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I have been writing for a number of months now about the core of the dysfunctional fear and anxiety that too many of us fight. That core is simply this – us treating a problem or problems as a crisis. It really is that simple. Simple doesn’t always translate to easy – and in fact in this context it can feel very challenging to sort out and stop – but it is simple. Today’s post is about the basic steps to do what I call Triad – the converting of a problem-treated-as-crisis BACK to a problem.

I like the word “mechanics” in the title of this post because this is really a basic, straight-forward process. There isn’t anything complex about HOW to face our fears from a how-to perspective. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have significant challenges in doing the work! As anyone who has wrestled with fear and anxiety can tell you the emotional, physical and mental turmoil this work can generate in us can be overwhelming.

But that’s precisely why it is so important to understand clearly the basic process in doing the work. Having a clear grasp on HOW can make it much more effective when you do the work and face that storm of feelings and physical sensations and thoughts that will try to drive you back from your work, from getting this thing sorted out and de-fanged.

If you’ve been a regular reader of this blog some of this might sound a little repetitive. That’s OK. It bears repeating. It is easy to lose this map, and easier still to not really grasp it and its full implications. But understanding this, combined with applying it in regular work to address specific anxieties/fears, is what sets us free from the debilitating, life-sucking impact of fear and anxiety in our lives.

A Good Tool Gone Bad

It all starts with this simple understanding: we have 1 (one) naturally evolved response to danger, real or perceived. REALLY important to understand that it doesn’t matter whether the danger is actual (tiger, pack of hungry wolves, drunk driver veering in front of us, earthquake) or something you THINK is dangerous (creditor calling because you’re late, Mother-in-Law coming for Thanksgiving, feeling trapped in work you hate, your conviction that nobody will ever marry you) – we have one response mechanism in our bodies. That response is Flight or Fight.

If the danger is real – physical, present-moment danger, the kind that can actually kill or seriously injure you – then Flight or Fight is the perfect mechanism to have in place. You’re going to be in motion before you’re aware of it, either a) running from the danger or b) turning to fight it/cope with it UNTIL you can flee. Those are the options that nature has learned give us the best chances of not getting hurt or killed.

The problem is we’re not living with tigers or constantly challenged by drunk drivers. Most of us are living pretty safe lives when it comes to the physical danger thing. No, most of us are dealing with the challenges created by our thinking and beliefs. And these “dangers” are NOT what Flight or Fight evolved for, and so it isn’t equipped to deal with them in effective ways. And this is precisely where we go off track and get ourselves lost in fear, anxiety and depression.

The Problem That Morphs Into a Crisis

Another way of putting this is that Flight or Fight evolved to deal with crises – dangerous situations that had to be managed NOW, or leave us open to injury or even death. It is crucial to be clear on this – actual danger was threatening, right NOW, and had to managed NOW. That is the definition of a crisis.

But the vast majority of the issues that generate anxiety and fear for us are not crises – they are problems. A problem is something you usually CAN’T solve in the way you solve a crisis. For example, let’s say you woke up one night to hear the sounds of a Tyrannosaurus Rex crashing through your backyard. (I grant you, not bloody likely, but the way genetic engineering is going…) RUN. End of story. Unless you have a bazooka and know how to use it, and even then, RUN!

Ok, it’s a silly example. The point is THAT is a crisis. A problem is vastly different. A problem is discovering you could lose your job in two months. Why isn’t that a crisis? IT CAN’T KILL YOU RIGHT NOW. Again, end of story. It isn’t a crisis. It may feel like a crisis. You may experience all the sensations and thoughts and feelings of a crisis. But that doesn’t make it a crisis!

You’re experiencing all those Flight or Fight Responses to the potential layoff because you have started treating it in your mind, thinking of it, as a crisis. At the moment there is no Tyrannosaurus in your backyard. Even as you’re re-reading the email that warns you about the potential layoff nothing at the moment is wrong. You’re safe and cozy in your cubicle or home office or the coffeeshop you’re in. There is nothing to run from, and no danger that can injure or kill you, there in that moment.

It is vital that we learn this distinction. All of the fear, anxiety, worry and panic that we generate and suffer through starts here. Grasp this and you’re honestly half-way to your freedom.

But it Feels Like a Crisis!

Let me remind you again that simple isn’t necessarily easy. Just because you’re not actually facing a crisis doesn’t mean that you didn’t learn to treat situations like a potential lay-off AS a crisis. This is where our learned Comfort Zone boundaries cause us to treat a problem like a crisis – the web of beliefs that we apply to our experience.

If you have learned that a job equals safety, and security, and freedom from danger/anxiety, then getting news of a potential layoff can easily send you into panic mode. It has happened a LOT since this last recession began with people you know, or even yourself, yes?

Why does this happen? Because we begin to predict disaster in our future. I call this the start of the Chronic Anxiety Cycle, a feature of the Flight or Fight Response gone awry, our Worry Engine. We start (because of our beliefs/assumptions/thinking) to generate hypothetical futures, in an effort to find a way out of the crisis we’ve created. Makes perfect sense if we’re trying to get away from Dire Wolves, the way our ancestors had to sometimes. Looking for escape routes is a great feature of the Flight or Fight Response.

But it doesn’t take you anyplace useful if you’re facing a layoff two months from now, not usually. Nope, what you have on your hands is a problem, not a crisis. Could it turn into a crisis? Not for a very long time. Eventually, sure, it could wind up a crisis. Anything could. But treating it like a crisis NOW, that’s not serving you at all!

No, you need to convert this crisis back into what it really is – a problem.

OK, So It Isn’t a Crisis – What Do I DO?

Well, you’ve done a lot already. You’re at least somewhat clear that, however it feels right now, you’re dealing with a problem, not a crisis. You’re aware of the responses in your body, feelings and thinking coming from your Flight or Fight Response, and you’re reminding yourself that those responses don’t carry any more significance than that – there isn’t a disaster looming yet, even though it feels like that.

What remains now is to start treating it like a problem. What do problems need? They need thinking. They need a clear understanding of what the problem is – in this example, the potential need for a new job. They require a little brainstorming and information gathering. How will I find a new job? Will I need to update my resume? What’s the market like right now? Who are my best contacts? What are my resources until I find the new job, assuming I do get laid off?

They require some work and patience. They probably won’t get solved immediately. They probably require a learning curve and a little (or a lot) of patience. You need to work at them and then take breaks – you can’t just power through them.

