Havi started a conversation about fear yesterday. My other business-spirituality-buddy Mark posted a response. Here’s mine! (Isn’t blogging fun?)
This is in response to David’s comment:
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.
James | Dancing Geek says
I totally agree with the concentric circles idea. I’m trying to find a way to balance myself in the learning zone because the comfort zone tends to leave me bored and restless after any length of time, and the panic zone just leaves me panicked!
Mark Silver says
Ever since LaShelle introduced me to the comfort-learning-panic zone circles, they’ve been a great guideline. And, I love the distinction you make between grounding the fear and bulldozing through it without grounding it.
Now, let’s get a-fearful about something really miserable, and test out all these different approaches.
Totally. I guess could also be called the “Challenge” zone. Always key to be on your learning edge so as not to be bored. =)
Thanks, glad it was clear. And yeah…let’s go find something to be scared of! =)
Emily Dickinson says
Wow, this makes a lot of sense. I still have a lot of fear about the dancing in public. I’ must have had an experience so humiliating that I can’t even recall it. When I’ve tried to “heal” that experience–usually by doing more dancing in public–I was trying to heal myself while in the Panic Zone. Der! (to quote many of my greatest teachers.)
Singing is another matter–uh, comfort tyme! I can sing in public because singing was one of the cornerstones of the religion I grew up in. To please my grandmother, as well as the Lord, I made it my goal to sing as *loud* as possible. Later, Grandma Janie gently informed that volume wasn’t a virtue. Such a sweetie, the first to teach me about nuance in art.
LOL, whereas I can still recall my music teacher in fourth grade saying “You know Emma, *louder* isn’t the same as *higher*. The point is to sing the right notes”. Sigh. I loved to sing loud! Nothing felt better than belting out “When The Saints Come Marching In…”. Lord, how I wanted to be in that number! (Don’t ask me why we were singing about saints and the Lord in public school).
Gentle feedback = awesome.
Learning about nuance = awesome (as long as someone doesn’t beat you over the head with it).
Emily Dickinson says
:))) Janie was more about the bribes than the beatings. Always carried these butterscotch hard candies in her monster purse.
Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome says
Hmmm.. I’ve never thought about fear this way. What you say makes perfect sense. Now I just need to figure out where the learning zone ends and the panic zone begins (or at least have a rough idea of the constantly shifting boundary) 😉
The best way I’ve found to notice or map the transition from learning-zone to panic-zone is to tune into your body. The panic zone makes itself felt in a variety of ways: going fuzzy or feeling foggy, dazed, or confused, having emotions wash over you in this overwhelming way, racing thoughts, racing heart, freezing, an overwhelming urge to leave no matter what, getting really defensive, feel paralyzed. They are often referred to by 4 F’s: Freeze, Fight, Flight, Faint (as in go fuzzy or get confused).
Everyone does panic-zone differently so it’s a matter of really being aware of what your body’s and mind’s responses are when it feels unsafe. It’s definitely a practice – checking in with your body periodically until it becomes a habit to have it in your awareness. When you develop that, it becomes possible to be able to say in a conversation that is triggering things like “WOAH. I’m going fuzzy. I need a minute to get grounded.” instead of reacting. That feels *awesome*.
Dunstan Bertschinger says
I love these ideas and that diagram particularly! So simple and obvious and I have never seen it before.
It fits in with Vygotsky’s ‘Zone of Proximal Learning’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zone_of_proximal_development that I was taught ‘ad abstractum’ during my teacher training and also the concept of the ‘comfortable edge’ which my yoga teacher has taught me to apply. More on that in my comment on Mark’s article about sales – http://www.heartofbusiness.com/no-chase-down-2/
How sweet when truth reveals itself from many places, yay! 🙂