01/10/14 19:00:33

Thinking a Fear All the Way Through

This post was originally written by a friend of mine, Jan Theofel. Some time ago I had a training session with him when he was still developing his coaching skills and needed a test subject. He taught me a therapeutic exercise. Recently I had an occasion where I wanted to use this exercise, but I couldn’t remember the question, which is an essential part of it, that he asked me anymore. So I asked him what that exercise is called. It turned out it’s something he came up with. Therefore I asked if he could share the exercise so that I can remember. He did. I want to share his approach on this blog, with my readers. He agreed that I translate his original posting, which you can find here. This is not a 100% translation though because some sentences didn’t make much sense in the English language. The original is German.

Thinking a Fear All the Way Through

What do you fear? I don’t mean fear of real dangers, like falling off a cliff. I mean fear of situations like beginning a chat with a person, doing your thing, or things like going on a stage. You can imagine a lot more of these things probably. That is all normal, so don’t be worried. Maybe you can go on a journey of discovery, one that will help you to overcome these fears?

It helps to do this exercise with a second person, a person that gives guidance and writes down your words. If you are truly honest with yourself you can do this alone as well. In that case be careful and question when you are taking too huge, and too surprising, steps.

Behind every fear is a horror fantasy. The first goal of this exercise is simple: get to know that fear. The second step is then to decide what to do with it. To get to know a fear ask yourself continuously: “So what’s so bad about it? What bad thing could happen?” Repeat this question so long until you get the feeling you finally found the true horror fantasy. Trust me, you will recognize it when you found it.

An Example of a Fear

Let’s go through a concrete example. A couple of years ago I was sitting across a young woman who was preparing for a job interview. All I wanted, but couldn’t do, was to wish her great success. In short: I feared to talk to her. Let’s go through my horror fantasy. It may sound ridiculous at some point, but I get to that in a moment.

What’s so bad about it? What bad thing could happen?
She doesn’t like that I talked to her.
And then? What’s so bad about it? What bad thing could happen?
She doesn’t like me and tells everybody that I hit on her.
And then? […]
She tells all her friends and they tell everyone they know.
And then? […]
Eventually my friends, colleagues, and business partners will know. And they are going to think what a dick I am.
And then? […]
And then everyone I know won’t have anything to do with me anymore and avoid me.
And then? […]
I panic, because I won’t get any new jobs and I have no money anymore. This will get noticed by my current clients and they start to mistrust me as well.
And then? […]
I won’t get new jobs from them and I’m going to be poor.
And then? […]
Then I lose my flat and can’t keep my living standards. Nobody will have anything to do with me anymore then.
And then? […]
I will be alone. Without contacts I don’t get any sympathy and no money.
And then? […]
I die like a flower, that hasn’t been watered, and die.

This sounds crazy: I’d die because I talk to a young woman. No wonder I had so much fear. This is a life-threatening situation!

In fact all fears I learned to know always have an existential threat behind them. Other examples next to dying are insanity, complete loss of control, or absolute loneliness. These threats are indirect version(s) of dying. Loneliness for example traditionally meant exclusion of the horde, which also lead to death eventually. That is the reason why this fear can become so powerful.

What can I do when I thought a fear all the way through with this method?

Realize Your Insanity

It’s often enough to realize how insane a fear is, using this method, for a fear to weaken or go away completely. In my example I would obviously not die from talking to a young woman.

Finding and Resolving Dogmas

My teacher Christian Meyer also uses this method to find and resolve dogmas. When starting with a fear, often a dogma surfaces. In my example, on the last but two step, this could be something like: only when I have something to offer, will other people like me.
I prefer open alternative sentences like: “I approach people openly and take pot luck, and see if they like me or not, and I’ll accept all emotions this situation creates.“

Five Reasons Why You’re Not Going to Die

Thomas Klüh recommends in his book Mein Weg Zum Glück to find five reason why you’re not going to die. This is helpful as emergency medicine, when a fear surfaces that needs to go quickly. I would recommend to analyze the fear afterwards.

And Then? What Positive Things Could Happen?

Zellmi said in his Barcamp session that to every horror fantasy, he also imagines the dream fantasy, that can be just as crazy as the other. (In my example I could have gotten into a nice chat with the woman and maybe married and got children, or something along those lines.) Once you know the two extremes, it is easier to realize that the reality is somewhere in between.

Maybe you find further varieties of this method. In that case I’d like to know.

It would make really happy if this method helps to confront yourself with one or the other fear and helps to resolve it.