how “faux fear” might be fauxing up your life

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:

  • Doubt, second-guessing.
  • Persistent hesitation.
  • Over-work, over-commitment.
  • Boredom.
  • Chronic forgetting.
  • Chronic procrastination.
  • Sarcasm, especially as it relates to the possibility of change (i.e., “Don’t be so sappy!” 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.

 

You can also be sure that 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.)

 

Why “faux”?

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, while other clients have a million to-do lists (and they get overwhelmed trying to manage their overwhelm).

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.

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The 2012 Recap

2012 brought with it a number of revelations and revolutions, moments of WTF?!? and moments of fully-owned joy. In summation (and nothing close to the actual order of events) this year…

First, the biggies: I was diagnosed with an auto-immune condition, had my first launch that wasn’t just awesome, but mind-blowingly awesome, and rounded out the year by getting married after a whirlwind 10-week engagement.

* * *

I started to lead marketing seminars for a fancy-pants coaching training institution, upped my running mileage, was nominated to lead a breakout session at the World Domination Summit, and ran a half-marathon–followed by getting a stress fracture when I upped my mileage too fast, and then having to wear a none-too-sexy walking boot to said World Domination Summit.

* * *

But I did finish the 13.1, I try to remind myself–the longest I’d ever run. It was one of those transcendent running experiences, the kind where there I was completely in the zone.

* * *

I spent exactly one semester in graduate school pursuing my MFT license, before deciding it wasn’t worth my time. This isn’t to say that therapists don’t do great work, so much as it was to say that I didn’t want to sit through weekly four-hour seminars of power point presentations copied and pasted directly from the assigned textbook reading, 3-4 classes a week, for two years, followed by licensing exams and clinical hours, all to basically work with the same population I’m already working with.

* * *

I helped to co-create a mastermind group, created and lead my first group coaching experiences and tele-seminars, and then updated The Coaching Blueprint. I didn’t update The Courageous Living Program with new material, but I did change the font in a fit of desire for a better aesthetic. This is far bigger a job than you’d think.

* * *

I finally owned my obsessiveness with endurance events, and let myself have what I had wanted: subscriptions to BOTH Runner’s World and Running Times, plus a subscription to Triathlete Magazine, plus stealing Andy’s copy of Outdoor magazine, most months.

I re-read Born to Run for the fifth time, for good measure, and Running Ultra by Rich Roll (twice). I got into swimming and cycling after the stress fracture incident, and then started reading You Are An Ironman by Jacques Steinberg–which got me to thinking about how bad-ass it would be to complete a 70.3.

The morning registration went live, I was at the computer early to get my spot–and I’m in! I later learned that the 2,300-person event sold out in 10 minutes, and had a wait-list of 800 within an hour.

When I told Julie Daley what I’m doing, she started to giggle (yes, giggle) and said: “I can’t believe 2,300 people want to do that.”

* *

Many months prior to getting engaged, I have a revelation with my partner: that some of the patterns at work in our relationship are not, in fact, always 50/50. Sometimes they are more like 90/10, with me causing most of the ruckus.

This awareness leads to a gut-wrenching apology (to him) from my soul, which I imagine is strongly correlated with what happened a few months later: his proposal to get married (delivered on one knee, out in wine country, at sunset), and an enthusiasm for the idea of just jumping the gun and getting married rather than waiting it out with a long engagement.

This is followed by an even better sex life.

In the words of Charlie Sheen: “WIN-ning!”

* *

I ditch gluten and dairy, and feel better, and then I get onto Armour thyroid medication and really-really-really start to feel better.

I discover Maca powder, which makes me think of Fozzie the Bear from The Muppets–how he says “Wakka wakka wakka!”–so I begin saying this to myself (“Maca maca maca!”) in the same voice when making my morning cacao smoothie, adding one tablespoon of maca.

* * *

Tara Gentile tells me: “You don’t want customers that you have to convince to trust you.”

Revolutionary.

This sparks a massive re-write of most of my website, as I realize that with all the shlock on the internet, I’ve been selling my wares on the basis of wanting everyone to know that this isn’t just more shlock on the internet–but if someone doesn’t already trust that I’m a shlock-free zone, it’s probably for the best that they go elsewhere.

* * *

While reviewing my test results for the auto-immune condition, I run across three little letters that are unfamiliar, that the doctor hadn’t explained to me because we were so busy looking at all the rest: FSH. What’s that test for? I do some googling (note: almost never a good idea).