So, triad looks like this: facing into a fear (problem-become-crisis in our thinking), enduring the storm of responses the Flight or Fight Response will throw at us, and unpacking the problem – i.e., getting clear on what you need to do to solve the problem, and then working towards that solution.

But I Want to Stop Feeling This Way NOW!

The biggest challenge facing those of us who fight anxiety, worry and fear is that it isn’t easy or comfortable to sit with our fears and unpack them. We want to be worry/fear free right now. We don’t want to wait. It (frankly) SUCKS to wait. No argument. But the payoffs for doing the work are so big I can’t overstate them.

It is really the acquiring of a new set of skills. That’s the best frame I can think of to describe this process. You didn’t learn to walk in a day. You didn’t finish school in a day. You didn’t just master any skill in a day. No, it took time, and work, and patience, and setbacks, and frustration. But you did it. Now it may even seem easy to you. But you had to learn it first.

Same thing with breaking the habit of turning problems into crises, with breaking the habit of letting Flight or Fight run our lives. We can turn ANYTHING into a crisis. We can become afraid of the physical symptoms of Flight or Fight and make those into something to worry about. We can stress over communication, relationships, retirement, aging, children, pets, work, career, religious faith, our sex lives, parents, you name it! The same issue lies at the heart of all of this.

Embrace the Work, Find Your Way Out

It takes time and practice. It is work, and tiring, and sometimes (at the beginning, often) frustrating. The progress seems to start slow. And the Comfort Zone/Flight or Fight Response isn’t going without a fight. No, we learned in our past (consciously or otherwise) to be afraid of this issue, whatever it is, and it will take time to unlearn it.

And sometimes we don’t like the solutions! Sometimes we want things to be a different way than the solutions that present themselves. Sometimes we feel the solutions are wrong, or someone will be angry at us for the solutions we need to pursue, or that we’ll be failing if we implement the solutions that make sense. Yup, we can really box ourselves into a corner with our fear…

There are tools to help us while we’re doing this work. There are medications to take the edge off the worst of the anxiety and fear and depression that can come from the years and decades of living in crisis. There are meditation and relaxation exercises. There is physical exercise and the practice of distracting ourselves from obsessing over our fears. All of these can be useful and give us breathing room.

But they can’t solve the problem. The problem lies in our thinking, and that’s where the solution will be found too. You can do this work. Anyone can do this work. It is often hard, and tedious, and exhausting. And it is also the road to our freedom.

Next up – even more examples of doing triad and getting free of fear.

I began talking in my last post about how feelings around fear and anxiety can be pretty unnerving, even terrifying as we experience them.  I also discussed how much those feelings can drive our behavior, even if we’re not aware of it.  Finally, I reviewed the thinking of Albert Ellis, and how he contends that feelings spring from our thinking, conscious or otherwise.

I repeat all of this because these three understandings are crucial to being able to shake free of the tyranny of our feelings.  And isn’t it a kind of tyranny, having your life shut down or restricted because of scary feelings?   It often comes down to exactly that – there is something that frightens us, and we retreat from it because of how that feels.  People can become scared of just about anything –

Clowns.  Classic example.  People who are otherwise completely rational will freeze up, start stuttering, break into tears, leave the room or start shouting incoherently when they are confronted by clowns.  Or how about reptiles?  Sure, there are dangerous reptiles – and most of us never get within 100 miles of them.  Normally lucid folks will go into a panic when a 4-inch Bluebelly shows up on their patio. 

The list is literally endless.  Public speaking, crowds, roller-coasters, planes, rabbits, cats, dogs, night-time, eating in public, dancing, making simple mistakes, asking someone out, you name it, multiple people are afraid of it.  Logic doesn’t have anything to do with why, any more than the actual risk involved in these things.  Sure, you could die in a plane crash – but you’re more likely to get killed in a car crash.  So why are you not terrified of driving to the store?

The Thoughts that Lurk Behind the Feelings

We’re afraid of WHATEVER we’re afraid of because of what we think about it.  Let me repeat that the thoughts that are scaring us don’t have to be conscious.  Not at all.  We are generally unaware of an enormous amount of what is running through our minds at any given moment.  Just try doing 20 minutes of meditation and see just how much chatter (what people who do things like meditation often call “monkey-mind”) runs through your skull.

So we can have feelings lurch out of the blue at us and be caught completely flat-footed.  It has happened to you, hasn’t it?  You were standing there at the taco stand, feeling fine on a weekend day, off work and minding your own business, when suddenly you were sad.  Or maybe you got angry.  Or maybe you felt overwhelmed.  And for the life of you (in that moment) you didn’t know why.  But the why is simple – you had a thought.  Or a series of thoughts.  They zipped through your brain in a matter of moments, and you had feelings in response to those thoughts.

What did you think?  Maybe you remembered that Monday your boss is back from vacation.  Or perhaps you flashed on the taxes you have yet to do.  It might be that you smelled his cologne, that knuckle-head that broke your heart, and you’re back in that ugly break-up.  If it triggers a sense of fear or anxiety then you’re bumping into your Comfort Zone, and that in turn has fired up your Flight or Fight Response to some extent.  And now you’re having feelings that are trying to get you AWAY from this scary thing…

Worse, you are suddenly reacting to those feelings.  You had plans to eat three tacos and gulp a cold beer, but now the day has turned gray, so you head home, sad or mad or overwhelmed.  Or you snap at your wife, who only asked if you wanted hot sauce, because of the rush of feelings in your body.  Or you leave your friends because you “just want to be alone.”  Sure you do – you don’t feel real good right now.  And all of it started with some thinking…

“Fly, You Fools!”  (Lord of the Rings Quote)

You want to be alone, or you snap, or you go home, because the Flight or Fight Response has fired up.  You want to, literally, run away.  That’s what Flight or Fight knows to do when you’re afraid – run first.  We only fight when we HAVE to.  As said a number of times in this blog that just makes good survival sense, from an evolutionary perspective.  As my Dad is fond of saying, “if you won’t leave me alone, I’ll go away and find someone who will.”  That’s the creedo of Flight or Fight.

So we’re in motion, or reacting, and we’re too often only aware of the feelings that are driving our reaction.  Note the word reaction – that’s the key here.   We’re reacting because we FEEL bad, or sad, or overwhelmed. 

But running isn’t solving anything.  It can’t, not in this situation.  When we react to our feelings and step away from what is making us uncomfortable the last thing we’re doing is dealing with our fears/anxieties.  The hard but honest truth is that at some point we MUST turn and face into the thinking that is scaring us, making us afraid – we have to, because it is the only way we’re going to master those fears and get that portion of our life back.

