This week I’m re-reading Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers, the self-help classic published way back in 1987. I read it many years ago and it inspired me to turn my life around and create a more positive approach. But recently, Pluto entered my 12th house and all sorts of old fears have resurfaced – things I believed were long dead and buried. So I though it would be interesting to see if this book would help me again.
Sometimes on the path, your spiritual practice can uncover new fears or reawaken old ones from the past. Your ego gets triggered and you go into full panic mode. In extreme circumstances, it can stop you from practising, or lead you to misinterpret what you’re experiencing. So it can be helpful to use some basic psychological techniques and self-help therapy alongside your spiritual work. And that’s where books like this come in handy.
Jeffers describes three levels of fear:
- The first level includes fears that arise from the surface story of your life and there are two types: things that happen and things that require action. For example, illness, ageing, and change are things that happen to you; while asserting yourself, making decisions, and intimacy are things that you choose to do.
- Underneath that, you have the second level fears that come from the ego, such as fear of rejection, failure, success, being vulnerable, and so on. These are states of mind that may be connected to situations (level one fears) but that really only exist in your head.
- Underneath that is the third level and the real cause of every fear you could ever imagine: the idea that you can’t handle whatever life throws at you.
This means that dealing with your fears is quite simple – although that doesn’t mean it’s easy. You don’t have to control things in the outer world, and you can’t anyway, not completely. You just need to develop more trust in your ability to handle whatever happens.
When you feel scared, it’s because you’re not feeling good enough about yourself. You don’t trust yourself. I’ve noticed this happens when I get caught up in my ego and try to do things under my own steam rather than trusting my true Self to lead the way. It’s not my ego that needs a boost of confidence. I just need to stop operating from that false centre. My true Self knows what it’s doing so I can trust that.
The book includes lots of strategies you can learn to help build confidence in yourself. One involves reframing your fear as anxiety or nervousness instead. For example, here are five truths about fear:
- Fear won’t go away as long as you continue to grow. Life is risky and as long as you’re learning and growing, you’re taking risks and stepping into the unknown. It’s scary but that’s a good sign.
- The only way to stop the fear of something is to do it. And the more you do something, the less scary it is and the more confidence you have in yourself.
- The only way to feel better about yourself is to go out and do it.
- You’ll experience fear whenever you’re in unfamiliar territory, and so will everyone else.
- Pushing through fear is less scary than living with the underlying fear that comes from feeling helpless.
The last one is the key to all your fears because it’s what fuels the ego’s fears and often goes back to early childhood. It’s connected to fears of loss and abandonment, but you’re not as helpless as a small child. There are things you can do to support yourself now that you’re all big and grown up!
Also, it’s worth mentioning that some fears may be legitimate. In other words, they’re not a sign you should move towards them, but the opposite. They’re things you should avoid doing at all costs – like not running into traffic or poking a tiger with a stick. Fear is designed to keep you safe, so you also need to discern the difference between legitimate fears and unnecessary ones. But deep down, there’s nothing to fear.
Fear isn’t the real problem. The problem is how you hold the fear. When you’re afraid and interpret that feeling as a failure or something bad, you’re seeing yourself as helpless. The fear becomes bigger than you. In psychosynthesis terms, you identify with the fear and so it controls you. To overcome this, you need to dis-identify from the fear:
I feel fear but I am not the fear. I am bigger than the fear.
This moves you from a position of pain to a position of power and it gives you more choice in how to act in relation to the thing that’s scaring you. When you’re stuck in the ego, you have no sense of real power which is why you try to control everything and let fears push you around.
But when you’re centred in your own power (in the Self), you’re free from fear because you don’t expect others to keep you safe or make you feel better about yourself. This also makes you more capable of being loving and open.
There’s a lot more in this inspiring and positive book that shows you how to break out of the cycle of fear and restore your self-confidence. I’ll give the last word to Susan Jeffers:
“There is so much excitement and wonder in front of you. Sometimes you will experience the ecstasy of being in the flow. Sometimes you will experience the agony of being way off course. Remember you are not alone. This is a world filled with an abundance of support systems that are there for the taking whenever you are feeling troubled by life’s experiences. … So commit! Commit yourself to pushing through the fear and becoming more than you are at the present moment. The you that could be is absolutely colossal. You don’t need to change what you are doing – simply commit to learning how to bring to whatever you do in life the loving and powerful energy of your Higher Self.”