Fear, it can feel so debilitating or overwhelming, creating avoidance in our lives. There are times when fear and avoidance is good. It keeps us from getting hurt in some way (e.g., stepping in front of a moving vehicle), physically or mentally. And then there are those situations when avoidance can be debilitating and we need to do the thing we are afraid anyway.
(I create these blog post on a regular basis and you can get them delivered to your inbox without lifting a finger! Add your name and email address in the fields to the left and get my post delivered for free!)
Take for example a conflict at work or in your family. Someone has spoken something to a third party that is either not true or negative, without benefit to anyone and likely hurtful consequences to someone. Addressing a situation like this could be very scary for some people. In other words, addressing conflict=BAD. And yet, leaving this situation unaddressed is very likely more hurtful to everyone involved. It is negative and only lowers the energy of those that are affected and even beyond.
Stepping up and facing into our fears (versus avoiding) in these situations can turn the fear into positive influence, such as re-establishing integrity, building trust, reducing negative influences and developing the courage to take of ourselves. There are many other examples we could mention in the home or at work. It is about facing into the fear that is tide to doing what is right, not what is easy.
Here are 5 steps to make it easier to address situations you may be avoiding.
1. Stop and be willing to acknowledge and be in integrity with your fear.
2. Look to see if you have made up a story about the situation that is making the fear bigger than it needs to be (e.g., she will just turn me down if I ask her out…I am not good enough for her…she is so much better looking than me, etc., etc.,).
3. Now remove the story from the situation. Look at the facts of the situation.
4. Ask yourself how might I feel about myself if I don’t step into and through my fear. If you are honest you will see you would likely feel less confident, less secure, less than, etc.
5. Now ask yourself how you might feel if you do step into your fear and this situation. Again, if you are honest with yourself you will acknowledge that you might feel more self respect, more confident, more capable, etc.
Although this is not a step, it is one of the most important things I can share with you regarding this process. There is no failure.
Regardless of what you choose to do, it is only information. Do it, don’t do it, do it and it feels hard or gets messy. These are all outcomes that we can learn from – versus judging ourselves as good or bad. Keep this in mind, it is a powerful principle in life’s journey.
Take a minute and sign up to get these post delivered to you FREE. Just fill in the fields to the left of this post!
Enjoy Achieving Goals by Releasing Attachment. When I first came across this idea I was in a bit of disbelief. In my mind, you set a goal and then you pull out all the stops to achieve it. It may cause pain, it may even cost you relationships – but if you are worth your salt you achieve your goals.
I would talk to my one time mentor about this pain I had in my chest. I felt run down, sad and depressed. I was achieving plenty in my life and, at the same time feeling empty. The analogy he gave me was that a bow needs to be unstrung periodically or it will loose it’s potency. It will have nothing left to give.
What I came to see is that I held goals as things “I had to achieve”. I had become so attached to them that they defined me, my happiness and sense of self. It was not a choice, but a must. I needed them, had to have them, should be achieving them or – I FAILED.
What I want you to get, you can have a goal and pursue it with all the same zest but without the possessiveness. Set your goals and let them go. Follow your intuition and do those things that you feel in the moment will move you the most in the direction of your goals (but without the stick that says I am so attached to achieving this goal I will need to flog myself if I don’t achieve it).
Allow their to be flow, the natural up and down movement forward of the waves in the ocean. If you find yourself stopped in the movement of your goal it might be time to move on to things that do inspire you.
Does this concept make sense to you? Have you held goals in a similar or different way? What is your story?
Some suggest that conflict is inevitable. I personally cannot agree or deny that idea.
What I have seen in others and experienced personally, is that speaking our truth – wants, needs, likes, dislikes and feelings about ourselves (versus others) goes a long way toward naturally dissolving what might have otherwise appeared as a irresolvable conflict.
Trying to maintain control might look like: You are always working or spending time with your friends. (The focus is on the other person.)
Letting go of control might look like: I like to spend time with you. I want to watch a moving with you this weekend. (The focus is on the speaker.)
