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Is there anything to fear about fear

Is there anything to fear about fear?

Is there anything to fear about fearFear’s a feeling many of us would lump into the ‘undesirable’ category.  We’ve all felt it but would rather not feel it too much thanks very much.  But what if we didn’t categorise feelings into good and bad – what if we just called them all ‘information’? So what could fear be telling us?  Linda Kohanov has a great way of looking at the messages behind feelings.

Fear calling – is anyone home?

The message of fear is ‘intuitive, focused awareness of something that is a threat to our physical, mental, emotional or spiritual well-being’.  It is telling us to identify the threat and decide what action we need to take to move to a position of safety – that doesn’t sound like something to be afraid of – it sounds vital to our survival!

It doesn’t mean you have to run every time the hair on the back of your neck stands up – it just means you need ask yourself if you need to take action.  This could be gather more information before you move ahead, move ahead but at a slower pace, change direction slightly, set a boundary or sometimes get the hell outta there.

Are you brave enough to be scared?

Our social conditioning can give us a hard time around fear – ‘scaredy cat’, ‘get hard or go home’ and ‘fear is for wimps’ and other thoroughly unhelpful macho insults.  So is it cowardly to feel fear? I actually think it’s very brave to admit you feel fear when you are likely to get ridiculed for it.

If you don’t listen to it you can never get the wisdom it holds. There’s a funky saying ‘what you resist persists’ (wouldn’t want to have to say that quickly after a night on turps…). So if we resist fear how does it persist? Linda reckons it intensifies into a number of feelings – not surprisingly none of them very pleasant.

Fear on steroids…

Would you like to upgrade your fear to a dose of worry and anxiety?  Or maybe even panic and terror?  Or would dulling your senses culminate in dissociation (cut yourself off from the sensations of your body) work better? If that’s not to your nervous systems liking then we could just go for confusion.  Emm, now you mention it facing your fears here and now is sounding more and more enticing.

I’ll have ‘fight’ thank you waiter

Our nervous systems have their preferred default – mine is ‘fight’. This means I get really focused on a solution eg. research, comparison of options etc – information gives me comfort.  I also like a dollop of ‘flight’ which comes in the form of numbing through busyness (it’s a warning sign when I start doing lots of housework…).  My husband is more of a ‘freeze’ man where he becomes immobilised into procrastination.  You will have your favourite too – do you know what it is?

Travel once, travel well

Our feeling will nag us, but once they feel heard they back off.  Lean into them.  If you imagine leaning into fear is a bit like driving to the shops to get something you really need. If you turn back half way you will just have to start all over again.  It’s better use of your energy to just go the whole way once and get the message your fear holds and come home to emotional balance.

If you choose not to listen when fear has something to say it will only increase the volume – no one likes to be ignored when they’re only trying to help. So next time fear comes and whispers in your ear don’t spiral down the rabbit hole of self-judgement or metaphorically clap your hands over your ears and say ‘la la la la – I can’t hear you’ – just take a moment to listen.  Your fear is on your side.

Please share with your friends – no need to be fearful!

2 UpSurge Coaching Emotional Balance

Is your ‘Emotional Balance’ flat-lining or roller-coastering?

UpSurge Coaching Emotional BalanceIs your ‘Sliding Scale of Emotional Balance’ working well?  This reflects how easily we can hold our emotional center when we are being buffeted by life.

 Do Feelings = Emotions?

If we are going to talk about emotions best we define what they are. Do you think feelings and emotions are one and the same? Something I find useful is to accept feelings as uncontrollable and always valid – they show up uninvited and can be vague or very definite, persistent or fleeting and I don’t get to choose them.

Our bodies are our feeling feedback center – our gut may churn, our heart rate increase, our hands get fidgety and sometimes we have the urge to get the hell out of somewhere or never leave because it feels so safe and pleasant. Our heart and our gut have an intelligence all of their own and our head can be left thinking ‘what the hell is going on?’.

Having respect for our feelings will often give valuable insight into ourselves. If we come from a ‘stiff upper lip’ culture then we may stuff down our feelings until the dam breaks drowning all within earshot – pretty messy.

