Fear has the gravity of a black hole

Fear Has the Gravity of a Black Hole

Yesterday I wrote to you with a new Coaching With Gloria video about how you get to choose whether you live in a competitive world or a collaborative world. But it’s not only your beliefs about the competitive/collaborative nature of the world that you get to choose and then create by the way you show up, but it’s also way more than that. Two other huge reality markers that you get to choose and create are fear v. presence and scarcity v. abundance.

There is nothing more fundamentally “alive” than fear. All sentient beings have fear, even the single-cell organism in the petri dish will pull away from sudden bright light. And, the more complicated the brain involved the sneakier fear becomes; by the time you get to human beings (Oh, ye of the prefrontal cortex, most complicated brain structure on the planet) fear can show up in literally any costume. Here are some of fear’s favorite characters:

  • Right in the middle of the best sales call of your life and become suddenly consumed by worry that your potential client will say “No”? Meet Self Sabotage!
  • Finally get a little time to relax and can’t sit still or settle your mind? Introducing The Fret!
  • Make a little money and feel, if anything, more worried about cash? Enter the Scarcity Mist!
  • Start writing the long-form project you’ve dreamed about and two weeks in begin to freak out about how you’ll handle time-suck of travel during the book tour, how someone has already written this book, and how you’ll be so old when it finally gets done? You’re intimately familiar with Hurry!
  • Get an unbelievable lucky break but turn it down because your family needs you and there simply isn’t time? Here’s one of my favorite fear characters, Guilt!”

But these are somewhat subtle compared to the way fear is showing up right now:

  • Quarantined with your family during a global health pandemic while our economy goes into free fall? Meet COVID-19!

Given how disruptive fear’s more subtle pseudonyms are (like hurry, worry, and guilt), it’s 100% natural that we feel downright pursued by fear during this time. And if we lean into it, even a little, we can be overwhelmed by it and carried away. I log in to the New York Times App just to “check the pulse of the nation” and before I know it, I’m posting and commenting and researching and double-checking, off an on for HOURS, only later realizing that another day has passed and I haven’t made any progress on my book.

That’s one of MY stories of being drawn by the black hole magnetism of fear. It’s natural… and its important that I not beat myself up about it. It’s equally important that I recognize that behavior for what it is: a FEAR response.

It’s not always true that obsessively tracking the coronavirus is only a fear response- if I was a policymaker or a journalist that would be different, I’d need to know every detail that was available.

But I’m not.

I’m a professor, so it’s my job to know my university’s policies and supports, and then teach my students to the best of my ability online. It’s not my job to monitor exactly how many N95 masks are available on Amazon.

And I’m a coach for coaches and therapists, so while I will think deeply about how the coronavirus will change how people will decide to get the help they need.. there’s no need for me to engage in an intense online conversation about how much social distancing is enough social distancing. When I wake up and realize that I’m fully outside of my lane, I know that fear has carried me away.

Fear is sneaky: it feels rational and so easy to justify. You can live in fear and no one will judge you. Especially not me! But just know that fear will steal your joy, compromise your progress, and convince you that there was no other way.

But that is not true. You can manage yourself (your time, your mind, and your exposure) and experience far less fear than you do now.

That’s 100% true.

But you have to choose it.

And right now, as a tsunami of entirely justifiable fear sits ready to carry you away at any moment, is the time to start. Starting tomorrow and through Friday I’m going to share the three things I’ve learned about fear that help me minimize its impact and stay intentional:

  • Tomorrow we will talk about how fear will draw you in at 10x the power of hope, beauty, and opportunity and what to do about that.
  • Thursday we will talk about how the opposite of fear is not a lack of fo fear, the opposite of fear is presence in the present.
  • Friday we will discuss how to seek joy without guilt, and how to be a force for sanity and peace at a time when the world sorely needs it.

More tomorrow,

About the Author Amanda

Amanda Crowell, PhD is a cognitive psychologist obsessed with how people make change. She is best known for translating cutting edge research into practical strategies that can be used right away.

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