What is “faux-fear”?
In my line of work, one of the biggest misconceptions that I need to work with is this one:
MYTH: That fear is a distinct feeling, known in the moment it is felt, and that it only shows up in that one way.
Just as there are many different flavors of sadness (depression, sad, melancholy, grieving, utterly devastated), the truth is that fear shows up in many different ways, many of them surprising. In fact, some of these could be at work in your life right now, and you wouldn’t realize it:
- Chronic forgetting.
- Chronic procrastination.
- Anxiety, worry, doubt, second-guessing.
- Persistent hesitation.
- Over-work, over-commitment.
- Sarcasm, especially as it relates to the possibility of change (i.e., “God, don’t be such a sap!” or “That’s sooo cheesy!”).
- Creating drama or surrounding oneself with drama.
- Oh–this is a big one!–dismissing possibilities as “too simple” or “that won’t work” or an immediate “that’s impossible” rather than trying them and really putting 100% behind them, to see if change is possible.
Also “for instance,” fear is at work when…
- Everything in your life calms down, and then suddenly you and your partner are arguing, more, or one or both of you are suddenly more irritable–or suddenly, everything is “boring.”
- You’re totally set on a plan for moving forward, and then insomnia strikes, you have a terrible night’s sleep, and the whole plan is thrown off.
- You’re always starting but not finishing projects, because you “lose steam” or “interest” after you’re part of the way through them. Sometimes, this is just a sign that you like to start things and that it’s one of your strengths. Other times, this is a sign that fear is zapping your mojo.
- You tell someone of your plans, and they pooh-pooh them, and then you don’t want to go forward with your plans, anymore. (A note about that: I can’t even tell you how many times, in a coaching session, someone has told me about this happening and we investigate it a bit, only to find that the person they told was someone with a history for pooh-poohing other people’s ideas. In other words? Sometimes we sabotage ourselves without thinking about it, by telling the most negative person around.)
I call these instances of “faux” fear because admittedly, these experiences aren’t *quite* like the “real thing,” that elevator-dropping sensation of being acutely afraid.
But “faux” fear will creep up on you. It will nip away at you, little piece by little piece.
Actually, here’s the biggest thing I can say about that:
99.99999999% of the time, the issue is really not paralyzing fear-fear, it’s the “faux-fear.”
Here’s the implication on that for your life:
If you start concentrating on sorting out where fear is at work in your life in more subtle ways–this “faux-fear” concept–you’ll actually be doing more for yourself to make long-term, lasting change.
Also, and this is another biggie:
Release the idea that because you aren’t feeling an “acute” sense of fear, there’s nothing there, no work to be done.
The first step to working on “faux-fear”
The first step is the one that so many 12-step groups have adopted: seeing clearly, and acknowledging the truth.
First, you’ve got to see and acknowledge exactly how the fear is showing up in your life. This is why hiring a coach can be so beneficial. No two people have fear showing up in exactly the same ways. I’ve had clients who have fear show up as chronic procrastination and they’re unable to get anything started.
Other clients, by contrast? They’re over-achievers who are chronically overwhelmed and managing their overwhelm. They’re afraid, too, but typically they’re in a place of wanting to logically justify or explain their fears.
(Transparency note: I used to fall into the latter category. I wanted to study and understand my fear, but never actually feel it fully or deal with it. Thank god for meeting Matthew, my brilliant coach-counselor-guru-man, who has helped me to get real about the truth of my experience!).
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Final Note: Like so many of the practices that I offer, this is deceptively simple. It might seem like it’s not dramatic enough, but trust me, that’s just more Fear talking. Our fears know when they’re in danger of being replaced as a default response.