With all due apologies to Simon and Garfunkel, I’d like to share my version of the lyrics to one of their most famous songs: “Hello fear, my old friend…I’ve come to talk with you again…”
I once had a Mayor I worked with describe me as FEARLESS. I was surprised, a bit flattered, and immediately thought to myself, “Man, I’m glad this guy has NO idea what my inner monologue is like!” I’ve come to realize that many people see me as fearless, courageous, even bold – but the part they don’t see and never hear is the internal dialogue that occurs between me and my fears. I’ve got plenty, and we’ve got plenty to chat about!
I’ve spent a lot of time working through my fears. Sometimes I make great progress, and sometimes I decide to leave the proverbial gremlins on the table, acknowledging they still exist but also acknowledging that I’m not making much progress in getting rid of them. I have a lot of clients that also want to tackle their fears, and together we experience a wide range of results and play with a lot of approaches.
While I do think fear can be instructive in some cases and can be effectively leveraged when we do have personal insights to gain or lessons to learn, I also think sometimes it’s an obstacle we need to get past to get where we truly want to go. Perhaps no deeper meditation is needed – or perhaps you’ve already done that but are still finding that gosh-darn fear still getting in the way.
In that case, I have a powerful antidote for you: PLAY.
Yep, that’s it. No magical or overly complicated tactics, strategies, meditations, or rituals required. Apply the concept of play to your fear, and get ready for the transformation.
In case you’re worried this is one of those “says easy, does hard” kind of things, this one actually isn’t. It’s a “says easy, does easy” approach to dealing with your fear. (Seriously!)
Next time you bump into something you’re worried about or fearful of – try one of these two options:
- Drop what you’re doing, acknowledge the fear but set it aside, and go do something playful. That’s right- just go play. Give your brain a break and your soul some space from the fear. It will still be there when you’re done playing, but that play break will grant you some relief and relaxation so you can come back to the fear and examine it with a refreshed perspective. Or you may decide to just set it aside altogether!
- Ask yourself, “How can I play with this?” That seems like a fluffy question at first blush, but if you dig a little deeper, it’s a challenge to see how you can reexamine and reframe what you’re experiencing and see where you can introduce an element of play. Maybe you decide to play with it by trying on a new or seldom-used aspect of your personality, almost like adopting a character and seeing how that character would approach your fear. Maybe you make a game out of it- “How many times will Nicole flub her speech during this presentation?” Perhaps it’s inviting someone else to play with you, letting them know what you’re fearing and then asking them to help you make it more playful. Maybe you create a system of rewards or penalties depending on how many of the things you’re afraid of do or don’t come true… Whatever it is – approach it with a sense of playfulness, and see how the fear experience is transformed.
Fear is a funny and powerful thing, and it can also be an excellent teacher. Utilizing play as an antidote to fear may be counterintuitive, but it can be very effective.