Here, I want to teach you something: fear is here to help you, but it can also hurt you.
FEAR! Many people are feeling it right now and there are many people who feel it often. Some people feel a version of fear everyday, if they are engaged in healing they have learned to understand their fears and engage with tools to manage them when they show up. Right now there are many people who are afraid of the COVID-19 aka Corona virus. If you are not concerned about getting ill, you may be concerned about your income, your travel plans or your loved ones. On the other hand, there are those who are too appalled at fear that they rebuke it. The assumption is that by simply ignoring your fears you can get over them and be “okay.” Here, I want to teach you something: fear is here to help you, but it can also hurt you. Learning how to access the benefits of fear while limiting the challenges that it can cause is the key to shifting what alot of us struggle with daily.
Fear and Anxiety can impact our ability to trust ourselves, causing us to have challenges making decisions at times when decision making can feel crucial.
Fear is defined as an “unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.” Fear is a belief that feels real. When we have fear it typically shows up with its friend anxiety. Anxiety moves with an energy that can involve rapid circular thoughts of impending harm, hypervigilance around ways that we must keep ourselves safe,and some changes in mood (irritability, sadness, etc.). Fear and Anxiety can impact our ability to trust ourselves, causing us to have challenges making decisions at times when decision making can feel crucial. These thoughts and feelings can feel like they are taking up a considerable amount of brain and emotional space, which can lead to physical symptoms like fatigue and general feelings of tiredness. In some cases chest pains, sweating and dry mouth, blurred vision, headaches are also symptoms of fear and anxiety.
It would seem that we don’t want to feel the feeling so much that we welcome the anxiety to tell us the things that we need to do so that we do not feel the fear.
Most of us despise the impact of fear, so much so that we fear it (ironic huh?). It would seem that we don’t want to feel the feeling so much that we welcome the anxiety to tell us the things that we need to do so that we do not feel the fear. In fact, welcoming (or staying in) periods of anxiety simply perpetuate and fuel the fear, making way for more intense periods with anxiety and the cycle continues.
The truth is that fear and some anxiety help us. Fear signals for us things that we want to pay attention to. If we are afraid of the ending of a relationship, we know that that relationship is important and has value. It would be a clue to look at the situation and pay attention to what you can do to prevent it from ending. When we are afraid to feel the fear, we “stuff” or suppress it and tell ourselves that we are wrong, overlooking clues to address needed situations. Sometimes we walk on the proverbial “egg shell” not paying attention to what matters to us, which can cause us to create the very things that we fear.
...it is even more crucial that we are intentional about the TYPES of information we are in taking and the FREQUENCY...
For many of us our fear of what will happen with regards to the COVID-19 or the coronavirus has us believing that we need to understand all that we can about it (anxiety). While understanding information and being informed during this time is pertinent it is even more crucial that we are intentional about the TYPES of information we are in taking and the FREQUENCY with which we are gathering the information. If you sit in the anxiety and allow it to dictate your choices too long it can be counterproductive to your wellness and enhance the fear/anxiety cycle.
Here are 4 steps to use your fear to help you instead of allowing it hurt you:
"When you begin to define yourself without the lenses of trauma, there will be a reinventing of either your whole self or parts of the self. This is necessary."
A vital part of our healing process is understanding yourself. Who am I? What happened to help me become this way? What are the things that I like; What are the things I don't? What are the things that I want to change? What things am I choosing to stay the same? All of these questions come into your mind during your journey and the answers come as you do the work of healing.
When you begin to define yourself without the lenses of trauma, there will be a reinventing of either your whole self or parts of the self. This is necessary. You begin the work of understanding why you make the choices that you make and, hopefully, identify the origins of your behaviors so that you can make different choices. These questions and shifts you are making create changes in you. As you create changes, you will see differences in your relationships and as the relationships change you will likely need to reimagine your role in your relationships.
Sometimes the relationships are grounded in our need for survival and the connections give us something we think we need.
This is the hardest part. The relationships we have, typically, serve us for a reason. Sometimes the relationships are grounded in our need for survival and the connections give us something we think we need. Maybe it's a venting partner. Maybe it's a distraction. Maybe you engage in behavior with that person that keeps you feeling safe in a way you believe you need. One example of this, and often the relationship that we need to shift the most, is the relationship with our parents.
