The old saying, “We have nothing to fear except fear itself” is so often true. Fear can cause us to stop short of our full potential. It is fear that is often used as an excuse not to “raise the bar” on what we are willing to try. It is fear that is the primary root of anger. [Note: Although anger rooted in fear is often displayed as anger toward another person or persons, the anger is usually anger at one’s self that is then directed to or transferred to another person.] It is important to realize that although virtually all anger has its roots in fear, not all fear results in anger (you can have fear without anger but it is rare that there would be anger without an element of fear.)
Fear is not always a bad thing. I prefer to define a light and productive level of fear as, a healthy respect for danger. For example, If you were snow skiing and you spotted above you the beginnings of an avalanche, a healthy respect for the possible threat might cause you to get out of the path of the snow and ice more quickly. Too much fear, however, might cause you to freeze up (unintended snow joke) or otherwise act in poor judgment resulting in your being buried by the snow and ice.
Therapeutically, fear becomes an issue when it becomes disruptive to, or prevents a person from, enjoying their life. If a patient or client were to tell me that they are afraid of a vicious, man-eating Pit Bull that roams lose next door, I would probably suggest that they need an animal control agent not a therapist. On the other hand, if a person was employed as a collections or accounts payable agent, and he or she was afraid to call people on the phone… that would obviously impact on his or her ability to make a living, hence, a disruption.
My personal belief is that far too many things these days are considered “disorders” and/or illnesses. After all if it gets in the DSM-IV, a therapist or physician can more easily get an insurance company to cough up the doe. It makes sense then (from a financial prospective) to conclude that every imperfect behavior is a disorder. If you page through the many pages of disorders in the DSM-IV you’ll probably conclude (as I did) that if we believe that these are all truly disorders then we must conclude that the entire human race could probably not survive another day without extensive therapy. Granted we are imperfect creatures, however, it is important that individuals learn to cope with life without running to a therapist every time their feelings are hurt. In my opinion, the need for therapy (in this case regarding fear) is appropriate when the fear has become disruptive or an obstacle to quality of life.
“Exaggerated Expectation” and “Anticipation” are two key areas that need to be addressed when helping someone to let go of disruptive fear. We know that our anticipation of something that we perceive to be bad often has a greater impact that the actual event. Through negative self-talk and waking hypnotic suggestion people often create an unrealistic image of future events through negative anticipation. That image is usually worse than ultimate reality. Your client may say something like, “If I do (whatever), someone might get mad at me, or it might not work, or I might get fired, or I might look stupid. Encourage them (also through waking hypnotic suggestion) that the best decisions are made with a clear head. They are never made amidst disruptive fear.
IDEAS FOR THERAPEUTIC SUGGESTION
[formulate your own suggestions based on these concepts]
- During session suggest to them that as long as they continue to move forward with their life there are no bad decisions. All choices are learning experiences that help build wisdom and knowledge.
- If your client is visual have he or she imagine letting go of fear and give him or her a trigger to reactivate that feeling at any time they sense the need to (for example closing their eyes momentarily and blowing all fear into a magical balloon and then releasing it).
- Suggest to them by letting go of fear that all decisions he or she makes and the resulting outcomes from those decisions will be the ones that are most beneficial. Encourage them to focus on the decision and not an imagined negative outcome. You may even suggest that whenever fear arises, and negative thoughts begin, they will create an imagined positive outcome (After all… What the mind expects to happen usually does).
- In waking hypnotic suggestion and in session motivate with the idea that he or she, “has nothing to fear except fear itself”.
Note: If someone is afraid to make a sales call it is often helpful to provide a new perspective that reassures then that the worse that can happen is a hang-up (After all, the person certainly can’t reach through the phone and choke them from the other end of the call). More likely what will happen is… you will make a sale, create a new friendship, etc.
- You can also use environmental triggers. For Example, when the phone rings instantly you feel a great sense of calm. You’ll feel proud and happy that you have another opportunity to show what a great salesperson you are and how powerful your mind is. From this moment there is no fear. There are only opportunities to demonstrate the power of your mind.
These are a few simple ideas that may help you to better help your clients or patients let go of fear. I’ll try to include more in future articles. Remember… disruptive fear is the great minimizer of our abilities and potential. I always reflect back on something one of my psychology professors used to say. You’ll never get kissed if you don’t take a chance at getting slapped. Within benefit there is risk. That’s what makes life interesting and keeps us on our toes.