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So how is that Comfort Zone construction work coming along? 🙂 Got some great emails and a couple of comments in the last week – thank you all. Kudos to the Fear-Buster here who two weeks ago faced into her fear of writing query letters for articles she wants to write – that was a real victory because it scared the crap out of her!

And kudos to the Fear-Buster who did some fear-unplugging and finds herself leaving the house for the first time in 9 months. Can’t say it enough – well done. I know you’re not feeling out of the woods yet, but you’re doing the exact right work to get there, and already you know enough that your anxiety can’t run the show anymore.

These successes come at a great time for me as I work on these blog posts. I’m talking today about how, however much our Flight or Fight Response wants to scare the snot out of us when we challenge our Comfort Zone boundaries, it just can’t hurt us…

The Comfort Zone Isn’t Dangerous!

I wish in some respects I could just end the post with that sentence! The truth is however most of us have learned to have a way-more-than-healthy respect for our Comfort Zone walls. But here’s the bottom line: our Comfort Zones can’t hurt us. Stronger: our Comfort Zones WON’T hurt us.

Yes, those boundaries scare us. No doubt about that. But fix this in your thinking to get free of your anxiety: we can’t get hurt, however much our bodies and feelings scare us, by challenging our THINKING.

And that’s all this work is about, really. Sure, that can entail eventually DOING something physical that worries or scares us – leaving the house, for instance, when we’ve been afraid to go out, or going to the store when we had a big panic attack there once.

But here’s the big news – we only HAD that being-housebound problem or that panic attack in the store BECAUSE of our thinking.

You And This Thinking Thing!

If you’ve been reading this blog you know this is the center of all this work – identifying what is rattling our cages in our thoughts and assumptions, then facing into those thoughts and converting them back to problems (issues you can address and solve over time) from crises (holy crap, this is terrible, I have to run NOW).

Combine that with two things – first, as I said in my last post, the Comfort Zone needs some serious persuading before it will back away, and second, that the Comfort Zone tends to spasm or convulse when we push on it – and there’s no doubt that the work is hard, unnerving, something we’d rather not do.

But that’s just the point: we’ve spent years, even decades telling ourselves this or that topic is just too scary to face down or deal with. Why in the world would our Comfort Zones just step aside and say “sure Chief! Whatever you say!” We have fed so much energy and concern to our boundaries that it WILL TAKE SOME WORK AND TIME to get them moved.

And Speaking of Spasms…

The other issue we need to get comfortable with in this challenging of our fears is the spasm-like response our Comfort Zones seem to have when we push on them. This is one of the things I REALLY wish someone had been able to tell me when I was doing my own confronting of my anxiety –

In case it isn’t clear from my writing here, I was a MESS in the winter/spring of 1995. I was deeply anxious and afraid – so much so that when I first met with a therapist I told him frankly that I was ready to end my life – I just couldn’t do any more of this fear thing.

As I’ve said elsewhere in this blog he gave me some very basic, temporary tools to help give me a little breathing space, and I’ve discussed those tools here in the blog as well. But when we began the trial-and-error work of taking on my fearful thinking I was completely unprepared for how much my Comfort Zone would convulse after I had done some of that confronting work.

I would be sitting watching TV, or playing a computer game, or taking a walk, and suddenly I was overwhelmed with anxiety… All of my Worry Engine and Indefinite Negative Future thinking would crash in on my brain… I would feel dizzy, my heart would start to race, and all I wanted to do was MAKE IT STOP. And I wasn’t even doing any fear confronting in that moment!

Muscles Get Sore When You Use Them

It would have helped so much if someone had simply said “hey Erik – this is normal. You are challenging your fearful thinking, and the boundaries that have mostly kept that from your thinking are shook up (metaphorically) that you’re taking them on. They’re giving you grief. It’s OK. Just means you’re moving in the right direction.”

It would have helped because it would have made it much less mysterious. The mystery had me thinking maybe I couldn’t do this work, maybe I was doing it wrong, maybe something terrible WOULD happen if I kept at this… you know the thinking, right?

Our bodies ache when we use them. And they REALLY ache when we haven’t used them in a while. We even get cramps and spasms, yes? Good metaphor to use when we push on our Comfort Zones.

Steady As She Goes…

I know it gets tedious, scary, exhausting sometimes when we wrestle with our fears. Hell, it happens most of the time. But we can either be exhausted and scared and not do anything (because our fears and worries are still with us) or we can be exhausted and scared and know we’re getting someplace.

What would you prefer? Dumb question, right? (Remember, I’m asking YOU – not your Comfort Zone. We know what THAT would prefer…)

Next up here at the blog – a clean, concise list of the basics you need to bust out of your fear, or the skill set needed to do the Fear-Busting work (what I call Triad Work) effectively.

In the meantime, all the patience, stamina and self-care in the world to you as you think about or engage in confronting and unplugging your fears and anxieties. May today find you taking excellent care of yourself, and being very patient with yourself.

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