I have struggled with various fears all my life; most of us have. Some are minor, some I haven’t been able to deal with yet.
For many people, fear of public speaking is a deal-breaker. Me? I don’t have a problem with it. I kind of enjoy it, especially when I really know what I’m talking about. I know people, though, who get physically ill anticipating standing up in front of groups of people, large or small. One friend spends time praying to the porcelain goddess before she speaks. But she does it (speaks, that is), in spite of her physical and mental reaction. Bravo!
Can you imagine what it would be like to live your life without unnecessary fears? I like the way Pam put it:
For just one moment imagine having the ability to flow, to really move through your day without doubt or fear. Imagine diving into new projects, taking exciting risks, setting dreams into action without the second guessing or the white knuckles. What would that be like? What would that feel like?
So how do we get over, under, around, or through the fears that are holding us back from being what we can be?
One way is by using pain and pleasure (actually, that’s pretty much the only way; the difference is what the pain and pleasure are applied to). If the desire of what you want to accomplish is so strong within you that you’d do almost anything to achieve it, then fears seem to not be as important as they used to be. So the first method is to really get emotional about what you want — really get into it, feel the feelings of having accomplished it. Live your dream in your mind, see yourself doing the things you fear while you have this sense of power. Many times, that’s all it takes. And after you’ve taken the feared action a few times, you’ll realize that what you were afraid of isn’t so bad — it might even be fun!
But a great many of us haven’t been able to get that particular process to work effectively, for whatever reason. Our fears still limit us. So maybe we can work on the specific fear itself?
What we’re basically going to do is overwhelm the fear with power and confidence. We’ll change the association of the event, and use a ‘trigger’ to help us do that, then condition the change so that it lasts.
What is a ‘trigger’?
A ‘trigger’ is an event that causes a reaction. You experience them every day, if you stop to think about it. A sight, an aroma, a sound, a touch: when you experience it, it causes you to remember an event or occurrence from your past; often with vivid clarity. The trigger is stored in your mind whenever something unique happens to you when you are at an increased emotional level.
For instance, say you are in a situation where you are experiencing overwhelming feelings of love and connection with someone. They run their hand over your cheek, and say some particular unusual thing.
Years later, you are sitting with another someone, and they run their hand over your cheek and say the same words, in the same tone of voice. POW! The original intense feelings you had at the first occurrence come flooding back in, and you feel wonderful! You have no idea why you feel so wonderful, but you do.
That is a trigger at work. So how do we harness this powerful reaction for our deliberate use to transform fear into power?
Here are the basic steps to take:
- decide on a trigger combination
- take yourself to a time when you were feeling enormously powerful and confident
- consciously create a trigger, or anchor, to those feelings.
- test your trigger; if it doesn’t work very powerfully, do the steps again
Let’s take this one step at a time…
Decide on a trigger
You want your trigger to be a combination of things that are unlikely to happen by accident. A combination of touch and sounds works well here, and the more specific you can be, the better. You may wish to make the trigger something unobtrusive so that you can use it when you need to without fear of drawing attention to yourself. Do something and say something at the same time. Twist your earlobe and say, “YES!”. Pull the hairs on your arm, and say, “Now!” (That one wasn’t good for me — that’s what my mother used to do when she was insistent on my doing something that I didn’t feel the need to do).
You get the idea. Do something and say something unique. Then…
Feel confident and powerful
There are times in your life when you’ve felt on top of the world — you have accomplished something perfectly and powerfully. It is a time when you puffed your chest out and said to yourself, “Yeah! That’s me!” The emotional intensity of one of those times is what we want to tap into.
Find a quiet spot with few distractions, and pick one of those powerful events in your past. In your mind, take yourself back there. It is important that you do this vividly; experience what you felt at that time. Re-run the experience in your mind, feeling the things you felt, seeing what you saw, hearing the sounds that you heard, the textures of things you touched, how you breathed…re-live that moment in your mind.
Remember–the mind can’t distinguish between an imagined event and a real one. So instead of just fondly remembering what happened, you must place yourself there again, as if it were happening now.
Create a trigger
When you are fully and completely immersed in your experience, perform your trigger combination that you decided on. Again, you want this to be something unique; something that most likely wouldn’t occur in everyday life. Pinch your forearm and say, “Boo!”, or something of the sort, the more unique, the better.
It is important that you do this process several times, to condition the trigger. Relax for a minute, then go back into your powerful experience again. Do the trigger combination. Rinse, and repeat.
Test your trigger. After some repetition of the creating process, you should be able to fire your trigger and feel the same intense feelings of power and confidence that you experienced while immersed in your rememberance. If you don’t, rinse and repeat until you do. Then, …
Test the trigger
It is helpful at this stage, but not essential, that you enlist a friend or loved one to assist you. If, say, rejection is what you’re working on, have the other person reject you in the manner that you’re scared of. Say the things, do the things that you’re frightened will happen. Not too intensely, at the start.
It’s important that you do this step quickly. You don’t want to get terribly immersed in the fear feelings, the intensity of them, especially if the fear you’re working on is very intense. Many times, at the beginning of the process, the mere thought of doing what you fear is enough–the slightest emergence of the feeling of fear. When you just begin to feel uncomfortable,…
Pull your trigger
Do your trigger combination. Using our rejection example, have your assistant reject you and as they are, pull your trigger. Feel the feelings of power and confidence that happen when you do it.
As your feelings of fear about your situation begin to recede, repeat the process with increasing levels of intensity on the part of your assistant, or if you aren’t using an assistant, deeper immersion in your fear experience.
After a few trips through the steps, you should be feeling a feeling of power associated with the circumstance you used to fear. If you’re not, check the pitfalls and caveats below, then…rinse and repeat. Change your approach a little, then do it again. Keep working on it.
Pitfalls and caveats
If you find the process isn’t working well, the first thing to look at is the intensity of the emotions of power and confidence you’re using when you create your trigger. It’s vitally important that these emotions be intense, otherwise the trigger will be ineffective. If the event you’re using isn’t powerful enough, remember a different one. You do have more than one, trust me. Sometimes we get so down on ourselves that the reaction to this is, “I’ve never felt confident in my life!” Get yourself out of that emotional state of depression, however you have to do it, and start remembering again. There are times you’ve felt confident and powerful. You know there are. Get there.
Another possibility for less-than-optimum results is that your trigger sequence isn’t unique enough or strong enough. You must use something that would not normally happen, and something that doesn’t already have emotions attached to it. That’s why pulling my arm hairs and saying “NOW” didn’t work for me. I already had emotions attached to that sequence, although I didn’t remember them until I ran the sequence (how’s that for demonstration of how effective triggers can be?).
Sometimes the fear you’re working on isn’t really the problem, and you don’t find out until you get into the situation. Normally, that won’t be a big deal, if your trigger is powerful enough. You can fire it off and still feel the feelings of power and confidence. If you find that it’s not working well, recondition your trigger, and apply it to the new circumstance in the same way.
I hope this process will prove as helpful to you in overcoming your fears as it has mine. There are many nuances to this technique that I haven’t been able to touch on here, simply because of the depth of the topic. If what I’ve outlined isn’t enough to help you through, I encourage you to read further on the subject from authors like Tony Robbins, in his book, Awaken The Giant Within (aff), and others who teach NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), from which this technique is derived.
Even more helpful if you find yourself blocked from progress would be working with a coach like Pam (see her site for more info), or with a person specially trained in NLP and other technologies for change such as Wendy Piersall, who I greatly admire. Tell them I sent you!
Thanks for reading; your comments or questions are appreciated…