As I watch various people on this healing journey (clients, family, friends or colleagues) I notice that we fall into patterns with our parents that mimic the parts of ourselves that are still healing. This part of ourself is the part with the most traumatic experiences and, often the most intense visceral responses. Because, for many of us, this part of the self is stuck in the experience of trauma and many of us have significant experiences of trauma as children, we often respond to our parents in the same ways we did as children or in the ways that hurt child wished they could.
"I desired to create an energy about my life that could be linked to specific goals, but not just be about the goals. "
It took me a long time to write this month’s blog because I didn’t want to be redundant. But, if my intuition is correct, many of us are making our lives more strenuous with how we establish our goals and with it being the start of the year there are so many blogs about goals. I tackled some aspects of goal setting in my last blog of 2019 and I wasn’t sure it made sense to tackle it again. But with all the vision board parties, news articles and social media posts about goals, I know my intuition is right: it’s time we reconsider how we establish our goals.
As 2019 ended, I began to consider what are my goals? What are the things that I desire to focus on for 2020? The last few years have been goal heavy: new business, grow the business to earn “X” amount each month, develop a professional community, buy a home, renovate my home, etc. Initially, I was determined to set goals that were greater than what I had achieved. As I focused on that, my anxiety increased as well as doubt about what I could do or what is possible. Being blessed enough to really say I have the majority of what I dreamed I could have a few years ago (that is within my control), I decided to take a step back in my goal setting to obtain clarity about what I wanted next.
I have achieved every goal I set so I wanted to be clear going into 2020 about the things I desired and how I would achieve them. However, the more that I found myself thinking about goals, targets and benchmarks the more resistant I became to establishing concrete goals for 2020. I decided I wanted my life to take on a different feel, I wanted to be intentional about how I am living. I desired to create an energy about my life that could be linked to specific goals, but not just be about the goals.
It's December 2019 and most of us are in full planning mode. In addition to planning for our holiday, we often find ourselves thinking about this past year. Maybe you have fond memories of great experiences. Maybe you are in awe of all the goals you set and smashed. Perhaps you are establishing goals for 2020 or, like most people, thinking about what you could have done differently in 2019.
Studies show that only 8 percent of the population achieve their new year resolutions. Furthermore, additional research suggests that fewer than 3 percent of the population set goals regularly. There are many articles that give concrete tips on ways to set, be consistent with and achieve goals. However, I firmly believe that most of us miss 1 thing when thinking about what we want to do and how we want to do it: our shadow.
Our goals are lofty, play up to our greatest perceptions of who we want to be and negate those parts of us that we don't really like.
The holiday season brings up emotions for many of us. For some, those emotions are linked to fond memories of time spent with family. Maybe you think of food, gifts or the quality time. Maybe the holidays make you smile with excitement. For others, the holiday season feels dreadful. You are not looking forward to it, you do not have fond memories and your only excitement is the thought of it being over. No matter which reaction you have, this time of the year likely brings out your inner child and depending on what your childhood was like, you may need to take extra care of yourself in the next few months.
Your inner child is the child-like part of you. The vulnerable, innocent part of you that has visceral, automatic, reactions to things that you can’t explain. It is the part of you that requires extra care and consideration. For those of us that have traumatic experiences, our inner child can be a part of us that responds to hurt. It is the part of us that sometimes feel frozen in time, with limited skills to manage challenging situations. It’s the part of you that throws tantrums, does not want to communicate what you need and recoils at the idea of the pain. It’s that part of you that does not know what to do and it seems that your logical brain has shut off. In healing work, the inner child is essential because it is the part of you that requires the most care as you seek to shift behavior patterns.
This time of the year seems to be the most sensitive time for a lot of people. We are inundated with movies, commercials, tv shows and conversations about family. The messaging and pressure of what “should be” is ever present. You “should” have good memories and traditions. You “should” have a place you call “home” and people to see. You “should” be able to give and expect gifts from others. This “should” be the most magical time of the year.
PAIN. It is the number one reason why people come to therapy. Whether it is from feeling sad or anxious, remembering a traumatic experience or a heartbreak; everyone comes in to treatment wanting the pain to go away. “When will it stop?” “I never want to feel this way again!” “Why is this happening to me?” These are all common sentiments that clients express when describing what they want from therapy. My response is always the same and always met with the side eye: “what if you could welcome the pain?”
