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What Message Is Your Fear Giving You?

written byLaurie-Ell Bashforthon 14/01/2017

It’s the beginning of a new year and it’s an easy time to begin a path of revisiting dreams, planning new strategies, and going forward with hope.  Hope for an amazing year!  Hope that you will exceed all expectations.  Hope that you create and build self-serving habits. You get the picture.

Hope is a beautiful thing.  You can’t quite call it an emotion, but when you feel it you know that it is present.  It inspires you, excites you, keeps you moving forward.  It is the light that takes you out of the dark.

As a Catholic my faith is founded on hope, so you would think that faith alone promotes strength, but it doesn’t.  In fact, hope is fragile, and is easily taken away by fear.

Yes, I admit, there are real things to be afraid of in this world, but in coaching we are generally talking about the gremlins that get in the way of us achieving what we want in our life.  These gremlins show up when you begin to stretch out of your comfort zone, not only with action but even with the initial thought.  Over time, if you continue to listen to what your gremlins have to say and allow your gremlins to take hold, the light that was hope within you begins to fade.

Recently, I’ve been given a new way to look at fear.  While reading Tara Mohr’s, Playing Big, she refers to a teaching by Rabbi Lew in Be Still and Get Going.  According to the Rabbi, the Hebrew Bible has two words for fear, the pachad and the yirah.

Pachad is the “projected or imagined fear”.  This is the fear that stems from our oldest part of the brain, the reptilian brain.  Historically, it was useful in keeping us safe from possible threats in the world around us. For survival we took information in and began to do a risk analysis, but didn’t really have the brain power to quite take it into the cerebral cortex, logical thinking brain.

The second Hebrew word for fear is, yirah, “the fear that overcomes us when we suddenly find ourselves in possession of considerably more energy than we are used to, inhabiting a larger space than we are used to; and it is also the feeling we feel when we are in the presence of the divine.” (Mohr, Tara, Playing Big, 2014)

This is the fear that is so often felt, but is confused with pachad, “What if I fail?  I can’t do that because…, What if they laugh at me?  I’m not smart enough to do this.”

The gremlins grab a hold of pachad, and if you let them, will hold you back from moving forward and living your dreams.

But when you realize that yirah is that fearful space that fills you up, the space where you’re scared to death to take the next step, and as soon as you walk though it you’re breathless.  This fear is all good.  This fear is meant to be the message to move you forward toward your purpose.  All of a sudden hope becomes a bright beacon again.

So, when fear shows up in your life and begins to smother all hope, recognize it for what it is, a piece of you that just wants to keep you safe; keep you from stretching out of your comfort zone.  Really, it’s like a small child, and you need to lovingly take their hand and say, “Let’s keep going.  We’ll do this together. You’re going to love what’s on the other side.”