We are living in an era where fear is a background theme in so many lives throughout the world. How do we as Coaches and NLP Practitioners manage our inner states as we engage with friends and clients when they come to us wanting help dealing with fear?
Let’s start with recognition that there are two types of fears—rational and irrational—and then further redefine that understanding. We can view it as fear of the known or fear of the unknown; fear that is objective and verifiable or fear that is subjective and fed by imagination; fear that immobilizes driving inappropriate behavior or fear that calls attention to the potential danger that can be averted by proper action.
Fear is a highly charged emotion that operates from the hypothalamus in the limbic region of the brain. Fear is a built-in survival mechanism that is expressed as an emotional response to our interpretation of events that are taking place in the world around us or are taking place in our imagination which may or may not have relevance to the world around us.
The flight, fight or freeze mechanism is part of a feedback loop that directs our attention to what is necessary for our survival. At its essence, fear is a ‘felt’ sensation, an energy that can be incredibly intense. Intense enough to cause us to flee, or attack, or cower.
There are times when fear flares up and initiates action, such as when a car cuts sharply in front of us in fast-moving traffic. We react immediately by breaking or swerving out of the way while our heart is racing and our experience is one of hyper-alertness. However, fear of future negative scenarios such as losing our job or not having the financial security we want, or something much worse, loss of a loved one, loss of self… this is where fear is fed by worry, lack of factual information, not comprehending that options and choice always exist starting at a level of perception.
Ideally, any fear or concern we have would be recognized as feedback and cause us to put more pro-active attention to behaviors so we can take the necessary actions to be more at ease. It’s reasonable to recognize that rather than eliminate the energy or emotion that registers as fear we need to understand it and work with it. Interestingly enough, other than physical danger, most fears originate in an assumed negative future, and those scenarios are seldom fact-based. As reported in Fast Company and Huffington Post, a scientific study done at the University in Cincinnati, Ohio, found that 85% of the things people worried about never actually happened.
“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” poet- Audre Lorde
As NLP Coaches and Practitioners we have learned (and hopefully experienced) that thoughts are the connecting link to our sense of self. The question to explore is, “How is our sense of self congruent, empowered and resourceful when we are living in an environment of fear?”
Managing our internal states— our emotions is our first mandate if we are to lead ourselves and others toward hope, courage and faith in a positive future, especially in the face of personal or collective crisis.
In NLP we are taught the concept: ‘The Map is Not the Territory’. With our experiences in our training and coaching we now have the knowledge that not only can maps be changed, but that when change is enacted intentionally it impacts the emotional state that gives rise to a better quality of thinking and being. So, let’s act as if we agree that inner state management is a choice and that choice is better than no choice… sound familiar? It should, it’s the foundation of our work as coaches and as NLP practitioners.
Now let’s consider the opposite of fear. Some people would think to call it courage, but courage is not the absence of fear, courage is the capacity to think and act despite fear. So, if we instead look at fear as a point of direction in a metaphorical compass with faith being true north, perhaps we can navigate more effectively through the veracities of life.
For some people, faith is spiritual in nature, for others, faith is surrender to a knowing that there is a higher purpose to all of life. Faith can also be viewed as energy that surrounds us, supports us, and flows to us and from us. We can be guided by our experience of faith that allows the power within us to model for others a world of possibilities.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson – A Return to Love
With faith we have the utmost certainty that we are guided and protected. Faith is looking at all of life with eyes that see the potential of greatness in everything, every experience, every person. Deeply felt faith brings light to see through the darkness. Faith is a magnetic pull toward that light of the potential for growth and inner strength. Using faith as a direction from our internal compass, we support the idea of being in the right place at the right time with the right people for the right reasons, and we are congruent with our purpose as coaches.
The presuppositions of NLP and the Socratic method of asking powerful and insightful questions that are at the heart of NLP coaching provides each of us with the skills to turn to faith and use the events of whatever life presents to think, act and be powerful in the face of fear.
Fear may be a given in life, but we can also grow in faith—be it directly tied to our resilience or emergent from our connection to something greater than self—when we choose to live in the present with an expectation that life is a series of lessons to be learned; lessons that challenge us to grow experientially, emotionally and with a concrete awareness that empowers us in the face of fear and transform it with love.