Where do I start with unbridled fear?
photo by Sasha Wolff
I recently asked the members of Tapping Q & A Facebook Group what topic I should spend some time writing about. The first response back was “Where do I start with unbridled fear?”
On the surface, that seems like such a simple question. I have found in my work with clients that on some level fear is one of the two most common problems that lie at the root of most other issues. With that being said, it is such a powerful emotion it makes it very hard to work with.
When we are tapping we are very much in our conscious mind. We are making choices about what to tune-in to and how to approach it with tapping phrases.
Fear is just the opposite of everything that is rational and conscious. Fear is the most primitive of all feelings. It is the fight or flight instinct that has kept all creatures great and small alive over the eons.
Because fear is so basic and primal it is very hard to get out of the emotion in order to access our ability to tap on it.
[Side note: Because fear is such a powerful emotion it is really helpful when dealing with any issue that is rooted in fear to seek outside help from a trained professional. It can be very difficult to work on an issue when we are so deep in the emotion. At least this is true for me.]
We are going to look at fear in two parts. First, we are going to look at the nature of fear, why it exists, and how this understanding can be the first step to finding our way to relief. Second, we are going to look at 4 Questions we can ask that will help us to deal with fear.
Why We Feel Fear, Why Fear Is Good, & Why We Don’t Want To Get Rid Of It
As I stated above, fear is a very natural and primal feeling. The job of fear is to keep us safe. The very primitive sense of fear was and is about keeping us physically safe from predators. As we have evolved our ability to feel fear has evolved as well.
Fear now moves to keep us safe from anything that is perceived as a danger. Not only does it try to move me from the harm of an escaped lion and the danger of an oncoming car but it also moves to keep us safe from the possibility that we might look foolish when we get up to speak in front of the whole office staff.
When we experience fear, our system is just saying “Look OUT! Here comes danger!”
There are two important characteristic of fear. First, it is the information that we are going to hear over every other piece of information. It is much like if you are sitting in a coffee shop talking to a friend and someone from the street comes in screaming. No matter how hard you try to concentrate on what your friend is saying you are going to only hear the person screaming.
This is really good, because the last thing you want to do is miss the danger signal. When I am standing in the middle of the street and a car is about the hit me I don’t want to think, “Ohhhh. A 1962 Mustang. I love Mustangs.” Instead you want to think, “MOVE!!!!!!”
The second characteristic of fear is the fact that it will persistently keep speaking-up until it believes the danger is gone. So it doesn’t say: “Look OUT! Here comes danger!” Instead it says: “Look OUT! Here comes danger! Look OUT! Here comes danger! Look OUT! Here comes danger! Look OUT! Here comes danger! Look OUT! Here comes danger! Look OUT! Here comes danger! Look OUT! Here comes danger! Look OUT! Here comes danger! Look OUT! Here comes danger! Look OUT! Here comes danger! Look OUT! Here comes danger! Look OUT! Here comes danger! Look OUT! Here comes danger! Look OUT! Here comes danger! Look OUT! Here comes danger! Look OUT! Here comes danger! Look OUT! Here comes danger! Look OUT! Here comes danger! Look OUT! Here comes danger! Look OUT! Here comes danger! . . . “
This is a really good thing as well. The last thing we want to think as we are about to be hit by a car is, “Look out! There is a car! Move! . . . Hey look at that squirrel.”
It is good that we hear the danger signal over all other pieces of information and it is good that the signal is persistent to make sure we are responding to the danger. But we can quickly see how each of these characteristics can cause us issues.
With the first characteristic it can become problematic when the system is letting us know about something that isn’t a real danger to us, a small mouse for example. If the system is over-riding all other information with a danger signal pertaining to something that isn’t actually dangerous, then we are going to either be stuck and unable to act (i.e., paralyzed), or, we are going to over-react out of fear and most likely make the situation worse.
