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Putting fear in its place

Happy Monday beautiful, creative souls! Since my intention and mission is to free creative spirits everywhere, I'm interested in anything that can encourage and facilitate that happening. Creatives often talk about the role of fear in holding them back. And when I say "creatives," I mean everyone because you may remember that I believe everyone is creative in several ways. To be human is to be creative. So, let's get back to fear. There is much written about it, conquering it, pushing through it, ignoring it, dancing with it, etc. It shows up, particularly when we are trying something new, or even thinking about doing something different (like taking an art class for example 😊). I invite you to think differently about fear with me. First, we need to distinguish between the everyday anxious kind of fear that many of us experience and the true crisis/threat fear that we need to keep us safe in a real threat. It's the first one I'd like to explore because the second one will show up automatically when needed as proven by scientific evidence. For example, you've heard stories about people in life-threatening situations being capable of incredible strength because of an automatic adrenaline rush and other automatic physiological responses designed to help keep us safe. In fact, I'll never forget being in a park playing when I was about 11 in Colombia, South America. I was trying to climb a tree. I really wanted to get up in that tree but I couldn't. So I gave up and was doing other things when a dog came running from somewhere viciously charging toward me, growling and snarling. Without even thinking at all I was somehow up that tree! It was incredible. We don't need to worry about that second type of fear - it takes care of itself. It's on autopilot, very useful and valuable, and doesn't need us to consciously do anything about it. The pervasive first type of fear, the one many of us live with on a day-to-day basis, is the one that robs quality of life and shuts down so much possibility and creativity. What if this type of fear/anxiety is some kind of outdated, not yet evolved, distorted emotion from our primitive mind? It's like a lower-frequency background hum of the kind of fear described above except that it is utterly useless. In fact, let's call it "useless fear." This is the one that shows up when it isn't needed. It isn't valuable or helpful and is actually harmful. It's like a primitive brain misfire, like your computer having a glitch. The brain is, after all, a very complicated organ that runs most of our body's systems on autopilot (breathing, heartbeat, circulation, etc). It evolves over time, sure, but evolution takes thousands of years - it's really, really slow. What if the brain just hasn't caught up to the fact that we no longer need to outrun lions or get up trees really fast on a regular basis? This "useless fear" is a response to a threat to survival THAT IS NOT THERE, IT DOESN'T EXIST. The challenge is that it can feel very much like the useful fear we discussed above, like we are actually in danger. Like a smoke alarm but there is no fire (who hasn't had to evacuate an office due to a faulty alarm system?). Maybe that's all this useless fear is, a malfunctioning smoke alarm system. Once we realize this, we have the awareness to manage the alarm system so it doesn't manage us. We need a simple, quick way to remind the brain when it alarms that there is no actual danger and we can proceed creating, learning something new, having a challenging conversation or whatever we want to do that we are scared of but isn't actually a threat to our survival. For me, it helps to simply ask myself, "Are you in danger right now, is there a threat to your survival right now?" Or, "Is a lion about to eat you?" Usually, asking myself this makes me laugh because the thing I was feeling anxiety or fear about was so far from being a threat to my survival. Like painting on a larger canvas, being late for an appointment, sharing a concern, or moving houses. When you do this you realize that very little in our modern experience is an actual threat to our survival (another thing to be grateful about!). It's like a mind tune-up for the unconscious, helping it see our current reality since it isn't really seeing it. So, the next time you feel fear or anxiety about anything, learning to paint or really anything at all, try looking around you and noticing that you are most likely not in any actual danger at all. Perhaps it will allow you to dismiss the useless fear as the pesky, outdated, obsolete remnant that it is and move forward. For more on this topic and similar, I recommend authors Jon Connelly, Phil Stutz and Eric Maisel.

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