Oh, I Don’t Think So…

Easy to say.  Sometimes, oftentimes, very, very hard to do.  By the time we’ve reached the place where we are reflexively running from our scary feelings (or physical sensations, or both) then we’re usually pretty hammered/freaked out by those feelings and physical sensations.

And of course that isn’t all that is happening.  If we’re worried or anxious or afraid of something that aspect of the Flight or Fight Response I call the Worry Engine starts spinning ugly potential outcomes in our thinking, scaring us even more.  It doesn’t take much of that to have us running for cover!

But that’s exactly what we need to do – stop and challenge that thinking.  The thinking is the source of the problem in the first place.  It is generating the Flight or Fight Response, which is in turn punching out that adrenaline and cortisol, which is the source of those physical sensations and unnerving feelings.  The source of the problem is your thinking, and that’s where you’ll unplug the responses of fear and anxiety. 

This is rarely easy when you first start this work.  The first few times are exhausting and feel like you’re rolling a rock uphill.  You have to contend with the feelings and the physical responses and stand your ground, and all of those things are working to get you to STOP thinking about this and just run away.  You have to focus on what you’re afraid of and unpack it, figure out what you’re telling yourself that is so scary, and turn that back into a problem, instead of treating it like a crisis.  This is what I call the triad of fear mastery – facing into the fear, bracing through the storm of the Flight or Fight Response, and unpacking what is scaring us in the first place.

You Gotta Start Small

The best way (in my experience) to begin this work is to deliberately select a fear or worry that isn’t your  biggest fear or worry, but which you’d still like to knock down.  Any good fighter knows to pick the time and place of the fight, and the same applies to this work.  Make some time – 30 minutes, maybe more, to deal with this practice of triad.  Have some paper and pens ready, or maybe your laptop, so you can do some writing around this.  Some folks like talking to a recorder.  You do what works for you.  The point is you’ll want to have a dialogue with yourself, some way, so you can sort out both your thinking and deal with the responses of your Flight or Fight Response.

Get yourself comfortable, start the egg timer and tackle that fear.  Expect to get squirrely physically and mentally and emotionally.  You’re working to override, literally, the mechanism that evolved to keep you from being eaten by tigers, and it won’t go quietly.  You’ve been telling yourself for a LONG time (most of our fears have been simmering on the back of the stove for a while) that this issue or problem is way too scary to face down, so it usually takes some wrestling to face into this work.  Your Comfort Zone is just obeying your orders! 

You may find you get a little traction on things fairly quickly.  You may find that you can do 10 minutes of this and you need to go iron the cat or wash the sidewalk.  That’s OK.  Be pleased with yourself that you did 10 minutes.  Expect that you’ll have what I’ve called “aftershocks” – emotional and physical reactions from facing Flight or Fight.  That’s OK.  It is just more of the same – your Comfort Zone trying to herd you back to where you’re taught yourself is safety.  Take a break, an hour, a day, and do it again.  Like any skill it takes a little practice, and time, and willingness to do a small learning curve.

What is Safety, and What is Freedom?

And that’s the whole point of this discussion, isn’t it?  We’ve talked ourselves into avoiding or running from a problem, treating it like a crisis, and scaring ourselves away from it.  We FEEL better, or safer, not dealing with this issue, but in fact we’re not safer.  The problem is still there, and until we address it, most of the time, it isn’t going away.  If anything it can only fester, get worse, while we’re fooling ourselves that everything is OK…

No, we don’t have to keep running.  The work is hard.  You won’t unpack and address your fears in a single setting.  And you don’t have to.  Because your feelings can’t hurt you.  And your physical sensations, however scary or worrisome, can’t hurt you.  Flight or Fight can’t hurt you, unless you let it herd you away from dealing with the thing that scares you.

More on practicing the triad of fear mastery next time, when I’ll give you several specific examples of doing triad.   You don’t have to be the prisoner of your fears. However scary this feels, you are stronger, smarter and tougher than your Comfort Zone.  It’s OK if you don’t feel that way right now – it’s still true.

I was visiting with an old friend about 18 months ago, taking a walk and talking one amazing late summer afternoon.  We used to work together back in our younger days, and I’ve always respected her as very smart and savvy.  She tends to cut to the chase, get down to the bottom-line in her thinking and communication, and you usually know where you stand with her.  She comes off as confident, capable and ready to take anything on.

And at the same time she is completely frozen in her tracks (career and life-wise) because she is deeply afraid of doing what she wants to really do.  You wouldn’t know that right away when you meet her, but as you talk with her and listen to what she is thinking about you can tell she feels trapped by her job and her (in her head) inability to chase down the career and passion she wants to follow. 

I was telling her (back 18 months ago) about the work I wanted to do, the writing of my book on Fear Mastery.  She was interested, and asked me to talk about the concepts for the book.  When I finished she said “well, that’s pretty great, for people who deal with fear and anxiety.  I’ve never been afraid myself, so I guess I’m pretty lucky.”

I was so surprised by this response that I my jaw literally dropped open.  I was surprised for three reasons:  1) I know that every human being in the world has one or more things that they are, at the very least, rattled or worried about in their lives.  That’s just the result of having the Flight or Fight Reflex as part of our biology, and the resulting Comfort Zone issues that each of us inevitably develop because of that reflex.  2) I hadn’t realized until that statement that she was clearly unaware of her own Comfort Zone issues, because 3) As I’ve already said, despite her apparent self-confidence and capable nature, she has been very afraid to do what she really wants to do with her life, and so stays with work that is slowly sucking the life out of her.

The Story We Tell Ourselves

You see, she is a very successful Senior Manager at the company she works for at the moment.  As long as I’ve known her she’s been a work leader of some kind – she likes to be in charge, and is good at it.  She’s a confident leader who is good at collaboration and getting work done.  People like, even love working with her, and despite often working for companies who don’t really get what a great catch she is she gives 110% to her work.  She understands her industry, she is involved in the professional association of that industry in a serious way, she is articulate and current and experienced. 

And the work she is doing is just about the LAST thing she wants to do!  Because very early on in our friendship (one indication that this really calls to her, matters to her) she told me that she loves to teach dance to kids.  And the moment she said it I knew it was true – you could see it in her eyes, hear it in the tone of her voice, feel it from the energy she poured out through that statement to me.  It was like catching a glimpse of her truest self in that moment.