My breath catches as I learn more. My number is not good. So, I get re-tested, plus a whole panel of other tests. My FSH is now twice as bad, just a few months later.

A certain demographic of my readers already know what those three little letters stand for, and their hearts are breaking for me, right here and right now. We are part of a “club” that you never want to be a part of.

The gynecologist delivers the news in her office, and as I start to cry uncontrollably, my voice is unfamiliar with the way it pleads, every question asked with the begging intonation of a hoped-for answer.

She sets up the referral for the fertility clinic via her in-office computer, while I cry and wipe at my eyes and look at all the photographs on her wall of the babies she has delivered. Her tone is apologetic yet professional, and even in my shock and grief I can see how much she truly wishes that she could help me, could give me a prescription that would fix everything. But my numbers indicate that I am past that point.

I leave her office thinking, dramatically, that the sun is shining a little too brightly for how devastated I feel.

I spend some time feeling completely betrayed by my body and wondering if there were really THIS MANY pregnant women all around me, walking the streets this whole time, or if I just notice more, now (of course, it’s the latter). In my darkest moments I wonder if this is some universe/god thing, like I would be this really terrible mother and that’s why this is happening, why my ovaries are… “failing.” Prematurely.

Then I figure out that I can do this: love my way right through personal tragedy , and I know this truth like I know nothing else:

Only someone who would be a really amazing mother would be willing to love that big.

So, I’m okay. And–parenthood will come when it comes, in the form that it comes. **Special Note at the bottom

* * *

I luck out and am paired up with six awesome interns for my Blueprint launch. Couldn’t have done it without them.

I end up realizing that after all these years of being skeptical about Virtual Assistants, it’s time to hire one. Also, it’s time to start taking Mondays and Fridays off of work–my quality of life immediately improves.

Taking Mondays and Fridays off of work, it hits me hard that really, I just want to write. It’s always about writing, all the time, and I’m stunned a bit as I realize that–DUH–it’s been this way for years, and most of the tension in my life is due to prioritizing anything else. I declare sovereignty over my time, again, by rearranging my calendar.

And from there, everything else blows wide open.

I feel in touch with a confidence, a bad-assery that I had never been able to quite harness, before. I realize that I am more committed to living life my way than I can ever remember being, and that’s truly saying something because I’ve ALWAYS been pretty committed to living life, my way.

I realize that I want (even more) fun; I want (even more) joy.

(Is this allowed? YES, I decide.)

I want to write more, to finally get fluent in Italian, to do a few Tough Mudder races once this half-Ironman is under my belt. I want to learn how to cook and throw a dinner party for friends where all the recipes come from an Alice Waters cookbook.

I want to finish my book proposal and get it in the hands of an agent, and then I want it to go far and wide because the world needs a revolution around fear. Times call for courage now, like no other.

I want to travel around the United States and get out from behind the computer screen, and meet people, and have tea with them and hear one another’s stories. I want to love my new husband even more, if that’s possible (I am already quite sure it is, and feel blown open by the simple curiosity that courses through me–there is a freshness and newness that comes from being curious. Who are we, now? It’s exciting to rediscover him as “husband” and to ask what that means).

I desire so much more than I have wanted in years past, but this year there is a kind of confidence as backbone to the desire.

It’s a confidence that the exact right things will happen, even if they aren’t anything I’ve articulated here.

Also–a reminder, of course, since I already know this–the things that have happened were the exact right things to have happened, too.

And with this, I can declare completion for 2012–with love, and with total surrender.

** In service to practicing healthy boundaries: While I appreciate that people might want to offer support, connection, or helpful insights/info, please do not contact me in any way regarding the content of fertility, adoption, motherhood or related topics, at this time. It’s too tender, and not something I feel open to discussing–but please do know that I am okay, and have a lot of support and love and care in my life as I navigate this.

 

Conscious Crying

When I’m interviewed about courage (or anything else), it’s common for the interviewer to ask about any particular tips, tools, tricks, or advice that I have for how someone can…practice more courage. Feel more fulfilled. Experience more joy.

This is a delicate question to answer. There is no one tip or trick, that applies to all people, everywhere, of course. I typically end up answering with whatever seems to be the particular “thing” that I’ve been jiving with, lately, knowing that they really all seem to feed into the larger whole.