E-motions are ‘energy in motion’

Emotions on the other hand can sometimes be reasoned with. When you break it down to ‘e-motions’ it becomes ‘energy in motion’. We can have some interaction when comes to emotional responses eg. If I feel fearful I can ask my body ‘What is the threat? What do I need to do to get safe?’ rather then just screaming the house down. That said sometimes a good cry is the most useful way to put our energy in motion.

The pregnant pause

There is a moment of separation between feeling and emotion where we can choose how we respond and with practice we can expand this moment so we can feel our feelings yet not immediately display emotion. We become better at leaning into the discomfort of difficult feelings and understanding their messages.

Not everyone takes responsibility for their emotions and it can be a pretty grey area when it comes to what is a feeling and what is an emotion but as we gain emotional agility we get better at honouring our feelings and controlling our emotions.

The good, the bad and the ugly

When our emotional balance is working well we don’t over identify with our ups or downs – we just see them as part of life’s rich tapestry (cliche factor 10!). A few things can happen when our ‘Sliding Scale of Emotional Balance’ needs a little repairs and maintenance: (you can see I am a visual communicator – if graphs make you think of a mean maths teacher then picture them as Emotional Terrain pictures with mountains, valleys, flat lands…)

  • On the back foot – starting well into the minuses makes for a long journey to the pluses eg. we generally feel irritable even when things are going well
    Emotional Balance - on the back foot
  • Over reaction – 0 to -10 in the blink of an eye or a dog peeing on the carpet or a glass smashing
    Emotional Balance - over reaction
  • Never good enough – emotional range of 0 to -2 eg. acknowledging your exam results will make you lazy
    Emotional Balance - never good enough
  • Wallow – we get ‘stuck’ eg. we sulk for days after getting ‘feedback’ at work
    Emotional Balance - wallow
  • Ping pong – flip from ‘Over the moon’ to ‘Devastated’ multiple times a day eg. drama queen
    Emotional Balance - ping pong
  • Flower power – drift around in a haze of ‘peace and love’ eg. denies fear as valid biofeedback
    Emotional Balance - flower power
  • Comfortably numb – the lights are on but nobody’s home. eg. distracted and numb using alcohol, drugs, masses of coffee, junk food, constant shopping, living on facebook, obsessive exercise…
    Emotional Balance - Comfortably Numb
  • Watch your back – don’t get too happy or we’ll jinx ourselves eg. don’t celebrate doing well at sport or you will fall over next time
    Emotional Balance - watch your back

I doubt whether there are many people who can’t identify with some if not all of these scenarios at some time in their lives – I know I can! This is not a blame and shame game – just an invitation to bring awareness to the difference between feelings and emotions.

We all need nurturing

Our emotional balance is effected by how well we nurture ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Some things we have more control over – how much sleep we get, what we eat and drink, who we spend time with, what we read and watch, whether we make time for exercise etc. Other things we have absolutely no control over ie. cursing the rain seldom mades it stop…

How sensitive is your joy detector?

When we struggle to balance our emotions it’s hard to be present which means we forego being moved by the simple things and gorgeous little moments. Like seeing a stranger help an elderly person put their groceries in the car, noticing that wet leaves under a bright moon look like fairy lights (thanks Mark x) or our kids with chocolate icing on their noses. Personally, I want to be open to getting a top up of joy from all things great and small.

Next time your Emotional Balance needs a little work look for ways to nurturing yourself. Constantly traversing mountainous emotional terrain can be exhausting for us and those we love. Conversely a never-ending flat emotional plain can put you to sleep. Break up your emotional journey by stopping often and take the time to look for little loveliness-es.


UpSurge Coaching Chameleon

Are you an emotional chameleon?

UpSurge Coaching ChameleonHave you ever walked into a room perfectly at peace with the world only to find yourself inexplicably sliding into agitation or despair? Are you an emotional chameleon that takes on the moods and emotions of people around you and then can’t shake them off again? I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of us have at some stage or do with frustrating frequency.  Congratulations you’re empathic, and commiserations your emotional boundaries may need repair and maintenance – join the club!

