Busting Fear

You’re afraid.

Nothing new about that. Fear is a force that is introduced early in your life. It has a purpose. Fear is given to you to keep you safe. Fear keeps you away from the edge of a cliff. Fear puts you on heightened alert when you’re threatened. A little fear can be a good thing.

But fear has its ugly side. Fear can:

  • paralyze you.
  • prompt you to make irrational decisions.
  • end relationships.
  • turn your life into a hell on earth.

Fear is more than a feeling. It’s a physical and mental state that demands your attention and drains your energy. Fear left unaddressed has another devastating feature — it multiplies inside you and can spread quickly to others nearby.

The bottom-line answer to fear is . . . courage.

flooded school busIf you were asked to visualize courage, you would likely describe images of people who do extraordinary things. A typical movie script would read, “She knew no fear. Calmly walking into the churning waters, she knew what she had to do to save the 38 children on the disabled school bus.” After the movie, you would remember her brilliance, her strength, and her resolve. But those things, while truly great, aren’t indicators of her courage.

Courage is the ability to conquer fear.

Courage manifests itself in an instant. Courage appears on the big screen when your hero, in the face of danger and tremendous odds, decides to do something. Interviews with real-life heroes rarely reveal that they knew exactly what to do in that moment — only that they needed to do something. And that something didn’t have to be anything particularly grand, just helpful.

Most of us aren’t faced with flood waters and schoolchildren in peril every day. Instead, we confront fears that stem from our fears of failure, success, and loss.

So, when you’re afraid and it’s time to do something, what do you do?

  1. Label your fear. Ask yourself, what am I afraid of? This doesn’t require a self-psychoanalytical session. Identify the source of your fear. This is not where you take action. Just make certain you know what you fear.
  2. Explore possible outcomes. What is likely to occur if your fear is realized? Counselors tell us that most people conjure up dire results that have very little chance of happening.
  3. Consider the possibilities of your next step. What can you do in this moment that would be helpful? Perhaps all you need to do is ask questions and get a better understanding. Maybe you need to run back into the burning building. Sometimes you simply need to take a deep breath and wait until the threat becomes more clear. Whatever you do, your next step must be helpful.
  4. Weigh the costs. Fear can stem from a true danger that is often associated with a possibility of loss. Loss of life and limb. Loss of a friend. Loss of an opportunity. Before moving forward, balance the potential success of your next step against those dangers.
  5. Take positive action. This one is a little deceiving. Sometimes the best positive action is waiting. Occasionally, avoidance is the appropriate reaction to something that surfaces fear. Most often, the next step is something rather ordinary that may appear extraordinary in the presence of fear.

Fear is an essential part of your survival system. Certainly you should take notice when you feel fear. But fear was never intended to rule your life.

Deal with your fears. Find courage in taking the next step.

Remember, you were divinely designed with the innate ability to make decisions and exercise your free will. Don’t let fear take that away from you.

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Afraid to Talk

Photo Credit: Creative Commons/such a beautiful disaster

Photo Credit: Creative Commons/such a beautiful disaster

She raised her hand, signaling him to stop.

As she walked — almost ran — from the room, her throat was filled with all the things she would like to say. Minutes later, her mind was jammed tight with all the things she should have said. Glancing back, she knew he was still there. Sitting at that table. Perhaps angry. Maybe a bit bewildered.

She knew that she needed to return to the conversation. Her opportunity was fading. But she couldn’t turn around.

She was afraid.

Fear is one of our primary motivators. It can spur us to full speed in a matter of seconds. Or fear can bring us to a dead stop in an instant.

Fear is an integral part of our protective system. Much of our fear is triggered subconsciously — automatic responses to perceived threats. In close physical conflict, combatants do little strategizing about what comes next. Yet, the brain is alive as it processes incoming messages from the senses. Fear serves us well as we pursue that important goal of survival.

But what role does fear play in non-physical conflicts which, for most of us, comprise the largest portion of our conflict menu?

Photo Credit: Creative Commons/Mark van Laere

Photo Credit: Creative Commons/Mark van Laere

Unfortunately, the conscious consideration of our fears most often results
in two responses. The first is paralysis. We become overwhelmed with the “What if?” Our fear is not only about the initial perceived threat, but all of the potential harms that might result — both real and imagined. Our brains are overloaded with the possibilities for action. Yet, the chief solution to this often panic-filled moment? Do nothing.

The second response is more worrisome and, thus, creates additional fear. Often when frightened, an individual will choose a course of action without fully discerning the possible outcomes.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. I was just angry.”

