Without going into detail, over the past six years, I have had several moments of ice cold, pit of the stomach, gut wrenching fear. I have laid awake at night, afraid of what might come next. It is a debilitating place to be and I sympathize with anyone who is there. It is a lonely, difficult mental state of mind, hard to get out of and harrowing to stay in.
I sought out the help of a professional and had a few, very liberating talks with her. The help of a professional is very valuable and I recommend seeking them out. What I would like to share today is how she helped me move on and cope the the uncertainty I was facing at the time. Interestingly, my therapy almost read like a chapter from David Allen’s Getting Things Done.I had been following this book’s ideas for several years at this point, so it was familiar for me to recognize and implement her advice.
Fear, for me, is usually tied to events that have happened and point toward something very bad that I hope does not happen. Given my active imagination, I can conjure up some pretty terrible things. However, in the situations where I get the ice cold hand squeezing my stomach, the consequences are very real and terrifyingly possible.
The therapy prescribed involved:
- Talking about what I feared coming true,
- What things could make it actually happen and
- Make a list of the things I did have control over that could reduce the chance of it happening.
I discovered that when I talked about the things I feared with someone, the fears diminished in size, almost like a monster in the closet when the lights are turned on. Suddenly, they weren’t quite as big and bad as I had imagined them. Verbally painting them helped me put them into perspective and see my situation more clearly.
Next, I spent time defining the events that would have to happen for the ultimate fear to come true. This served two purposes at least. First, I was able to see the probability of the events. Usually, my imagination had blown them out of proportion. A fair analysis in the light of day was very helpful. Second, I had a list of milestones to watch for. If they didn’t happen, I was able to see that the road was heading in a different direction, to a different conclusion. If they did happen, the advance warning gave me time to implement the next step: action items.
Once the fears were exposed and defined, I could then make lists of actions I could do to deflect the path of the oncoming fear. By focusing on what I did have control over, I was able to reduce the negative energy I was creating around those evens I couldn’t control. This was perhaps the most valuable step for me, since I have always been happier when I have a list of things to do. I would lose myself in the work I could control and the rest would take care of themselves. In the meantime, the fears would continue to reduce to a size I could handle and dismiss as risks to be mitigated.
This isn’t easy, especially the first two steps, but it is worth it! Don’t let fear consume you. Face it, expose it for what it is and do the tasks within control. It may still come true, but you will be much better prepared mentally and physically to deal with it. Good luck.