There are few things in life that are certain and the fact that you will feel pain is one of them. If you heard me on the TFBG Podcast Episode98: ‘Showing up When You Want to Lay Down,’ you will hear Dr. Joy and I talk about pain and how to use the PACT (Plan, Acknowledge, Compartmentalize, Time) method to be able to manage having painful experiences when you still have real-life responsibilities. If you haven’t heard it, check it out. In this blog, I want to give you another idea. I hope to encourage you to consider that instead of running from pain we can welcome it, understand why it shows up for us and use it to learn what we need to do to take care of ourselves.
Pain is important. Without pain we would not know when there are things that are hurting us. When you do not know what is hurting you, you will continue to engage with it until the damage that it is causing is irreparable. Let’s think about fire. One of the earliest lessons that we learn as children is that fire burns. We are told that and some of us have the experience of getting close to fire, feeling the heat or maybe even feeling a little burn and so we know not to get too close and certainly we don’t put our whole hand in it and just keep it there.
What is my purpose? Most of us want to know what we were placed here to do, what are our intrinsic gifts and talents and how are we meant to use them in our lives. For those of us who feel called to a specific purpose, we often wonder if our purpose can be the way we make our living. We yearn to understand, especially when we are early in our journey, how this “thing” fits into the bigger picture of our life and if we have the bandwidth to do “it” and have the success that we want; could our passion even be the vehicle for our success. Is it possible to have both?
Purpose & Passion
Defining a life’s passion or purpose is a very individual process. For some people it is rooted in the things that they are good at doing; for others it is what they love to do. These two things are not always the same. However, if we were to find what Samara Stone, branding expert and business coach, defines as the “sweet spot,” we’d be connecting ourselves to the things that we love to do and that we can do with relative ease. As ideal as this sounds, I find that it is the very thing that most people shy away from. The idea that what you seek is actually already present and that the journey to “that thing” is not that hard is a baffling concept. Most of us have things in our life that we LOVE to do; it is the thing you find yourself doing in your free time, the thing you dreamed about doing as a child and you still dream about doing. Over time, somehow we have internalized that this CAN’T be it. It doesn’t make sense for your life. It’s too easy, too simple, not grand enough or you feel like there must be some external validation to confirm your interests.
This 'Flashback' is written by 11 year old Morgan S. Morgan's thoughts are the inspiration for my September blog, 'Purpose, Passion & Paper', about identifying what drives you and understanding if you can earn income from it. In this piece, Morgan reminds us what it was like to be our younger self and some of the pressures that may not have given us the permission we needed to explore.
High schools prepare students for college the minute their freshman year starts. The clubs you join, the tests you take, the credits you need. It's all for that ground breaking scholarship you could get if you just work hard and study. Because that's your goal in life. Getting into Harvard. It's the one thing you strive for.
Right? But is it? And even if it is, what exactly do you plan to do after? What do you plan to do during?
So many people get caught up in getting into that one ivy league college that they, either don't consider or, completely forget why they would even go. What would they want major in? What job they'd go for after? The thought of actually considering what they'd be interested in is completely forgotten. So when they do end up in College they have absolutely no idea what they're doing. Everything they did in high school was for college. Nothing was out of pure curiosity. Therefore, they don't know what they want, or like. No one ever pushed it on them, and so school is all they know because the time they could have used to find themselves they used to plan for 'future' without thought of what it would/could look like or what makes them happy
It's no secret that we live in a society that where trends are temporary. In truth, things are more cyclical than temporary. We seem to be interested in things in waves. Fashion tends to cycle every 20 or 30 years. Who would've thought fanny packs and multi-colored attire would've been back in style? Maybe those who were around to see the evolution of hi-top fade. If you look closely enough you'd find the same trend in music and other socio-cultural phenomena.
BGCC Retreat Attendees - Photo Cred: Joy Harden-Bradford
If you follow me on IG you know that last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural Black Girl Clinician Collective (BGCC) retreat in Charleston, South Carolina hosted by Dr. Joy Harden Bradford of Therapy for Black Girls. BGCC is a group of therapists who are Black women, Therapy for Black Girls is a directory of clinicians and a podcast that are designed to speak to the emotional health needs of Black women. Listen, we had a blast together. As you may know, I am an advocate for community and personal/professional development. This weekend embodied all of that. Along with professional seminars, there were group activities designed to allow us to get to know each other better and build connections. The work/life balance of a therapist and business owner can get tough. Being around other like-minded women, with similar experiences is always refreshing and empowering.