But then that moment passed, and she spent the next couple of minutes telling me why that could never happen.  She has to make X amount of money, she has to support her family, she has a house and credit bills and – well, you know.  What she was telling me (to put it in Fear Mastery terms) was that her Comfort Zone said she couldn’t do what she wanted to do, because it would be scary and hard to focus on her real passion, instead of supporting a house and credit bills and work that didn’t interest her.  Worse than that – this is sucking the life out of her.

Being Straight With Ourselves About Our Fears

I’m not saying supporting a family and paying the bills isn’t important!  What I am saying is that she is very much afraid to look directly at the things that hold her back from chasing down what she wants in her life.  She’s afraid she’ll run out of money.  She’s afraid that chasing her dreams means she is somehow irresponsible, because she already is CERTAIN that she can’t make enough money doing what she wants to do to possibly support herself or her family.  She’s afraid that people will think she’s crazy for wanting to teach dance to kids when she’s making all this great money, and is so respected in her industry, etc. 

But the truth is she would come alive in ways she can only dream about right now if she was willing and had the tools to really look at what she wants to do, and face through the attending fears around those desires.  She has turned a set of problems (what she wants to do, how to make sufficient money to meet her obligations, etc.) into a crisis (if I tried this everything would go to hell, I’m trapped in this stupid job, I HAVE to stay here or we’ll all go hungry, etc.) and because she has done that she of course is running away from that crisis. 

Isn’t that wacky?  But that’s exactly what she’s done!  This friend of mine, a brilliant problem-solver and thinker, can’t think clearly around this issue because her thinking generates emotions and physical sensations that warn her away from the scary thoughts around doing what she wants to do.  So she does what we ALL do when we’re afraid of something – we get away from it.  We talk ourselves out of it.  We shut down that uncomfortable conversation.  Worse still, we convince ourselves that we can’t face it, can’t DO whatever we’re wanting so much to do, so we stop thinking about it.

Thinking is the Key

And that’s precisely what we need to be doing – THINKING.  In the last several posts I’ve talked about the physical sensations around the Flight or Fight Response being triggered, and I’ve talked about how our Comfort Zone (that mental construct that grows up in response to our fears, with the single goal of keeping us safe/unafraid) becomes a Drama Queen, turning our fears into terrors, turning problems into crises.  The answer to all of this is THINKING.

HOW is thinking the answer?  Because thinking is the start of the problem, and thinking is the unplugging of the problem. 

1. You have to sit with the scary thing you’re thinking and really identify what you’re afraid of.  That’s the process I call triad.  This means deciding, deliberately, that you’re going to sit with the problem.  That’s step 1.  And right away you’re engaging in the work, because your Comfort Zone is going to really kick up a fuss about you doing this.  You’ve been telling it the whole time NOT to let you think about this (whether you were aware of that or not), and now, suddenly, you want to think about it.  What are you, crazy?  No, not crazy.  Just determined to not let this thing scare you any more, and be willing to be able/comfortable to think about this thing.

In the case of my friend, she needs, very much, to reopen the conversation with herself about what is and isn’t possible in the direction of her heart’s passion.

2) She’s going to have to wade through her discomfort.  That’s the emotional and physical responses to the Comfort Zone that she’ll experience when she makes the decision to face this and sits down to do it.  Notice I said both when she decides, and when she actually does it.  Even the decision to do this work can make us fearful/start the reactions churning.  She’ll have to ride out those sensations and feelings, and practice the clear and single thought that nothing bad is actually happening right now.  Nothing at all!  She’s just experiencing her Flight or Fight reactions to her pushing through her Comfort Zone.

Let me say that again – she is ONLY experiencing the warning signals of her natural defenses against danger – but there IS no danger in THINKING about it.  It feels like it, it is damn uncomfortable, it is even scary and frightening – but there’s still no danger in thinking about it.

3) What is she specifically afraid of?  Running out of money?  Her conviction that it is too late for her to do this?  That she will have to live in a hovel or grass hut if she tries this change of careers?  That she might fail if she tries?  Whatever the reasons (and they are probably multiple) then she has to nail that down.  That’s the place she can get to once she makes the  decision to do it, sits down to do it, lets her feelings and body try to scare her away, and wades through to a place of lucid thinking. 

Because at this point she can now use that formidable brain she’s got (that, really, all of us have, once we’ve unplugged our fear to some extent) and begin to frame this as a set of problems to solve, not a crisis in the making.  And this is the case for ANY of the things that frighten us, depress us, scare us, shut us down, since we are very rarely facing down a tiger or caught in an earthquake.  THOSE are real dangers, and that’s what Flight or Fight evolved for.  Everything is something to work through, attempt, try, strategize, problem-solve.

That’s It?  Really?

Is it simple?  Yes, weirdly enough.  Is it easy?  Not at the start.  It takes some practice and time (I know, I keep saying that.)  But the energy cost is no greater than the energy we spend to keep our fears at bay, to not think about what frightens us or depresses us, and better still, it is energy spent actually doing something about it!  We don’t learn to walk in a day, we don’t master new job skills in a day, we don’t get the answer right on the first try always.  We need a little time and practice – and we need a little patience with ourselves along the way.

This was a bruiser of a post length-wise – thanks for staying with me.  Next post I’m going to offer more examples of using triad to shake free of the Comfort Zone.  If you’re reading this and you think you’d like to tackle a Comfort Zone Boundary, let me know!  Very happy to cheer you on, listen to you vent while you get mad and freaked out, answer questions – however I can help.

You don’t have to stay afraid.  You don’t have to stay depressed.  You are much stronger, smarter, and more capable than you know when you’re feeling anxious or afraid.

It is my experience that people who wrestle with anxiety and chronic fear are often accused of creating drama, or in some way making too much of their fears and worries.  I know from my own life that even close friends would imply, gently, that maybe I was taking things too seriously – that I needed to “just relax” and “not worry so much.”  I get, now, that they weren’t trying to dismiss me or patronize me, not really.  They just couldn’t get why I was so worried, so stressed, so anxious, so worked up over what seemed to them to be minor things, or concerns I appeared (to them) to be manufacturing for the sake of having something to worry about.

The irony of this is that most of us who wrestle with anxiety and fear don’t have much real interest in drama for its own sake.  If anything people who are dealing with this stuff would like nothing more than to surrender the sense of drama in their lives.  We don’t get up in the morning and say “well, my life isn’t interesting or dramatic enough – how can I rev myself up?  I know, I’ll find something to really worry about, get myself good and anxious – THAT’S going to make the day way more fun.”