Pity Top Trumps

Our ability for empathy is vital for our social connections but sometimes we can get a bit hazy where our energy finishes and another person’s begins so we can become a human ‘emotional vacuum cleaner’ sucking up energetic states from all and sundry.  Some people almost demand that you hoover up their state and can feel pretty miffed if don’t join a pity party that they are throwing for example. Pity parties never have any decent entertainment – the topics of conversations reek of ‘poor me’ and sometimes they descend into what I uncharitably call ‘pity Top Trumps’.  Pity Top Trumps is where one person relates a tale of woe and then the next person tries to trump it with an even more heart wrenching account of something that happened to them and so it goes back and forth.

Now, in case you are reading this thinking I am heartless to the suffering of others, I am most definitely not. I have also been known to have a bloody good rant myself now and again. I just invite you get really honest with yourself as to why you are sharing at that time. If you are genuinely touching back into the feelings from a trying experience then I applaud your bravery – sitting with uncomfortable emotions to see their wisdom take guts – all power to you. But, if you are wanting to impress someone with how resilient you are in the face of hardship then it might be time to hit the mute button.

Emotional Ownership Test

It can be really tricky to know whether emotions are yours or whether you should ‘return to sender’. Someone far wiser than me shared a simple emotional ownership test and by joves it’s a cracker.  You simply ask yourself ‘is this mine?’ Your intuition will have a pretty good idea on who’s got dibs on it.  If the answer is yes, then chances are the universe is drawing your attention to something that is out of balance.  If the answer is no, then happy days, just keep on smiling.

Sometimes it gets more complicated than just taking on the moods of those around us. Sometimes we become actors in a strange pantomime called ‘shadow projection’. Rather than a one-off emotional chameleon episode, these projections can turn into an extended season of re-runs where the actors assume the same roles over and over, especially in families. Here’s the plot line – someone is adept at hiding their feelings of anger, frustration, resentment etc; along comes an empathic person with wobbly emotional boundaries and BAM! in ‘puppet like’ fashion they act out their repressed anger, frustration, resentment etc for them.  Wouldn’t it be handy if someone acted out all the emotions that we didn’t want to own – then they would look like a right stinker and we’d come out squeaky clean.

Beware the energetic stink bomb

Hate to break it to you but that’s what a hell of a lot of people do – they go around dropping energetic stink bombs (picture ‘silent by violent’ rather than ‘loud and proud’) that others walk right into and give an Oscar worthy performance bringing those suppressed feelings to life. Sadly in families it’s often kids who absorb this disowned energy and it can be very damaging to them. Have you ever wondered how a ‘black sheep’ of the family comes about…they can be the one acting out the angst for a whole family. Kids don’t have robust energetic boundaries and often feel they are the cause of all unhappiness in the home. They are less adept at manufacturing ‘social acceptable’ behaviour and often less emotionally shut down than adults, so they feel what we may have trained ourselves to ignore. Heavy stuff I know, so rule of thumb – if you feel, you own it and remember ‘what you disown, owns you’ so take it on the chin or it will bite you on the bum!

Feel ‘with’ not feel ‘for’

Sometimes taking on the feelings of others makes you feel like you are really supporting them. People with pleaser and peacemaker personalities (illiteration to the max) do this in an attempt to make others feel better, after all we all like our feelings to matter. But in the process of mirroring another’s feelings we can become less able to support them when they need us. We can end up hijacking their experience by telling them how we think they feel eg. you must devastated… Boundary alert – we can try to imagine what it is like to be in their shoes but we are not – this is their life lesson not ours and it’s just not classy to live vicariously through another’s pain. If you have 3 minutes take a look at this animated video by Brene Brown – it is funky little explanation of empathy verses sympathy.

We are all interconnected energetically but always remember you have freewill – don’t be an emotional chameleon or as Daniel Goleman wrote ‘inability to notice our true feelings leaves us at their mercy. People with greater certainty about their feelings are better pilots of their lives’.