I guess I’m a little thrown off because it seems like every way of dealing with fear is appreciated and supported… except bulldozing through it, and feeling like a rock star afterwards.
I get the impression that’s…wrong.
It’s valid if it works for you, right? So it works for me. I wish I could explain it in detail, but I can’t.
Does bulldozing through it work? What’s going on here?
It sounds to me like David is re-grounding himself in reality: “OK, it’s only a half-mile more, I can make it.” Or, “OK, this IS actually something I can handle, so I’m just going to go ahead and do it.”
I think that’s a useful strategy for anyone. Re-grounding in reality. Doing it. Grounding the outcome in your body – teaching your body that it’s OK.
That is different than the “other kind” of bulldozing through it that doesn’t work:
- feeling bad or wrong for feeling fear, wishing you didn’t feel it, not wanting to admit it
- suppressing the fear, not dealing with it
- doing it anyway OR not doing it anyway (it doesn’t matter at this point, and I’ll explain why below)
This kind of “bulldozing” doesn’t ground the fear – it usually makes it worse. Because the fear is trying to tell you something, and you are not listening.
Even if you do “bulldoze through” the experience in front of you, you will NOT experience the freedom on the other side, if you are bulldozing in this suppression-oriented way.
There are many things I’ve tried to bulldoze through and then had to go back and actually deal with the fear on: singing in public, dating, intimacy. The fear came back bigger and stronger later.
When you bulldoze through like that, the experience of doing the activity doesn’t become grounded into your body as “Ok, that was OK”, because you weren’t connected to your body while you did it. You were focused on suppressing your fear!
The Learning Zone vs The Panic Zone
When you do an experience that you are afraid of and have the experience of “it wasn’t that bad”, and your fear lessens or dissipates, that’s learning. But you can’t learn in that way if you are so afraid you are in panic mode.
I got the following from my completely awesome and highly recommended NVC teacher, who explains this at the beginning of all her classes.
There are three zones, think of concentric circles:
Oh heck, I’ll draw you a picture:
If you are “bulldozing through” while basically still in the learning zone, all is good. You’ll learn that it’s OK to do whatever it is, you didn’t die.
But if you are “bulldozing through” while in the panic zone, your body won’t learn a thing from the experience. It will just be more terrorized the next time.
And often the experience itself will really, really suck.
I remember trying to “bulldoze through” my fear of dancing in public when in high school. Wow. Most. Awkward. Dancing. Ever. And I didn’t feel like “oh that wasn’t so bad” when I was done. I felt humiliated and wished I could disappear from the face of the earth. I wish I had that magic ray-gun in the Men in Black movie and could zap people’s memories away.
Happy ending: Now I dance with wild abandon. But it took me a while to get there, and I had to do it by feeling the fear in my body. Well…and it was college, and some alcohol might have helped. (I’m not all peace and light, OK?)
There is a time when you need to feel the fear and do it anyway. But,
- that’s feel the fear and do it anyway, not suppress the fear and do it anyway.
- there will be some things where you will need to do a whole lot of feeling the fear (and talking with it, processing it) before you’ll be ready to do it anyway.
There is absolutely nothing to be gained, and a lot of damage to be wreaked, if you bulldoze through panic.On the other hand, there is definitely a time to stop hanging out in your comfort zone and bite the bullet.
It all depends on where you are at on the comfort/learning/panic spectrum – and your body is the only one who knows that. Trust it. And give yourself all the love and compassion and non-bulldozing you need when you are in the panic zone.
If you are in the panic zone, you WILL get to the learning zone and the comfort zone, and then you will be able to “do it anyway”, when the time is right.
Trust in that. It will happen. You were not made to suffer. You were made to shine.
And you don’t have to push yourself or do violence to yourself to get there. Love works much better. In fact, it’s the only thing that works.