No, we don’t set out to do that.  If you don’t struggle with anxiety on a regular basis then you almost certainly don’t get how draining, tedious and frustrating it can be.  No, that isn’t something we are setting out to do!  We who are anxious and fearful are doing battle with a drama queen in our own bodies and minds – our Comfort Zone, which is in turn firing up our Flight or Fight Reflex. 

Life With a Drama Queen

It was my friend Cindy who first suggested this metaphor to me.  The notion immediately hit me as I thought about it – it is a great comparison.  I’m betting that you have someone in your life who plays the role of Drama Queen.  This is someone who turns everything into a crisis.  It isn’t just that the soup burned on the stove – the soup burning has RUINED dinner, and RUINED the evening, and it is AWFUL that the soup burned.  It isn’t just that the presentation to the client wasn’t perfect, it was a DISASTER because they weren’t blown away by the presentation, and now there will NEVER be any business with this client, and EVERYONE will think this presentation was a botched job, and you’ll be labeled a LOSER.  That’s life with a Drama Queen.

Drama Queens assume the worst – it isn’t just bad, it’s horrible, it isn’t just bad now, it will be bad forever!  There are other qualities of Drama Queens that make our lives miserable.  They don’t really seem to listen to us when we try to calm them down.  They shout us down, tell us we’re wrong, because they FEEL so bad, so certain it will all end in ruin.  Yet they won’t leave us alone, won’t take their drama someplace else – no, they have to pour it on us!  And this is just what the Comfort Zone does to us.  Our fears and worries start to shout at us, and when we try to shout them down in response, or run away, they just keep harassing us.  It FEELS so urgent, FEELS so upsetting and bad, that we get caught up in the drama. 

You Don’t Have to be the Prisoner of Your Comfort Zone Drama Queen…

Notice that I’m not saying YOU are a Drama Queen.  Because the truth is you’re not.  The Drama Queen is your Comfort Zone – the set of rules and beliefs that have grown up in your thinking as you’ve moved through your life.  That is the tendency of our Comfort Zones – to project indefinite negatives from our experience in the present moment, based on our fears. It is the fuel for our certainty that things HAVE to be this way or that way, or otherwise it will be a disaster – this is how the Comfort Zone can be with us.  If it doesn’t conform to what my rules and beliefs about safety then it is horrible, too terrible to think about, scary as hell, etc.  That is a Drama Queen/Comfort Zone response.

And just like with real-life Drama Queens, if you want to get free of the drama, you have to face into the worry and anxiety, and challenge it!  It isn’t easy.  Drama Queens never are.  Drama Queens are reactive, just like the Comfort Zone.  They are creatures of the immediate knee-jerk response, just like the Comfort Zone.  They turn problems (challenges that require thinking, work and time to resolve) into crises (immediate physical danger) – just like the Comfort Zone.  And they will ruin your day with their trauma and drama if you don’t confront them and unplug the crisis!

You’ve GOT to Unpack the Problem From the Crisis!

Here’s a little reminder of the heart of the Fear Mastery thinking: we are creatures that turn problems into crises.  We don’t set out to do this to ourselves.  It is just that we learn to be afraid or anxious about a situation, issue or concern in our lives, and we start to respond to it out of our Flight or Fight Reflex.  But a problem CAN’T be a crisis.  A problem is something that you have to think about, think through, make a plan for and then work at resolving.  That’s hard and scary, because if we’ve spent much time making that problem into a crisis then we have to wade through the attending physical and emotional warning signals that the Comfort Zone is sending our way, trying to warn us away from dealing with this problem-turned-crisis in our thinking.

AND we have to deal with our minds not working as sharply or well during that initial facing into the fear, because, well, you don’t need much of your mind to run or fight in a crisis, at least not the ones we evolved to face back in the good old days on the plains of Africa.  And we’ve become very good at flinching away from the things that scare us in our thinking.  This takes some work, and it is often tedious, exhausting and not much fun.  But then, dealing with Drama Queens rarely is fun…

But it is something any of us can do, this work of facing our fears.  And the payoffs are everything we want them to be, including a huge sense of relief as we reduce our anxiety and get some distance from the drama.  I will talk more about that in my next post.  Know from this post that you don’t have to continue the cycle of drama in your own thinking.  You can confront your own personal Drama Queen and face the things that make you afraid/anxious/worried.

When I posted my discussion of breaking the Habit of Worry 2 posts ago I received quite a bit of feedback in email and at the blog.  People told me they liked what I said there, but that they were also looking for more specifics on what to do to shake free of that life-sucking habit.  I am VERY appreciative of this kind of feedback, as it helps me sharpen my focus on what I call the “toolbox” of Fear Mastery.  Hence, this post.  Please, I’d like very much to hear from you what you think/experience with this information as you work to shake free of your own worry habit. 

First, it is important, crucial to keep in mind that this entire situation begins in your thinking.  The reflex to worry developed in us because we taught ourselves that worrying somehow keeps us SAFE.  Let me repeat that: we are constantly finding things to worry about because we’ve trained ourselves (and our environment has helped in that training process) to worry our way to safety.

Yes, that sounds wacky, but if you have this particular piece of Comfort Zone programming, it also sounds exactly right.  It is essential to keep in your focus that you are running a series of thoughts in your head, and those thoughts are in turn triggering some degree of activation of your Flight or Fight Response.

Where I believe most of us get stuck is in those Flight or Fight Responses.  We even start to think about putting down our worrying, just for a moment, and our Comfort Zone says “HANG ON THERE BUDDY – you’re not going ANYWHERE.”  You start to experience mild to severe signals in your body and feelings, whatever those are for you.

Some of us get sweaty palms, and our hearts race (or seem to clench, or squeeze, or however you describe the sensation.)  Some of us get dry mouths, deserts really, and a headache might start up behind our eyes or in the back of our heads.  Some of us get that queasy thing in our stomachs, with maybe a pinch of chill or a feeling of mild shock.  We might feel anxious, nervous, restless, irritated, sad, angry, or some combination of all of those.  And NONE of that feels good.  All of it is that Flight or Fight Response, warning us that we’re getting close to something that we’ve LEARNED to be afraid of.  I’m betting that, for many folks reading this, just the list of possible responses/sensations has you feeling uncomfortable – yes?

