When Fear Appears, Turn on a Flashlight
(PLEASE NOTE: I recognize that not all childhood fears are imagined and real monsters do exist and cause harm to children. Metaphorically, it’s still important to have support to shine the light on the fear with the help of a safe person.)
Remember when you were a little kid, lying in bed trying to fall asleep and you’d hear an unexpected noise. Your eyes would fly open but of course you couldn’t see anything because it was dark. In the darkness, your imagination could get the best of you. The Boogie Man came to mind first and then a variety of other monsters. You became frozen still, not able to move because if you got up and dangled your feet over the bed, the monster under the bed would surely grab your leg.
When you finally called for help and your caregiver turned on the light, of course there was nothing under the bed except maybe some toys. The monster you saw in the closet was just your housecoat. The noise got explained as a car door outside, or the dog twitching and squeaking in her sleep, or the furnace turning on.
The solution going forward was to sleep with a flashlight. Whenever an unknown noise was heard, it was just a matter of shining the light on the fear to identify what it was, rather than letting the imagination be in control.
As adults, unspecified fear (a general fear that bad things will happen without being clear what those bad things are) often gets in the way of us moving forward with our dreams and goals. It can take a lot of courage to even admit that fear exists but it takes even more bravery to shine the flashlight on the fear. When it comes to fear, we tend to keep it hidden and rarely bring it into the light, which gives it great power without even knowing it.
Here’s an example. I have a coachee who has had a list of things she needs to do in order to move her towards reaching her goal. She’s had this to do list for months and has taken little action, chalking it up to being “unmotivated” and a “procrastinator” (negative self-judgment is another blog).
As we talked about other possible barriers, she recognized that fear also existed because her goal was requiring her to do something she had never done before and the outcome was unknown. So I suggested we bring out the flashlight to really look at the fear. What exactly was the fear? What’s the worst thing that could happen if action was taken? When else have you faced a similar fear and how did you respond/face it? What is the fear telling you/what is it protecting you from?
By first becoming aware of the fear and then accepting and examining the fear, it lost much of it’s power. Within a few days of shining the flashlight on the fear, my coachee had starting to take action on her to do list. The power shifted from fear being a barrier to fear being a sort of motivator.
If you currently find yourself stuck and not taking the action necessary to move you the make the changes you desire, it might be time to turn on the flashlight. Here’s how:
- With pen and paper, write out exactly what the fear is. Even if the fear seems illogical, write it out too.
- What’s the worst thing that could happen if you take this action?
- What’s the best thing that could happen if you take this action?
- What resources and supports do you have in place if any of the fears came true?
- Is it worth trying even if you don’t have a guarantee of the outcome?
Fear is not always easy to face alone. I understand the value of having a safe space to explore your dreams and your fears. I take pride in providing that safe space for you if you want to get unstuck. Connect with me for a free consult to see if coaching is right for you.
Does it seem scary to even set up the free consult with me? What’s the worst thing that could happen?