Recently I was going to teach a group a course I hadn’t taught before and I was very nervous. I worried about not being knowledgeable enough and making a fool of myself and letting everyone down.
I had a meeting with a man a while back that I look up to but I was afraid he was going to judge me and I was scared and worried for days in advance of the meeting.
I had a call from a private number the other day and I had a sinking scared feeling before I answered it.
Why did I get scared of all these things?
In my case I know why it is. I have a real difficulty with fear and stressful situations. They really get me down. I came to realise something the other day though. I was thinking about fearful and stressful situations and I asked myself what I was scared of. When I was going to meet that man, I realised it wasn’t him that I was scared of. He wasn’t what was scaring me at all. How do I know that?…because at the time, he wasn’t even there. He wasn’t in the room or anywhere near me. As a matter of fact I had no evidence that he even existed at that moment. How did I know I hadn’t gone crazy and dreamt up this man just there and then? Perhaps he never existed at all.
Identify the real cause of worry or fear
That sounds a bit crazy but I have a reason for mentioning it. The thing is, when I traced it back all that was scaring me then was the thought of the man and how he would behave toward me. In other words I realised that what was scaring me only existed in my mind. I had this vision of him and our meeting, and how it was going to go, and that scared me, terrified me even. The thing is that meeting hadn’t happened, it wasn’t happening at that time and it might not even happen in the future. It only existed in my mind. It had as much connection to reality as a TV program, probably less even because I can point out something on a TV program to someone else. I can’t show what’s in my mind to anyone, so I have no evidence it was happening at all.
So the thing that was scaring me, did it exist at all? I don’t think it did.
I worry about paying the mortgage on my house, I worry about paying the bills, making enough money in my job. So what am I really worrying about there. I’m worrying that I won’t have enough money to pay the mortgage, why? Because I worry that I’ll lose the house. Is that happening now? No. It’s not happening at all. It’s happening nowhere but in my mind, so once again the fear or worry I have only exists within the confines of my brain and it can’t even get out of there to do me any harm because it’s just my thoughts, I own it.
Yes, I know people say they worry because these things might happen, but that doesn’t make sense. The thing hasn’t happened yet, and it isn’t happening right now, so why am I letting it affect me now?…and even if it did happen I don’t know how it would affect me, or how I would react. Yet it’s controlling and affecting my life right now. It’s affecting my waking hours and my sleep. This thing that doesn’t exist, this scenario that I’ve invented and that exists only in my mind is affecting my reality.
Change it to something else
I’m not afraid of losing my house, that’s not what’s scaring me. What’s scaring me is this image in my mind of me losing my house. But if I go and have a look at that image now in my mind for a minute. I picture myself losing the house and all the bad things that’ll happen and the ridicule I fear. I look at all those things in my mind and I feel terrible, but then I realise this isn’t really happening. None of this exists. So I change the image, just for fun, just to see what’ll happen. I change it to an image of me living in my lovely house with no money worries at all.
Suddenly I feel happy. I have complete control over all these things. I know I have to work to deal with the things I have to deal with in life, but I realise that I have complete control over the things that make me worry and the things that scare me. Why? Because I invented them. They’re all in my mind.
Why not try that experiment yourself? Take something that’s worrying you and picture it in your mind. Immerse yourself in it. Now, realise that that image exists only in your mind. You own the image and can control it. You are the director of this show. Now edit it. Ask yourself “If this scene was playing out in a positive way, what would be happening?” Make that happen in your mind. Immerse yourself in this new image. How does that make you feel? Has the worry and fear gone, even only for a moment?
Get better at it
I’m working on developing that skill. I find that there’s two aspects to it. I need to remember to do that when I’m worrying or afraid, and then I have to be able to choose what to change the image to. It has to be realistic or otherwise I can’t believe it, but it also has to be the positive version of what’s causing the worry or fear. So for example:
- If I’m worried about not being able to pay bills and getting in trouble, I imagine myself relaxed with all my bills paid.
- If I’m worried about meeting someone who’ll judge me negatively, I imagine myself meeting that person and having the confidence not to care what they think or me.
I find that worry affects the rest of my life. It saps my energy and will to do anything positive to prevent the thing that I’m worrying about. On the other hand if I imagine the positive scenario in place of the worry, then I feel better and have the energy to create that positive scenario for real. Also when I’m in a difficult situation I have those positive scenarios to call on to boost my self esteem.
I find that this is something you can practice during down times, e.g., while waiting in a queue, or if you can’t sleep at night, or if you’re waiting for someone. The more you do it, the more you’ll get better at it. I recommend that if worry and fear is affecting your life you should make the effort to try this technique.
One might argue that you’re just living in a fantasy world, but isn’t it better to live in a positive fantasy than a negative one?
What are your thoughts?