OK.  Stay calm.  This is exactly where you’ll begin to find your pry-bar to shake free of this tedious habit.  Because NOTHING, absolutely nothing, is wrong right now.  That’s not to say that your brain hasn’t started to race somewhat, and you’re beginning to cast around for something to worry about.

It may not take much casting.  You may latch onto how your foot has been mysteriously hurting, or how your boss has been acting funny, or the way your husband or wife is suddenly seeming distant or grumpy or irritated, or maybe you’re thinking that your 401K isn’t big enough… etc.  Let me say it again: just experiencing the sensations triggered by your thoughts can stop you in your tracks from even considering taking a break from the worry habit.  But that’s all it is – sensations, feelings, all conjured by your Flight or Fight Response, trying to steer you away from the scary thoughts you’re thinking.

Isn’t it maddening?  That we can be, in very real ways, controlled by something as intangible as thoughts and feelings?  Well, we don’t have to be controlled by them.  It just takes some conscious awareness of our reactions, and a little practice challenging those reactions, and the thoughts behind them.

You have to see it as a kind of merry-go-round, which you step onto and begin furiously pushing off with one foot, spinning that thing faster and faster in your thinking.  Merry-go-rounds don’t stop on a dime.  But they do stop!  And they stop when we stop pushing off and refuse to give the thing any more energy, any more momentum.  We may have to hang on for a little while so the thing can lose power – so our bodies can relax as we deliberately challenge our thinking, then practice changing that thinking.  But those thoughts will slow and change, your body will start to relax, just like that merry-go-round.

The way to break the worry habit is to challenge it.  Call yourself out on that habit and begin the practice of changing your thinking.  This is what  I call triad – the 3 elements that make for the disruption and pushing back of the Comfort Zone:

 1) Decide that you’re ready to break this frustrating habit, and set a little time (10 minutes, to start) to just sit with yourself and challenge your thinking around the need to worry.

2) As you do that challenging, expect your body and feelings to react – the Flight or Fight Response will kick in and try to steer you away from this challenging of your fears.  You told it, after all, that this was too scary to think about, so it is just doing what you told it to do.  Ride the brief, tedious, anxiety or fear wave, and remind yourself that nothing’s wrong, nothing is any different from 10 minutes ago, you’re just doing an exercise, the world isn’t coming to an end.

3) As you’re sitting with your body sensations and feelings, identify the thinking that is scaring you in the first place.

In this case you’re afraid that if you DON’T worry something bad will happen – which you and I both know is crap.  Sure, if FEELS like that, and it is draining and scary to face that thinking down – but then it’s draining and scary to worry all the time, isn’t it?  And imagine what it would be like to not worry like this anymore?

No, the worry habit isn’t helping you – it is getting in the way.  Because worry isn’t action, and worry isn’t concern, and worry doesn’t help a (pardon my language) damn thing.  What keeps you as safe as you can be is taking concrete steps to address your worries, and then putting the worry down, letting it go, and getting on with your life. 

As I’ve said throughout this blog worry stems from turning a problem into a crisis, and thereby activating your Flight or Fight Response.  Your single goal is to move the faux crisis back to problem status.  Because a crisis is you being attacked by a Mongol Horde, or teetering on the edge of falling off a cliff, or anything that is immediately threatening to kill or seriously injure you.   Otherwise it CAN’T be a crisis, which makes it a problem. 

We’re only 16 days into the New Year of 2011.  You can begin to find real relief from this (for most of us) decades-long habit of worrying to keep safe, and you can start to find it THIS MONTH.  Don’t expect it to get done in one practice, or two.  Do expect it to rattle your cage, shake you up a bit.  That’s the Comfort Zone’s job – to get you to stay away from scary, dangerous things.

But there isn’t any danger here, and you and I both know it.  Do expect to feel tired, depleted.  Do expect to find reasons to iron the cat, wash the trees or do anything rather than this simple 10-minute exercise.  Believe me, the cat and trees can wait.  This small amount of work, even with how it feels, will produce results that will frankly amaze you.  To repeat – you will not see this move in just one session.  You’ve given this a lot of energy and time, and it will take time to change.  Not nearly as long as you took to build up the habit, but still, a little time.  Take breaks, distract yourself, relax – then try it again, the next day, in a couple of days, and keep at it.

Please, let me know how your practice goes – very happy to offer support, encouragement, clarification and cheerleading.  And please let me know if this is helping the questions you have around challenging your Comfort Zone and getting to work on your freedom.  Next up – more about unplugging those thoughts, and some of the wisdom of Dr. Susan Jeffers, the author of “Feel the Fea and Do it Anyway.”  Till then – fight for your freedom.  You can shake free of the worry habit.

Please forgive my long silence here on this blog.  It has been a remarkable (and difficult) 3 weeks since my last post.  In that post I promised more examples about how thinking is what drives our feelings around fear, and more about how to deal with those feelings and unpack the thinking that causes it in the first place.  This is especially important to me at the moment because of the loss of a close friend of mine (which I only learned about last Friday, but happened in mid-July.)  He took his own life after months (and really years) of dealing with chronic anxiety and fear.

Let me tell you a little about my friend (I’ll call him “B” here for ease of reference.)  B was a smart, sensitive, people-oriented kind of guy.  He loved getting time with friends, going out to dinner, just shooting the breeze and hanging out with people he cared about.  He was a talented artist – had painted for years and years, even as he discounted his own creative gifts.  He was compassionate, hopeful and invariably making sure the person he was with was comfortable and happy.

At the same time B was afraid.  He was in his middle 50’s, doing work he didn’t mind (teaching at a vocational school) for an administrative team he hated and feared (believe me, those words are not too strong to describe his feelings.)   He was worried deeply about having enough money to retire, so he felt he couldn’t leave his job, or even change jobs – yet he wanted to flee his job.  He despised the house he owned, and wanted to move, but was afraid that he wouldn’t find anything he liked more.  He wanted desperately to leave the country he lived in and move to Spain – there to teach English as a second language, and paint, and live near the sea.   But he was afraid of traveling alone, afraid of running out of money, afraid that he’d blow it somehow, afraid he’d have to return to teaching at the school he worked at… afraid.  Very, very afraid.