With the second characteristic it is possible that our system is pointing out a perceived danger over and over again that isn’t a reality in this moment. For example, I might be worried about something that I am worried is going to happen at work tomorrow. If my system is saying over and over again, “Don’t look like a fool. Don’t look like a fool. Don’t look like a fool. Don’t look like a fool. Don’t look like a fool . . .” then it is going to cripple me in this moment.
When we are doing EFT/tapping we are trying to move to a place where the fear is functioning in a way that is helpful.
The Goal Is Proportional Fear
I am asked all the time by beginning tappers, “If I keep tapping am I going to make it so I can’t feel any emotion?”
The answer is an emphatic “NO!”
When we are tapping we are not removing our ability to feel emotion. What we are doing is getting our emotions to work in a more functional and useful way. For example, when we are tapping on the fear of mice we are not stopping our ability to feel fear, but instead we are stopping our system from perceiving the mouse as dangerous.
The goal of our tapping when it comes to fear is to make sure we are only feeling fear in situations that we actually need to be aware of a real danger and to make sure that we are only feeling the level of fear that is proportional to what is going on.
Tapping In Recognition Of The Fear
Now that we see that fear in itself isn’t bad, but is actually motivated to help us, we can use this information to start to create relief.
It is very easy for us to be frustrated with ourselves and our emotions. When we get to the point that we want to tap on an emotion like fear it is obvious we are not happy with how we are experiencing the moment. If we are frustrated with the way that fear makes us feel (“I hate the fact I am feeling fear!”) it is very difficult for us to be able to understand what the real issue is that needs to be tapped on, and it makes it almost impossible for us to tap it away.
If we are able to move away from this level of frustration with how we are feeling in this moment, it going to clear some space so that we can work our way to the core of the issue. One of the ways we can do this is by simply acknowledging the emotion and why we are experiencing it.
The way that we do this with fear is by acknowledging the reason the fear exists. As we already have seen, fear exists because it is trying to protect us. When we are able to let the fear know that we understand that it is trying to keep us safe and/or point out some danger, then the fear has done some of its job and it will decrease.
For this example let’s pretend we need to make a difficult phone call and we feel paralyzed and just can’t do it. To begin with we would tap like this:
Right now I am feeling a great deal of fear about making this call . . . the reason I am feeling this fear is because there is a part of me that feels it is not safe for me to make this call . . . there is a part of me that is worried that I might say something silly . . . or that I might hear something that I don’t want to hear . . . or it could be something else that is bad . . . I am glad that there is a part of me that is looking out for me . . . even if it is working way too hard right now . . . even if there isn’t any real danger . . . it takes a lot of energy to be scared . . . and I am glad that my system is willing to work so hard to keep me safe . . . I know there is no real physical danger in making this call . . . and I think the part of me that is worried about this call . . . and what might at work is worrying about something that isn’t really dangerous . . . I let the fear know that it is heard . . . I know it wants me to be careful . . . I know it wants me to be safe . . . I just want the fear to know that I have heard it loud and clear . . . It wants me to be careful and I am going to be careful for that reason . . . I want the fear to know it has done it’s job . . . it has pointed out the danger it perceives . . . therefore the fear can move on . . . it can come back when it is needed again . . . but for the moment it has done what it needs to.
It is amazing how much progress we can make with a simple tapping pattern like this. This works for any emotion. The emotion is just trying to get our attention. By letting it know it has done what it has set out to do, it is going to lose some of its charge.
For many emotions this is going to be enough and we are going to be done tapping. This is normally just the first step when working to reduce fear. By tapping in this way we are going to calm the fear down, but more than likely we are not going to have gotten rid of all of it AND there is still the issue of dealing with why the fear was there in the first place.
Once we have calmed the fear down a bit it is going to allow us to see more clearly the root of the fear, allowing us to knock that out in order to prevent the triggering of the same over-reacting fear in the future.
In part two of this article we are going to look at 4 simple questions we can ask ourselves that will help us get to the root of the fear and which will help us in cleaning out that root. We will also look at the 4 questions we can ask the fear to help us to transform it so that it will work for us in a helpful way.