Working directly with our own FEAR

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Life is full of opportunities and challenges. Fear can limit us in both. We can learn to work skillfully and compassionately with our own fear through directly engaging our fearful thinking with inquiry. From a place of more clear relationship to our own fear, we can act more clearly and wisely, and can also access more learning, growth and connection right in the thick of what scares us.

What do we do with our fear?

People say “Be Fearless!” and I have noticed that is much easier said than done. It is also not always helpful to repress our fears, or to hold our breath, close our eyes and push through it (the “Just DO IT” approach) which sometimes works to get us over an initial hesitation, and other times lands us in stressful territory without our full capacity available because we are still struggling with our fear and stressful thoughts. A fearful mind is not very open and creative and adrenaline only gets us so far.

I have found the practice of The Work to be profoundly helpful in working with the fears that hold me back in all areas of my life. Both in my personal relationships and also it has enabled me to step in to offer myself and my professional work in places I would formerly not even imagined stepping into. It has been very powerful also in my coaching work with leaders, performers, parents... we all experience it, and the patterns of how it can limit us are far reaching. We fear conflict, uncertainty, disconnection, blame, our own competence, judgement from others, pain, disaster, failure (and success..) and even fear our own fear a lot of the time.

The fear of fear often stops us from really engaging with our own fear, learning from it, untangling it... The process of The Work - identifying what we are believing (and are triggered by) and then using the powerful questions to really inquire allows us to have a much more clear and intimate relationship with our own fearful thinking. To know it, but not be ruled by it. When I “Work” my fears, I find it makes me smarter, more compassionate, more agile in my thinking, and helps me deal with what is in front of me clearly and with the appropriate amount of energy. If what I am afraid of happens then I am available to deal with it in a clear way if and when it happens, rather than scaring myself and wearing myself out imagining all the possible terrible outcomes.

Many of us have a deep underlying belief that we need to be afraid. That it keeps us safe. That rehearsing the worst possible outcomes in our minds ahead of time (over and over...) will somehow prepare us, will make it easier, that we will suffer less.


Can you absolutely know it is true you NEED to be afraid? That it actually helps you?
What if that is not true? What if we don’t need fear in order to be alert and intelligent? In my own many years of inquiry around fear - from swimming with sharks to raising teenagers to facilitating challenging meetings with high conflict - I have found it turns out not to be true.

I am not against fear, and I do still experience it. I just find I don’t actually need it, and that the cost of running from it and staying caught in it is very high, in my effectiveness and my well being. And I find that when I work with it using the powerful inquiry practice of The Work, rather than react to it or repress it, I am a happier, more effective person with more options.
What are the fears that are causing you stress, using up your valuable resources and just might be limiting you?

Check it out for yourself with The Work by writing them down and inquiring.

Beyond the Basics in Europe

Hosting ourselves, each other, our work in the world

I was invited by some amazing European colleagues and had the privilege of co-hosting a 3 day intensive training with 95 leaders and change-makers from more than 17 European countries this July. As always, it is as much an opportunity for me to learn and meet amazing people as share some of my offerings.

Alongside great conversation, explorations of complexity, power, approaches to working on challenging, complex problems over the long term, we took a morning to dive into the crucial area of hosting ourselves in the form of working with our own stuck places, fears and patterns.

In order to be able to fully step into the challenges we are facing - both the large scale, deeply complex issues like transforming our financial system, or poverty, or racism...and the seemingly smaller but sometimes also challenging areas of how we collaborate and work through our differences in our teams, families and communities - we need rigorous and compassionate personal practice to allow us not just to move through the places we get triggered or stuck, but to actually fully engage the learning that is available at that threshold.

It is always a powerful experience to sit in a circle of our colleagues and make visible the often hidden territory of our own shadowed thinking, and to hear the patterns and shared places we get stuck. It is a first, valuable step in bringing these patterns to light where we can work with them - individually and collectively. Noticing the patterns of belief about our own value or our own capacity to show up and do the work (“I don’t have enough experience”); our judgements and assumptions about other people or groups of people (“They don’t get it” “They can’t be trusted”); our fears of what will happen (“it will fail” “I will lose my job” “people will get hurt”), and also the big fears that can immobilize us (“it is too late” “the problems are too big”.)

And it is not enough just to see and hear the beliefs and patterns that are holding us back. We need to engage deeply and skillfully with them so that we can learn what we need to learn for our own evolution, and to allow for the evolution of our work in the world to come from new ways of thinking.

Ongoing good work to be doing together. And a powerful, wonderful and engaging 3 days with our European colleagues and friends at Art of Hosting, Beyond the Basics Europe.