There were two key issues that B was fighting.  1) He was literally living in the indefinite negative future (see my posts about this here on the blog from earlier in the year) and so was constantly generating fear about the maybe’s and what if’s that he was projecting onto that future, and 2) he was dealing with profound feelings of stress and anxiety that tended to overwhelm him and shut him down.  He talked often of how he just wished the feelings (and physical sensations they helped generate, in his case nausea, lack of sleep and restlessness) would just go away – then he could get on with his life.  He insisted that it was all but impossible to do any work towards shaking free of his fear until his feelings eased off.  At the same time he slowly retreated from his entire life – friends, work, going out to eat, everything – until, at the end, he was almost completely housebound. 

It is important to note here that B was treated again and again by medical and mental health care professionals.  He was given a variety of medications, given in-patient and out-patient care, given therapy, you name it.  This went on across years, and while some (but not all) of the medications did provide some temporary relief they didn’t (and couldn’t) change his thinking and the fear that thinking generated for him.   And while the therapy and reading he did gave him some new perspectives they still didn’t take him to a place where he faced into his fear, saw his feelings and physical responses as simply the result of his Flight or Fight response powering up, and then unpacked the assumptions/thinking he was focused on that generated the fear in the first place.  THIS IS CRUCIAL.

This is crucial because you have to do all three if you want to move past the fear and anxiety.  Simply facing your fear doesn’t promise freedom.  Sometimes, yes, just acknowledging that you’re afraid can help end small concerns, or things that haven’t blow up yet into major fears.  But more often all this does is remind of us how afraid we are, and Flight or Fight again powers up and we’re off and running.  And it usually isn’t enough to just unpack your thinking – yes, this or that fear isn’t real, yes, I’m living in the indefinite negative future – because if you keep it academic/abstract in your thinking you are still unlikely to do anything that will trigger the Flight or Fight response – and so nothing changes.

Let me be very clear – depression and chronic anxiety (including panic attacks) are brutal.  As someone who has dealt with all of them I can tell you it is literally hell.  I am not in any way diminishing what B was fighting.  I AM saying that his fear and the resulting feelings and physical sensations are simply extreme examples of what EVERYONE deals with when they are afraid.  And the answer to that is the same, regardless of the intensity.  B was afraid of the future.  He was afraid of the feelings and sensations that his fear generated in him.  And those fears shut him down and, finally, killed him.

It is very hard to write those words.  There is no way to express here how much I miss him, how sad and angry I am.  I am angry because his life being over is a vast waste.  I’m angry because he won’t produce any of the art he was capable of – won’t live in Spain – won’t walk sandy beaches and savor his life and his days.  I’m sad because I didn’t find the right words to say, didn’t find the key in these discussions that could have helped him finally face into his fears, his assumptions, and win free of them, win back his life, and take his life in the direction he wanted to go.  I miss my friend, miss him terribly.

But the point I’m looking to drive in this blog post, more than anything else, is that a crucial mistake B made (and which most of us continue to make) is that he was waiting for the feelings to ease off so he could get on with what he wanted to do.  And that is exactly backwards – the feelings will ease off ONCE we face into them, unpack what’s generating them in the first place.  Feels counter-intuitive – the Comfort Zone is screaming at us to STOP, not move, stay put.  But that’s exactly what we shouldn’t do.  And it is (I’m convinced) what finally killed B.

Thankfully most of the people I know, friends and clients and colleagues and such, will never reach this place.  But having said that I also know that most of them are limited/shut down in crucial ways for the same reasons – they are afraid of their projections of the future, and they are afraid of the warning signals of the Comfort Zone.  So they remain frozen, unable to move, wanting their freedom and afraid of taking it. 

Next up (and much sooner, I promise) more on the tools to shake free of fear and get on with our life…

The last two posts here have been about what I call the triad of elements that are necessary to disrupt and unplug the fears and anxieties that we acquire, and which we shield ourselves from with the Comfort Zone.  What follows in this post are some specific examples of the use of those triad elements, along with suggestions on how to start such work with yourself.  

As I said at the end of the last blog post I am VERY, very clear that this is often anything but easy to even think about, let alone do.  Having a clear and articulate map of the nature of fear and anxiety is one thing, facing into those fears is something else – something often frightening, even terrifying.  I believe this is why so many of us (including myself) find the idea of a medication or technique that can take away the fear, or quickly and painlessly “fix” our fears, very attractive.  Many  of us have lived with various levels of fear and anxiety for so long that we can’t imagine deliberately stirring it up, even with the goal of shutting down the causes of that fear and finding our freedom as a result.  It is much more attractive to let sleeping dogs lie, leave those fears where they are, out beyond our Comfort Zone walls, and keep things status quo – however much we limit our lives as a result.

And, of course, our fears activate that part of the Chronic Anxiety Cycle I call the Indefinite Negative Future when we consider challenging the Comfort Zone.  What if I feel this way forever?  What if this doesn’t work?  What if I do this work and all that happens is I can’t stop being even more afraid than I am now?  Etc.  I know that for some people reading the last couple of sentences  has made them a little anxious.  Ugh! 

Let me repeat myself from an earlier blog post: the way out is through.  And moving through the Comfort Zone walls we’ve created does not need to entail years of work or endless hours of fear and anxiety.  Like any set of skills it will take a little practice and a little time.  You probably won’t do it perfectly the first 2-3-4-5 times you do it.  Who cares?  Nobody masters bike-riding in a single session, nobody learns to type in an hour, and nobody will be perfectly adept at facing and moving through Comfort Zone fears out of the gate.  Resolve that you’re going to experience a learning curve, pick a fear you’d like to unplug, and give it a first try…

An example of facing a fear with this triad of elements in mind is something I did this past winter.  In case you don’t know I do communication skills consulting for work, and yet I have never been very comfortable (read: very UN-comfortable) soliciting new clients.  As I worked on the Fear Mastery framework and writing this last 12 months I realized that this was a great opportunity to practice what I was preaching.  I resolved to spend some time every day during the week (an hour, no more) reaching out to people I had worked with in the past, and soliciting from them potential leads for new business.  Even making this decision made me anxious – what if nobody said yes?  What if people implied (or said outright) that I really didn’t have anything they could refer to colleagues and friends?  (This with 7 years of repeated statements from clients about how my work had helped their team, how they were using the material I had brought them years after the training I had done, etc.)  What if… and so on. 

I first needed to move this out of the mostly crisis frame I had this fear wrapped in (what if I don’t get any more consulting business?  What if I run out of money?  What if I have to work at Starbuck’s?)  and decide that it was actually a series of problems to solve.  That immediately generated some serious anxious feelings and physical responses.  It took some effort just to sit at my desk and calendar the time to do this for that first week the weekend prior.  I began finding reasons why I needed to wait just one more week, began to think of all the things I could do rather than chase down new business, etc.  Isn’t it impressive how the Comfort Zone can quickly steer us away from even considering a fear challenge?

