Are you in pain right now? If so, is it the obvious pain of a backache or is it the subtle, constant pain of worry? Have you grown to accept this pain?
What will it take to get you off your ass to eliminate that pain? You aren’t stupid, so why is the pain still there? It is fear that often keeps you and the rest of us in pain.
Simply put, your pain has to be greater than your fear to change. You have a choice-you can work on lowering your pain, which is what we usually do-or you can address your fear.
Change occurs when the fear of change is less than the current pain. If your pain is not significant, you won’t change. If the fear is significant, you will not change. Either way you are trapped in the pain-fear is the bind.
Use awareness to get free
The first step is awareness. Realizing that you are trapped allows you to plan your escape. After denial, once you notice the pain, your first tendency may be to reduce it. Talking to yourself and telling yourself that it will be all right will often mitigate the pain for a while. Inevitably, the pain will return-now what?
The answer will make you uncomfortable-feel the pain. When you stop avoiding what is sitting in your lap, you can begin to learn what the pain is telling you. If you are denying, avoiding or play-acting your pain, you aren’t changing it.
It’s no different than allowing yourself to feel the slight annoyance you sometimes feel in your shoe. Once the peripheral sense of there is pain becomes real and you stop to take off your shoe, you realize there is a small pebble in it. Slowing down to listen to your pain allows you to take action.
So now that you know you’re in pain, why don’t you just do what you need to do? Fear takes you out. You freeze and wait for the pain to get so bad that there is more pain than fear of action. You wait until there is no choice but to jump.
Transform fear into action
Once you shift your focus from pain to fear, there are several ways to move through fear to change.
First, understand that fear is a natural survival response when some part of you feels threatened. It might be real or it might be your past telling you a lie. Either way, treat it as real. Your body believes it is real, so it is real. Fear’s natural tendency is to cause you to freeze so know your inaction is a natural response. Rationalizations only suppress your body and mind’s natural response. Feeling it will initially make it more intense, let it. When you begin to accept what you are avoiding, the feeling of fear decreases.
The panic leaves and just fear is left. You’re still alive and fear hasn’t killed you. Now, listen to the fear. You may learn that behind the sense of being overwhelmed, your fear was attempting to warn you. For example, that prospective partner you were considering may actually be dishonest despite his great rap.
One option to lower the resistance to action is to reduce the fear. I’m not talking about taking drugs, even though drug companies will usually tell you otherwise. I’m speaking about moving the energy of fear. Fear’s propensity to stay frozen makes you impotent. So what do you do? You express the fear. We know how to express anger and grief but how do you express fear? You feel it in your body as you speak it.
Find a friend and get honest with him or her. If you have no such friend, you can do it by yourself. You’ll know if you are doing it if you feel more fear and your body shows it, you might even start shaking. That’s a good sign, as you’ll be releasing your post traumatic stress from past fearful events. (I’ll speak more about trauma and stress in the future.) Good psychotherapy, group work or bodywork can assist in increasing the rate and depth of releasing this stress.
Change your belief structure
We often believe we need to remove fear or greatly reduce it to move forward. The concept of multitasking with fear is foreign to most of us. You can perform as you feel the fear. Even though fear wants to stop you, you can take small, mindful steps forward toward your goal.
Once you move forward in the face of fear a few times, you’ll transform it. You’ll teach your body and mind that fear doesn’t need to immobilize you. Start practicing this on small fears. Teach yourself that fear can actually become excitement.
From pain, to fear, to change
Acknowledging what is occurring, be it pain and/or fear allows you to begin to achieve the change you want. Once you shift from avoidance and denial to acceptance and expression, your energy starts to move. With movement, you have leverage. The old emotions that bound you become the excitement that fuel change and creating.
Now that you know that you don’t have to wait for your pain to increase so you can move, you can step into your fear to move. Share with us your experience of moving out pain, through fear to change.