Stand up Tall and Grab your Flashlight: Facing Fear

“It’s time for me to stop hemming and hawing, and just start my own business. I’ve never been so terrified in my life. What if I don’t make enough money? What if I fail?” Jerry looked like he was going to throw up.

“I have to confront my kid. There’s no way around it. I think he’s doing drugs, and I need to figure it out. But I’m worried. What if he gets mad and stops talking to me?” Joseph asked.

“I know it’s time for me to stop doing the friends-with-benefits thing, but it’s just really hard for me end it. What if this is the last guy who ever wants me?” earnestly asked fifteen year old Melissa.

“I’m really really scared of the dark,” four-year-old Matilda shared with me. “What is so scary about the dark?” I asked. “I just can’t SEE. Who knows what will come out of there!”

Fear is a future-based emotion. Jerry is imaging the worst about a business that’s not yet begun, Joseph’s conversation with his son isn’t scheduled, Melissa is imaging being single her entire adult life, and Matilda is nervously waiting for something to come out of the dark. One technique of facing fear is bringing ourselves into the present moment. Literally checking in on our senses (what do I see, smell, taste, hear, feel?), thinking about our circumstances, and reminding ourselves where we are in this moment. In the present Jerry has a good-paying job, Joseph has a positive connection with his son, Matilda is not in her bed in the dark, and Melissa is still in a relationship.

However this technique only works in the short-term and, in order to make big changes, we have to step out into the unknown. Jerry will never feel completely “ready” to quit and start his own business, there’s no perfect time to talk to his son about drug use and, no matter when Melissa ends her relationship with this guy, she will feel sad and lonely. All of us get to acknowledge the fear, remind ourselves we are safe in the moment, make a plan, take a deep breath, turn on our flashlight (with little Matilda), and step towards that which scares us.