Fear is just a clue.
Fear is a Feeling
We all feel fear. As humans, we feel many other feelings as well. Lots of them. A key to working through all of them – especially fear – is to remember that feelings aren’t facts. Feelings are feelings. To clarify right up front, I’m not asking anyone to “discount” their feelings. They’re valid because your body is feeling them. In times of crisis they are a tremendous source of information for us and provide a meaningful service to us.
I’m not going to go deep into neuroscience here, but I want to make this distinction upfront for the sake of clarity. From a very simplified perspective, emotions come from our limbic system, while feelings come from our thinking (our unique interpretation of events) and are manifested in our body (nervousness, tension, heart rate, gut, muscle tension). The feeling of fear is a signal – an alert to real or perceived danger. It’s a primitive response that prompts us to take some sort of action. Fear has helped us survive since the very beginning of human existence. Fear is a useful tool, not the enemy.
The feeling of fear is a signal – an alert to real or perceived danger.
Often fear can own us when we venture into enemy territory. We can allow it to overwhelm us and make us temporarily forget that we have more agency than we know — and we can make different choices. Fear may “feel” bad, but that will pass. What we’re left with is the responsibility to exist with fear while still making good choices on how we’ll move through it. Life will move on and we will too.
Many, many people are gripped by fear right now. Fear of what’s to come next, of short-term impact, long-term impact, how their lives and the lives of friends and loved ones will change. Fear of the unknown. None of us can ever know what each new day will bring. Crisis or sudden change creates heightened awareness of our inability to control all outcomes. This is not new; it has always been this way. We need skills to frame up new realities around what is real and what really is in our control.
We have the responsibility to exist with fear while still making good choices on how we’ll move through it.
My own personal testimony involves going through the farm crisis as a 24-year-old farmer and partner in a family farm in the 1980’s. All I ever wanted to be in life was a farmer, it consumed me growing up. I thought college was a waste of time. My mother said it was necessary for all of us to go to college. So, we did — and she was right.
In a short space of time we lost over 50% of the farms in much of Iowa. The farming community went through a morass of downturn and sell-outs like no one had seen since the dust bowl years. I can’t begin to tell you about the months and months of worry that gripped me. It was crushing at times, and in reality, it broke me…in a good way. I made a decision during this malaise that I was sick of it…not farming, but worrying. I know it sounds simplistic, but I just decided to stop worrying. For me it was a very real and surreal spiritual experience — and I’ve never been the same.
Several of my immediate neighbors during that time took their lives because they couldn’t control their outcomes. Losing the farm was more than they could bear. This saddens me to this day — farming is an awesome way of life, but it’s not the ONLY way of life. New choices arise – they always do. It’s part of life. You may have uncertainty about a job right now, but there will be work. You can’t know the outcome. Worry about that when it happens.
Worry steals our choices. We worry about the worst thing that can happen and think that will solve our uneasiness. It won’t — your uneasiness is just a feeling. Our only way out is to face our fears not as an enemy, but an opportunity for choosing something more powerful to focus on. The enemy we fight now is the failure to remember that we do have choices. We have always been powerless over some things, not all things. Accepting that truth makes all the difference in the world.
The enemy we fight now is the failure to remember that we do have choices.
An essential part of my coaching method is to help those I work with grow their ability to actively influence themselves and those around them. “Active Influence” simply means being engaged and involved in the right things, in the right way, and at the right time. I’ve published quite a few posts about how to develop this way of being and doing. If you’re curious and want to learn more about it, this is a good place to start: https://www.heartwoodgroup.com/archives/1225.
Active Influence means being engaged and involved in the right things, in the right way, and at the right time.
You Know the Best Choices for You
Start by trusting yourself. I don’t know the best choices for you right now; no one does but you. I do know that regardless of what you’re feeling right now, inside you know what’s right for you.
Do I worry still? Yes, I absolutely do find myself within it even now. But not for long, because I have more choices now than just to worry — and I choose my other options more readily. Here’s the most valuable direction I can offer you right now:
- Focus on what is real and live in the moment.
- Get out of your head by capturing and recognizing some “high volume” thoughts, and live in the moment.
- Regain trust in a future regardless of control, and live in the moment.
- Live in the moment.
Trust that you and I can (and will) be going into the future with assistance (agency) and partnership for a new future. The future will arrive — you can count on it and it will need your full participation.
My best to all of you right now. I encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments section and/or reach out via https://www.facebook.com/HeartwoodGroup.