Angry, perhaps. But underlying other emotions, fear is often the culprit that triggers an action or reaction that we come to regret. Through fear, we find ourselves heading down a precarious path.

The primary reason for our avoidance of conversation or our harmful response is the fear that we will be pressured to change our positions or directions. The fear of change is often irrational. In many cases, change is not inevitable — at least not without everyone understanding and accepting the consequences it brings.

In a future post, I’ll present a game plan that can reduce or eliminate that fear for you, your friends, and even those who oppose you.

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The Third C – Community

“Do you see what I mean?” he asked. The frustration in his eyes was giving way to anger.

“We had this all worked out,” he said. “We had a plan. I agreed to give in to most of her demands. In turn, she agreed to be more supportive around the other employees. After the last mediation, everything went great — until yesterday. I’m met at the front door by my assistant with the news that she was chewing out the workers and bad-mouthing the company. I knew I should have fired her before.”

“Why didn’t you?” I asked. I already knew the reason. It had been the key to the agreement we had reached in this very room just a couple of weeks earlier.

“I don’t know,” he answered slowly. “I guess because she’s really talented, she’s capable of superior work, and . . .” His voice trailed off.

“And?”

“And because we were friends before things started blowing up,” he finished.

“So what do you want now?” I asked. “What do you want things to look like?”

He sat quietly, looking at his hands gripping the edge of the table. He started to speak, but then cleared his throat instead.

“Mainly,” he said, “I just want to be friends again.”

“Do you know why she started acting differently yesterday?” I probed.

“No, I was so mad that I could barely make the call to you to see if we could get back into mediation,” he answered. “I suppose you’re going to suggest that I ask her?”

I nodded.

In a few moments, the two of them were back at my mediation table and he asked that very question. Reluctant at first, eventually she let go and the words flooded out. A poor personal decision, unwanted consequences, and then a loss of control. Her personal time bomb just happened to detonate when she reached work.

“So, that scene at work wasn’t related to me or the company?” he asked.

She shook her head “no” and looked down.

At that, I saw him pull his chair closer to the table and lean toward her.

“Let’s talk about it,” he said.

In that short exchange, I realized I was seeing the third C, “Community,” in action.

3Cs.079Previously I’ve pointed out that the key to dealing with conflict in almost any setting is a commitment to the Three Cs – Communication, Conversation, and Community.

The first two are essential. Through Communication, information flows, people begin to define their positions, and opportunities slowly emerge. Through Conversation, individuals purposefully seek to understand someone and willingly explore and embrace differences. A great deal of trust is generated and with that trust, people find room — space — to deal with their conflict.

But flowing out of Communication and Conversation is a third force that melds individuals together.

COMMUNITY is the shared moment of love and respect that fuels further communication and conversation.

Community is where we remember why peace and unity is important. Community is where we see opportunity emerge from Communication. Community is where we see trust billow into loyalty and love . . . and the desire to pursue further collaboration and relationship.

Community is the place we find the strength and perseverance to come back for one more conversation.

Without my further intervention, the two parties at my mediation talked. This time, it was about more than the workplace. This time, a heartfelt closeness was experienced between friends. Out of the conversation came new resolve on many levels.

From the Three Cs, flowed peace.

S-b Logo.001A commitment to Communication, Conversation, and Community always leads to hard work. Yet, faithfully followed, the path of the Three Cs always leads to a working peace.

You can be an integral guide on that path. We hope you’ll join us  as we unveil our Better Understanding Project.

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No Words

I stood in the line of family and friends, making small-talk and inching slowly forward. When my moment came, I hugged her.

“I am so sorry,” I said. “I have no words to express what I’m feeling right now.”

She nods, smiles fleetingly, and swallows hard. The line presses in behind me and I move on.

Despite the hollow feeling that the “no words” line was hardly sufficient to mark the end of a life, I walked away feeling that the world is perhaps grateful for my occasional silence. Sometimes, finding no words is a blessing.

Just last night I was in a meeting designed to allow people to share their thoughts and feeling. I appreciated so much those words that were shared. I needed the encouragement and the hope. But I also appreciated those in that circle who simply said, “Thanks, but I just need to listen tonight.”

Photo Credit: Creative Commons/mikebaird

Photo Credit: Creative Commons/mikebaird

Today, as I think about friends whose lives are anything but peaceful, I wonder if they might be blessed only with presence. And, if so, what ends I might employ to simply be there.

Words can be soothing. Words can be instructive. Words can be life-saving. But being there drowns out all words.