If speaking our truth can be so effective in resolving conflict why don't we speak it? Because it means we must let go of our perceived control of the situation or outcome of the situation. Although it may be exactly what really needs to happen we are reluctant to let go of the known and step into the unknown. And yet, there is a powerful aliveness in letting go of the known.
Do you want richer, more satisfying and loving relationships? Let go of what you perceive to be control and safety and step into speaking the truth about you.
I can sell them on my ideas but am I all talk with no substance. I think too highly of my capabilities so it is bound to fall apart. Ouch. Not a real pick-me-up dialog with one's self in the morning. And yet this type of self talk can be so old, subtle and unconscious we do not even realize we are saying it to ourselves.
Do you know what is so intriguing to me about this self talk? We have chosen it and we continue to choose to keep it going. How?
Our negative self talk comes from our beliefs. If you did not believe what you tell yourself why would you continue to repeat it?
So how do we change our beliefs? First, by owning that it is our belief – no matter how we came to develop the belief, it is ours. No one can force us to create or keep a belief.
And second, by challenging the validity of our beliefs. If your beliefs are punishing you, don't you owe it to yourself to challenge the validity of them?
A mentor of mine once told me that I needed community. I had no clue what he was talking about. I might have even went as far as to say I don't need anyone. I once prided myself on my "I can go it alone", "I'll do it myself", "I don't need any help", etc. Somewhere along the line I developed the story that it was better to go it alone.
Not too long after my mentor suggested I needed community I learned what he meant. In the course of 6 months I started a new career and moved away from a community of friends that I had developed deep bonds. With so much change in my life and so little in the way of supportive relationships, I went from feeling like I could conquer anything to feeling practically helpless. I went from having rich connection and support in my life to feeling like I was swimming in the ocean alone.
There is power in connection, in relationships, in community. They ground us. Our relationships can support us powerfully when we are climbing to that next peak or falling down a slope.
Do you want to make something happen in the world, in your life – connect, develop and cultivate relationships and communities that support you, that enrich your life.
The relationships that made the most profound impact on my life where not always the most comfortable. I sought out individuals that I could respect and trust to see me clearly. I want people in my life that want the best for me and who care enough about me to hold the bar up when I am unable or unwilling to do so myself. Love comes in many forms, tender and strong.
Anger does not need to be aggressive or hostile. In fact, aggressive anger is more likely to create separation, division and pain. The assertive expression of anger on the other hand, holds the prospect of bringing people together, creating positive change and drawing healthy boundaries.
Not everyone will respond positively to either hostile or assertive anger. And we should not try to control others reactions. In fact, in expressing anger in any form we cannot hold onto a given outcome. When we need someone to respond in a specific way we are trying to manipulate or control them.
When we let others react without expectation we are more likely to stay clear as to what we want or don’t want. Staying clear allows us to dynamically work through the situation or make decisions that change the situation to create what we want or don’t want.
One approach to expressing assertive anger can look like this:
1. When this happened (action/inaction/behavior/)
2. I felt ….. (mad, sad, angry, excited, happy, tender)
3. Because… (the impact or effect of the action/inaction/behavior)
4. My judgment (or story) about the situation is…
5. What I want (or don’t want) is….
Notice in this approach the focus of attention is placed on behavior, impact and me (using I statements). People are more likely to get defensive when we make the situation about them personally.
As you take this type of approach to expressing anger you increase the odds you will create a healthy outcome for you and those involved.
I am designing a online 12 week training program that will support individuals in expressing and responding to anger in a constructive way. If you interested contact me at ted (at) pivotalgrowth.com.
Understanding and recognizing the signs of anger has been a focus of mine for a long time. Early on some of the causes of anger were elusive, at times unexpected and it seemed to show up for no good reason. Over time I came to see many of the patterns that can trigger anger in us.
One of the triggers of anger that I have come to recognize is fear. Not everyone responds to fear this way and even for those that do, they may not respond with anger to every situation where they feel fear.
