good to yourself
    David

    Reply
    • This seems to me to be an intelligent approach, David. You are describing that fear can be a signal not to avoid, but to take some kind of action and to be compassionate with ourselves. That way fear becomes an ally rather than an enemy.

      Thanks for making this point.

      Reply
  8. I really don’t think we are an object of fear, I think that fear is just something we mistakenly identify with yea?

    I totally believe that fear is entirely driven within, created by our thoughts.~> Eckhart Tolle in his book “A New Earth” he said that fear comes as a result of us identifying ourselves with our thought. That instead we should become aware of our thoughts and realize that it is not who we truly are.

    Instead of saying “I am fearful” can’t we say something more on the lines of “there’s fear inside of me”?

    This will allow our sub-conscious to let go of fear more easily and become more conscious, more present with ourselves.

    Your post reminded me of that book. So I just wanted to share that here.

    Thanks

    Reply
  9. This is exactly right, Brandon. In truth, there is no separate self who experiences fear – there is just fear. So, yes, “fear inside of me” is correct.

    You can also go a step further, as in truth, there is no inside and outside. “Fear” is a word, a label for certain experiences, and the beginning of a story that keeps the experiences stuck. What is the absolute truth? Simply thoughts and sensations appearing with no one thinking or sensing. No “me” separate from these experiences. With this understanding, there is no self, no problem. Just experience coming and going.

    Reply
  10. Hello Gail,
    Thank you for this interesting post.
    Sometimes I am wondering why there are people with many “mental” fears (the mind of fear) and others with less.
    I think that it depends on many factors such us our culture, the society we grow up, our family, our education…These factors impact our character.
    I think I recognize how fear drives my choices but for the moment I can’t succeed in making fear my friend. I will follow your advice!

    Reply
    • Hi Lenia,

      Realizing that fear drives your choices is an essential step. Then you are in a position to consider, “What do I really, truly want?” As you see the fear, you can begin to step around it and move forward free of it.

      I wish you a fruitful journey…

      Reply
  11. I recently wrote a post about fear. I find without having fear you have no reason for courage and self improvement.

    Great post! A lot of information I can take with me!

    Reply
  12. Fear is incredible, but it can be beautiful.

    It’s all about turning that negative into a positive. Instead of saying, “what if I fail?” the idea is to turn that around to “what can I learn from this?”

    It’s easier said than done, but once we overcome our fears, we become a new person. We radiate, take action, explore, learn, and become unconquerable.

    I have many fears. Simple fears such as talking to someone in class because I just don’t know what the reaction will be. This year, I told myself to talk to everyone (if they seem like they are open for conversation), and just explore.

    The results were fantastic. People weren’t as mean and secluded as I thought! (haha).

    To end this, I leave you with a quote from Hunter S. Thompson: “Never turn your back on Fear. It should always be in front of you, like a thing that might have to be killed.”

    Reply
    • Paul,
      I love hearing the results of your experiment about moving through your fear and talking to people. You projected out that they would be mean and secluded – but that was coming from your mind! And only reinforced the fear and hesitancy.

      Fearful thoughts need to be challenged, and “just doing it” is a way to challenge them. I’m so glad you are becoming free of fear.

      Reply
  13. Fear causes us to question everything and in those very moments of questioning and worry, we remain anchored right where we are – paralyzed on many levels.
    I believe that we dispel fear by face it and surrendering to the love of the higher power that resides within us. When fear takes hold of us, we must encounter it with faith because nothing else can stand against it. Dismissing fear from our lives begins with awareness. It begins, with being truly honest with ourselves. Rolling up our sleeves and doing the inner work. When we do this, we begin to see with a new set of eyes. Gary Zukav, author of the Seat of the Soul says, “Clarity evaporates fear.” Each step we take towards facing our fears and challenging them brings us one step closer to freeing our soul. This newfound wisdom allows us to participate in life’s experiences. It allows us to truly understand that we are not our fears. We are limitless potential.

    Reply
  14. What perfect timing to be reading this article! I’ve been dealing with fear of thinking I will never find someone else after ending a relationship. I realize now it was just causing me to hold onto someone I know wasn’t right for me and not allow for closure of that relationship. Amazing what fear can do…

    Reply
    • Hi Lyle,

      Yes, when we buy into the fear thoughts, they can make us do all kinds of unsatisfying things. So great to hear that you are seeing through the fear. As you can see, we need to stay vigilant so it doesn’t sneak up.

      Wishing you well…

      Reply
  15. It;s really inspiring article ! fear is alway play a dog in back yard , it always bark when it sees new weird faces . but if you are REALLY serious about your future plans. don;t let the dog sleep . invite same one you never know them before and that is what the dog keeps alert . ”fear is not a wall it is a bridge ” i love that saying . cowardice realize the size of there comfort zone after the end of the game.

    Reply
  16. Thanks for this post–Coming into relationship with our fear is so important. When we do we are able to find the gold in the shadow and live more empowered. Thank you for this post!

    Reply

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