It’s never incorrect to say, one day, that “presence” is the practice, or to say on another day that “seeking laughter and joy” is the tool to use, because they all feed into the practices of attending to life and living in a conscious way.

But lately, the tool that I’ve been sharing most, is this one: crying.

Confession: I actually cry, quite a lot.

Most people’s misunderstandings and stereotypes about crying can jump into effect when I say this. If you cry quite a lot, does this mean that you’re not happy? We’re a culture that often equates crying with weakness.

But what I mean by saying that I cry is this: I cry, consciously. I cry with intention. I cry as a form of connecting to my joy. I cry as a way of opening my heart. I cry as a path to liberation from what would otherwise be bottled-up feelings within me, feelings that would otherwise stifle the creative impulse.

Crying, as a practice, is one of the most lusciously, fully-alive experiences for me.

Where I used to associated crying with victimization, I now associate it with freedom and liberation, of the highest order.

 

Crying As a Practice

Before this, I used to hate crying–within myself, or seeing anyone else. I felt condescension towards people who cried, precisely because I hadn’t yet reconciled the ability within myself. It was positively Freudian–Defense Mechanisms, all of that.

But then I started doing this really powerful, heart-opening work, and as part of that work, I was asked to cry–whenever and wherever it came up. I was invited to make it conscious, as part of a path to healing.

My first fear was that instead of crying consciously, I would becoming a “disgusting, wallowing vat of despair.” (That would be an exact quote from my inner critic).

I judged crying as being about “drama” and “attention-seeking.” I intensely disliked the discomfort I felt when others cried and I sensed that their tears were about trying to manipulate me into feeling guilty, so that they could get the result they wanted.

If that’s your context for crying, too? You feel me. And yes, there are people who use crying in this way, and it’s not responsible–but that’s not what I’m referring to, here.

To move beyond these internal judgments, I just had to…cry. “No way around, but through,” Robert Frost says, and I agree.

I needed to be conscious about crying, to take it on as a spiritual and personal growth practice.

 

How to Practice Crying

Mostly, I needed to notice that little second where something within me would tell me not to cry, and just not follow that impulse.

  • When a sad moment happened in a movie, I needed to notice the impulse to fight it and keep calm, and I needed to cry.
  • When a friend hugged me or said something I had desperately needed to hear, I needed to notice the impulse to fight it and keep calm–I needed to cry. (Yes. In front of someone else).
  • I needed to go to powerful, life-changing workshops where no one would care whether or not I cried.
  • I needed to book more sessions with my “counselor/coach/guru-man,” Matthew, and there I would need to cry.
  • When devastating news occurred, I just needed to…cry. Right there, or wherever I was, or in the nearest restroom if necessary.

 

This practice of crying on the regular evolved until I would start actually “making” myself cry.

In order to heal and forgive things that had happened in my past, I would find time each day to sit down and think of them in a deliberate way, until I was good and worked up about them–and then I would (on purpose) do the crying over those hurts and wounds that I had not really been allowed to have, at the time.

This was immensely healing.

If I knew that I was holding a lot of space for others, juggling a lot on my to-do list, and otherwise feeling overwhelmed, I could make myself cry–listen to a song that always did the trick, or 9/11 footage, or something devastating.

The crying would connect me back to myself, to my humanity. The release I’d feel afterwards was of the kind that no person, no self-helpy book, and no external circumstances could provide.

When we cry consciously, with the intent to release that which is pent-up, and with the intent to express our truest emotions, the crying is catharsis. It’s bliss.

 

Fast-Forward to Today

I make a point of crying, as needed. I cry when I’m moved to my core. I cry when I hear about generous deeds. I cry when I watch the documentary, I Am. I cry when I’m on the phone with Tanya Geisler and she delivers just one perfect sentence, oh-so-casually, where I realize just how clearly she sees me and it feels so damned good to be so truly seen.

I cry when I hear about the tragedy of Newtown, CT, because if I weren’t crying all of that grief and shock and anger would stay stuck within me, rotting.

Crying is one of the healthiest presence practices I’ve adopted.

If you’ve been holding your tears back, especially if you’ve done it for awhile, I can’t help but entreat you to try conscious crying.

A quiet room, 20 minutes. Cry it out, on purpose.

Try that on as a meditation for one week, and you will emancipate your soul–I promise.