For a start I should clarify that I’m not talking about irrational fears and worries. I’m not talking about when my mind throws me something crazy like “what if all the oxygen in the atmosphere suddenly disappeared” or “what if a zombie busted into my bedroom right now”. Even if you’re someone who believes these are completely rational fears, they aren’t something you can really plan for or do something about right now. In my view, this type of fear or worry is taking up prime real estate in your head for the fears and worries that could actually serve you.
This is the sort of blog that could cop me a bit of flack. I have a lot of friends and contacts who would say that focusing on your fears and worries is the WORST thing you could do and will actually make them come true. If you believe this then I have to tell you two things, 1. I love you and 2. I think that’s a load of bollcky bollocks. In my opinion, choosing not to think about the fear or worry that’s consuming you right now is a form of delusion. You’re pushing those thoughts away but they are still there. They’re having a little dread party in the pit of your stomach while your head has covered its ears saying “I can’t hear you!”
Many of my friends and family reading this will know about the horrible situation I went through with some landlords in Auckland. For two weeks leading up to the property inspection I had a dread party going on in my stomach. I was terrified that the landlords were going to be unhappy with the state of the house on leaving despite having it professionally cleaned. Even after checking the house myself post clean and finding it spotless, I still had this consuming fear that all was not well. So what did I do? Well because I’m one of those spiritual airy fairy types I tried to magic my fears away. I blessed the house, I blessed my landlords, I meditated, I pulled oracle cards, I threw salt around the house, I visualised everything going well, I had uplifting conversations with people who helped me to breathe. I went to the property inspection with positive thoughts in my head and dread in my stomach.
Well if you haven’t heard the story I’m sure you can tell from the nature of this post what happened. Worst fears realised – it went exactly how I dreaded it would go. My Law of Attraction pals would say I attracted this situation with all my worrying (but I said affirmations!). It’s my belief, actually, that my worries and fears were in fact an intuitive signal – a gift, a warning to prepare me for the worst and I chose not to open that gift. What if instead of doing blessings and visualising a good outcome, I had sat down and looked at my fear? What if I had said “ok, let’s say they are unhappy and try to take the bond, what will I do?” It’s impossible to say now in hindsight what I would have come up with but I’m pretty certain it would have been more beneficial to me than finding people to tell me what I wanted to hear and I would have wasted less salt.
Preparing for the worst doesn’t mean expecting the worst. You don’t even have to have a plan – it might be impossible to plan for. I think preparing for the worst might just be a matter of writing down or keeping in my heart what I need to remember when things don’t go my way. Maybe it’s just a matter of keeping a sentence in my head if the worst occurs like “I’m always doing my best” or “I’m learning”? Maybe it’s a matter of keeping this one occurrence in perspective? After all, the house situation got sorted. It was a week or so of uncomfortable conversations and emails and then an agreement was reached and it was over.
There were a lot of reasons I was so fearful of this property inspection. Past experience was one reason and it’s a good one. Your mind will throw past experiences at you to keep you safe. It will tell you – last time X met Y, Z happened and Z was not good. For me, my mind was reminding me that the last time Chris wasn’t present for an end of lease inspection the landlords went ballistic and it was not good. Chris being there or not probably wouldn’t have made any difference but because the situation felt similar, my mind started telling me that I was heading into a danger zone. And it may very well be that, despite your mind’s equation, this situation will not result in Z but none the less, you can put plans in place that might help you avoid Z or have a strategy in place to deal with Z if Z should appear.
For example, if the last time you gave a speech your computer froze and you lost your place in your notes, you might check your computer next time before giving the speech and use headings in your notes to help you find your place. Or maybe you’ll research some techniques to help keep you calm in that situation. Or maybe you’ll google some funny phrases you can say out loud to your audience if your technology fails like “A TV can insult your intelligence, but it takes a computer to make you feel like a total idiot.” Based on previous experience, this is a rational fear and I reckon it deserves to be heard rather than glossed over with positive thinking.
Another reason I was so fearful of the inspection was because, well, it’s an inspection and inspections bring up uncomfortable feelings in me around being assessed. Feelings of inadequacy or not measuring up as the case may be. Worrying that the assessment would find that I was not good enough, that I might be told as much and that I would feel humiliated or ashamed. The situation sounds very similar to a child being told off for not doing what they were supposed to doesn’t it? There was a little child in me scared to death of being told off by the big bad landlord. This was a chance for me to listen closely to my inner child. To hold her hand whatever happened. To give her some words to use if the worst was to happen or maybe just some internal tools to help her get through the situation and release it after. I didn’t listen to that small scared voice inside, I just threw salt at it and pulled an angel card that assured me all would be resolved.
And it was wasn’t it? Despite the horrible situation, things were resolved and I moved forward. I don’t beat myself over the head for not paying attention to my fear and worries. My not paying attention is what taught me to pay attention. Sure I wish I could learn things the easy way sometimes but what’s important is that I learned. In fact, I don’t think I’ll ever be plagued by worries and fears in the same way again. I have learned to bring them close, look at them, turn them over and see what’s underneath. I’m not saying there wont be storms, there will be. I’m not saying that I’ll be able to prepare my boat to weather those storms every time, I wont. Sometimes your worst case scenario is actually a walk in the park compared to what actually happens and there’s no way to prepare for that. I do feel that, at the very least, I’ll be at the helm of my ship during those storms and not closing my eyes saying “there is no storm”.
Here are three questions I’ll be asking myself when I’m worried or fearful about something happening.
1. What’s the worst that can happen?
2. Can I do anything to prevent this from happening? If so, what?
3. If not, can I do anything to help prepare myself if this happens?
I find it’s important to take your time on that second question if possible. You want your actions to be loving towards yourself and others. Snap decisions/actions are often not so loving. Also note the second question is what can I do, not what do I need to try and make someone else do.
A good example of a fearful situation for me is relatives coming to visit. Despite wanting to see my family and loving them to bits, I’m often worried about the judgements they might pass on my home, living situation or parenting. How my family behaves when they come to stay is not within my control but I can prepare myself by maybe finding a quote about judgements to keep in mind when comments are passed like “everything we judge in others is something within ourselves we don’t want to face”. Or if I expect to get a lecture on my parenting choices, I might come up with few responses to any suggestions like “that’s an interesting approach, we do things this way and we find it really works for us”. Another possibility is that my family aren’t judging me at all and I am, in fact, judging myself and perceiving my self judgement through their innocent comments and suggestions. In any case, the fear is real and by bringing that fear close I can get curious about it. What am I afraid of? Where does this fear come from? Is this fear exaggerated because of past experience(s)? How can I manage the circumstances or prepare myself? What is my fear trying to tell me?
Please know that I’m just sharing my insights and experiences on facing fears and learning from them. I’m not handing out a Bronwyn Bay guarantee that if you prepare for the worst case then all will be well. Hell no. I have just found that in my experience, making peace with the worst case scenario has released a lot of anxiety in my life. So why not try it? I have no money back guarantee for you but what’s the worst that could happen?
With love (and a little bit of fear)