For some, expressing fear can feel risky or vulnerable. If we speak our fear the other individual may have a reaction we do not want to experience. They may feel anger, fear, sadness, etc. and then respond to us in a way that we do not want. Instead of expressing the real feeling of fear we express anger, which might not feel as vulnerable.
For example, you and I disagree on a particular topic or issue. I feel strongly about my point of view and I want you to hear my perspective. While I want you to hear my point of view I also feel fear of telling you what I think. Now, to avoid feeling my fear of your reaction I get angry. In this situation my anger becomes a cover for my fear of your reaction. For me, my anger may feel safer than expressing my fear.
So what is the impact of using anger to cover for our fear? When this interaction is not resolved it can create a level of separation between the two individuals. On the other end of the spectrum, expressing our opinion, our fear or by working through the angry response down into the fear can create the opposite effect. By expressing what is true for us we create an opportunity to deepen the relationship. In our intimate relationships it can deepen and renew our intimacy and our level of attraction to each other.
Over the past weekend I staffed a men's weekend, a retreat of sorts, attended by a total of 70 men. As a staff member there is a lot of ongoing preparation and work to keep everything running smoothly.
With that many men and so much to do things can get intense, egos can come into play, wanting to take center stage. Surprising as this may sound, egos were kept in check and the weekend ran smoothly. It was a great weekend with these men developing connection and relationship while working together.
So what do I credit for these men being able to create a relatively ego free weekend?
Speaking up to tell what is going on for them, as it relates to themselves and others. What causes a lot of unnecessary tension and strife in any relationship is the tendency to make assumptions and to create stories about what the other person might be thinking. What I saw and experienced on this weekend were men speaking up about their reactions to others. It was about saying what was true for them, having integrity and being authentic, not in a hostile ego way but in a "this is what is going on for me" way.
Is it always easy to say what is true in a relationship? No, it is not. Sometimes it takes a lot of courage. And sometimes it is going to be messy and not end the way we would like it. So why would you want to take the risk of a messy and confrontational situation?
Because real connection and rich relationships come from speaking up rather than avoiding or withholding. Do you want to really enjoy a connection with another individual – take the risk of speaking up. I find that 90% of the time my relationships become richer, deeper and more satisfying.
Learning how or getting better at saying what is true for us is an art. It takes practice and like creating art – each attempt is likely to be unique and to turn out as we would like through our repeated practice.
Anger can be healthy. Yes, it can also be destructive, hostile, and turned inward. But if there is healthy anger, the anger that is assertive and constructive, that can create and bring about what we really want in our lives, why don't we speak that anger?
There is more than one answer to that question. One reason is to avoid the reactions of others. I don't like to experience your (potential) reaction to my anger so I avoid speaking it to you. I would rather withhold what I really feel to keep the peace.
I would rather allow you to overstep my boundaries. I would forgo getting my wants and needs met. I would rather not say what I like and don't like. I would rather live less than satisfied, maybe sad and depressed much of the time.
What I have really done is lowered the bar for both us. By not stepping up I play smaller in my life and you will do the same. The unexpressed anger does not just impact this moment, it impacts all aspects of our life.
One weak spoke on the wheel of the bike affects the entire wheel. It can set it off balance and potentially bends the rim – which could cause a crash if not fixed. We play a part in that crash.
Aggressive anger is destructive. Who wants it in their relationships, really? Deep down, even with old wounds, no one.
So what now. You are in a relationship with someone that expresses aggressive anger. Anger that hurts.
Yes, we can stand back and point the finger at that individual and say they have a problem, that is the easy part. The hard part is doing something more than just pointing figures. Doing something to stop or remove hurtful anger from our life can take courage. It may turn our life upside down for some time. It could change many things that you hold dear to yourself.
The question: Is there anything more important than you to you? What about your value and worth?
What if you laid out what you want and need and what you are not willing to accept? What if you (learned to) drew boundaries with your own assertive anger?
Make a commitment to yourself and follow through on your word – your commitment to you.
Live your life full out! Let go of who you were and get on with being who you are and who you want to be.