You’re standing on the edge of a cliff, afraid of falling, belly churning. A rapid pumping sounds in your chest. Both palms prickle as you sweat. Your mouth is dry. You step back, wipe your hands on your trousers, feel the beating of your heart slow. The moisture returns to your mouth. It’s over. But what if it’s not?
The other night, I had a dream I was moving into a shared house. My new bedroom, a dusty space in the attic, brought feelings of alarm. Surely, the room was haunted? My brother was there, helping me carry boxes up the stairs, and I was fearing the moment I’d eventually be alone. How could I live in this space, carrying this dread; aware that this very feeling would bring about my worst terrors?
Just like the cliff edge, stepping away might not bring respite, because mental dread can take us back there. Thoughts can draw us into the very situation we shrink from, as can our horror of these thoughts, so that we place ourselves in the exact position we most want to avoid.
Fear of fear is, in essence, a fear of thought, which is an endless cycle of thinking. It presumes a condition of powerlessness (to thought), and relives that powerlessness, often multiple times a day, which is the ‘proof’ that maintains the belief that we cannot do anything about 'it'.
Have you ever asked: who is thinking all of this?
We decide everything. We invite the thought, we choose to be afraid of it.
That moment of powerlessness, pointing the finger saying, ‘see, it’s happening,’ is also a moment of profound power. As soon as you notice what’s going on, you have a choice.
Let’s go back to the dream, standing in that attic space, dreading my fear of ghosts because this very fear will surely summon them? In the dream, I had enough clarity to ask myself, ‘do you want to go through this every day?’
Such a simple question, and there was a simple answer, if I chose.
What are you afraid of? And in what way do you dread the arrival of that fear, the cycle of thoughts that takes you to the cliff edge?
Is that what you want to go through, every day?
Notice how you answer.
Are you ready to say, ‘no way!’
Or, do you find yourself thinking, ‘okay, look, I understand the question, but it’s not that easy.’
Creative Coaching isn’t a magical click of the fingers, it doesn’t demand you let go of thoughts that aren’t serving you in an instant, it simply asks, ‘is this what you want?’
Saying, ‘no,’ doesn’t mean you have to change there and then, rather opens a conversation that leads to how that change might come about. Instead of the double fear, we discuss what it would be like to believe in yourself, to enjoy your thoughts, to feel powerful, capable, to know that you can finish your novel, get that promotion, find motivation when you thought you were empty.
Are you ready?
Saying, ‘yes,’ isn’t saying, ‘I have all the answers.’
Saying, ‘yes,’ is saying, ‘okay, I’m open to working with someone trained to help me find all the answers and design a way to shift the double fear so that there comes a moment – and you decide when that moment is – when you notice a thought, ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘they don’t like me’, ‘it’s never going to happen’, and see that this thought is beckoning you to the cliff edge. You watch for a while until you are clear that this is a thought you don’t want to follow anymore and you choose a path that leads to a place that feels good.
Join me in Nottingham on 13th September for a free Creative Coaching session at The Nottingham Writers' Studio. I will be looking at 'The Inner Critic'.
I will be in London on 20th September running a session on 'Balance' with a where I am joined by Literary Agent Juliet Pickering from Blake Friedmann Agency.