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Can you live bravely?

Almost every week I speak to someone about their social anxiety. Anxiety being another word for fear. People with a social anxiety persistently experience fears about being judged, criticised, ridiculed or humiliated. Yes, who doesn't on occasion ? Perhaps you have heard of the negativity bias of the human mind. But when it becomes a problem, it is a problem. Confidence on the other hand, is the ability to know that what we fear isn't something that's really happening. It is only happening in our mind.

F.E.A.R. as in False Evidence Appearing Real ("They won't like me" or "they will think that I am a fraud!"). Our mind has a tendency to think of a worst case scenario. However ridiculous that scenario might be, to our mind it can seem real. And if in addition to that tendency we had a critical parent (or two, ... or three), a difficult or unsafe upbringing, and not much practice in keeping our mind in check - these scenarios can quickly spiral out of control. And once our mind is out of control, our emotions follow suit. Many of us don't realise that we always have a choice. Can you imagine standing up to F.E.A.R. like that brave man is going to whom I spoke to today? For 46 years he's struggled with social anxiety, yet at the prospect of being able to change that his voice and his energy changed. His speech became more fluent, authentic and confident. He is getting ready to take a risk to go after the things that are important to him: his work, his family and his children. Being able to communicate without F.E.A.R. can change his life and I could sense that he knows that, and the excitement in his voice after we spoke only for a little while. We have not even met yet. His story reminded me of my favourite story, about F.E.A.R. by one of my favourite teachers. It goes like this:

Once there was a young warrior. Her teacher told her that she had to battle with fear.

She didn’t want to do that. It seemed too aggressive; it was scary; it seemed unfriendly.

But the teacher said she had to do it and gave her the instructions for the battle.

The day arrived. The student warrior stood on one side, and fear stood on the other. The warrior was feeling very small, and fear was looking big and wrathful. They both had their weapons.

The young warrior roused herself and went toward fear, prostrated three times, and asked, "May I have permission to go into battle with you?"

Fear said, "Thank you for showing me so much respect that you ask permission."

Then the young warrior said, "How can I defeat you?"

Fear replied, "My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very close to your face. Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever I say. If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power. You can listen to me, and you can have respect for me. You can even be convinced by me. But if you don’t do what I say, I have no power."

In that way, the student warrior learned how to defeat fear.

― Pema Chödrön

I love this story because it looks right through the illusion of F.E.A.R. Things can loom so large when we fear them. What I didn't even tell the brave man is that hypnosis really is like a bullet proof suit when battling with F.E.A.R. Once in hypnosis a person can see right through F.E.A.R. and feel calm and confident in the face of it. We can suddenly know that it has no power. In that state our perspective can change instantly and easily so that we can Face Everything And Rise. When are you ready to battle with F.E.A.R.?

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