During that process I had some pretty interesting, even unnerving, bursts of fear – all of a sudden I’d think “this is pointless!  Nobody is going to refer me!  I’m crazy for even trying!” and similar highly useful thoughts.  And of course I’d start to feel anxious and restless as a result.  As Dr. Albert Ellis, the Father of Rational-Emotive thinking, said, “feelings come from thinking.”  And they do.  And they did!   In the first couple of days I had to take breaks, start slow, remind myself that nothing dangerous or bad was happening, and that in the worst case (outright rejection, which of course in this context never happened) I could step away and start again the following day.

As the initial anxieties crested and eased I created a list of things to do for this work: develop a contact list, create a schedule for following up with those contacts, develop a method for tracking referrals as they came in,  set up a calendar for contact dates and follow-up with people after a reasonable period of time, etc.  Just that exercise helped shift my thinking – not much, but enough to start the ball rolling.   The first few emails were scary.  The next few emails were less so (with bursts of concern and worry still poking through as I continued this work.)  Yet by that Thursday, of the very first week I was doing this work, I came to my desk and discovered that my worry was significantly less than it had been the previous Saturday, when I first started preparing to take on this project.  By the middle of the following week I was finding it to be more comfortable than I had ever experienced, and (oddly enough) began to generate some new business.

Another example comes from an old and excellent friend who, for a variety of reasons, found himself seriously in debt to the IRS.  (I know, just reading those 3 letters in sequence can be scary!)  He had accumulated quite a debt to that agency, and had dithered (for over 9 years!) about addressing it.  What if they threw him in jail?  What if they took his house?  What if he had to work four jobs and never, ever get to see a movie or have any fun ever again?  He had himself really worked up over this, and attempted a number of things to shield himself from this fear, including some very serious drinking.  He was completely terrified of having to call the IRS and deal with his debt.

Through a series of bumps and bangs that convinced him that he HAD to do something he faced into his fear and called the IRS.  He reports that he was barely able to talk to the agent on the phone, but that when he finally finished his story the agent simply said “sir, please, just file your taxes.  We’ll figure this out once you’ve done that.”  He said his chief emotion when he got off the phone was anger – not at the IRS, but at himself, for having 1) taken so long to face this fear, and 2) all the time and energy he’d burned avoiding the problem.

And that’s EXACTLY the point, isn’t it?  That in our (mostly unthinking, highly reactive) avoidance of what we’re afraid of we wind up giving up time, energy, freedom and room to live our lives, when (compared to what we spend in that avoidance) the facing through and dealing with our fears will take much less time and energy?  It is unfair and unnecessary that we let our anxiety and fear rob us the way they can do.  Next up – more examples, and further suggestions for tools that can assist you in using the triad.

I mentioned in my last blog post about a “triad” of tools that I believe are necessary to take on the fears and anxieties that we’ve walled off from ourselves behind our Comfort Zone.  The first element of that “triad” is remembering this question: is this a crisis (i.e., am I in immediate, physical danger?) or a problem (is this something that will take some thinking and time to solve, but that doesn’t immediately threaten me?)  It is useful to remember here that IF in fact this is really a crisis you’re already in motion – that’s what Flight or Fight is for – to get you out of danger NOW.  That you can ask this question at all pretty much tells you that you’re dealing with a problem, NOT a crisis – however unnerving or scary it feels.

The 2nd element is DIS-counting (i.e., correctly valuing) the emotions and physical sensations that come along with the activation of Flight or Fight, i.e., when we’re afraid.  It becomes a reflex for most of us to react in fear and worry when our bodies tell us we’re afraid, whatever our individual chief responses might be.  Those include all the emotions around fear (guilt, anger, embarrassment, anxiety, etc.) and the physical sensations (tingling in the fingers and toes, upset stomach, sweat, dizziness, dry mouth, etc.)  JUST these feelings and sensations can ratchet up our fear and worry – something must be really wrong, right?  You wouldn’t feel this way if there really wasn’t any danger, right?  Well, no – actually, no.  Those feelings and sensations are completely natural, expected outcomes of activating Flight or Fight – and ALL they signal is that you’re afraid.  End of story. 

These two elements to face the fears of the Comfort Zone are by themselves very powerful, and will, with any effort and practice, give you space and relief from anxiety.  But to uproot the particular fear that is generating those responses in the first place a third element is also necessary.  That 3rd element involves unpacking the thinking that lead to that fear becoming a Comfort Zone issue in the first place – unpacking the assumptions/beliefs/ideas that frightened you into treating this issue as a crisis, rather than as a problem. 

I have put these elements in this order because it is usually necessary to ride over and through the initial responses of your Comfort Zone defenses (those feelings and sensations that warn you you’re getting close to something scary) before you can lucidly start to pull apart the thinking that frightened you in the first place.  I know I’ve often stumbled across my frightening thinking (talking to a friend, reading a book, somehow suddenly being reminded of this thing I’ve walled away) and my immediate, anxious response drove me rapidly back from thinking about that thing, let alone doing anything about it.  When I was going through the therapy course that gave me my first serious degree of freedom from panic attacks more than half the battle was enduring the initial (and, then, often-recurring) bursts of fear and frightening physical sensations long enough to do some addressing of what was scaring me.  What made that process SO long and tedious was the fact that I wasn’t unpacking the scary thinking in the first place.

What does unpacking look like?  It is taking the idea of problem vs. crisis from a general assessment to a specific examination of the issue – clarifying what about our thinking precisely that is scaring us.  It involves challenging the assumptions we’ve been making about the future (and the outcomes in that future that are making us fearful) and then making decisions about what we want to do about it, how we’re going to treat this as a problem to solve, rather than a crisis to run from.  As Susan Jeffers has pointed out in Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, “pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness.”  And that’s exactly what running from our Comfort Zone fears does to us – it leaves us feeling helpless, without a sense of power or agency over what is scaring us.

Make no mistake about this process – it is anywhere from unnerving to very frightening.  And we’ve (many, if not most of us) trained ourselves to NOT face fear, but instead to run from it.  But remember the triad!  Our feelings are only indicators of our thinking, NOT of some actual, real danger.  And it is completely doable.  Next up in this blog I’ll give some specific examples of how the triad elements can work, and some ideas about how to start this process for yourself.

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