This morning I saw a quote, “Fear is the enemy of creativity.”

Well, maybe. Other popular quotes tell us that fear is also the enemy of progress, love, and logic. Seriously. Just type it into Google and see for yourself.

Somewhere in our culture, Fear became a force we have to face. Instead of an impulse or a thought that arises from circumstances (“Gee, this ledge is high,” or “She would never talk to me“), we made this into a big, bad demon we must continually confront before it ruins our lives.

But I have a different perspective:

Fear isn’t your enemy.

Fear is a conversation in your head. It is the tool of the thinking mind to keep you from hurting yourself. It is ego’s survival instinct from the time of hunter-gatherer’s being fearful about kicking a wooly mammoth in the rear end, just to get into the cool hunter-gatherer’s club.

Fear is a GPS that tells us how to stay alive and unhurt (turn Left into your apartment, turn Right to your couch – now stay there!!) It isn’t a force outside of you, it’s a self-preservation technique.

Ultimately, it’s your decision whether or not to follow its guidance.

Ten or so years ago, I went sky-diving in the Swiss alps. The team we were jumping with were world-class, the weather conditions were Disney-tacular, everything was perfect. That didn’t stop my thinking-mind from huddling in a corner and rocking, chattering that I was about to die. Recognizing that helped me find the peace of mind to make the jump anyway. Incongruous, right? I didn’t have to pretend the fear wasn’t there or chase it away with a show of false-courage. I recognized the conversation for what it was, and reminded myself that it wasn’t always right. It didn’t have all the answers. It doesn’t know the future.

As an artist, I am constantly training myself to go into the fear of ego-death. By design, my ego, like yours, is fearful of looking stupid, of being mocked or hurt, or of doing work that people don’t like. I take the fear-conversation and have a look at it: Will this really kill me? Is it true that my closest friends will never speak to me again?

Yeah, didn’t think so.

Then I go into the fear. I acknowledge it (heck, you can even thank it politely for its narrow, one-task viewpoint), and then I take the jump out of the plane. (Metaphorically. Once was enough!)

If I find I have allowed myself to actually believe what self-preservation is saying, (sometimes that I’m not young/thin/good/brave enough), I apply the Ross Pruden Perspective: “My, what an interesting self-limiting belief!” Ha! That suddenly changes everything.

You can’t fight fear to the death. Instead, let it be your buddy in the room who needs to live a little, and you get to be the role model.

Get vulnerable. Get honest. Let your guard down. Let your hair down.

Fear can be good for you – without fear, there are no stakes. Without fear, you don’t get the opportunity to train your thinking-mind and tap into your courage. It doesn’t have to be jumping out of a plane; it can be auditioning for a role you would have never considered, or letting someone read your poetry, or traveling by yourself to a new city.

Darkness is the absence of light – you don’t corral it in a corner, you simply turn on a light. In the same way, don’t try to erase fear. Instead, turn on the light of your own intuition, faith, and love. Our perceived limitations are usually ones we’ve placed on ourselves. We just need to turn that GPS volume down.

To your inherent courage!


Jeanne V. Bowerman on giving up fear for Lent
Seth Godin on fear
TedxBelfast on fear

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Posted on August 6, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Any more sagacious you get, and write like this, you will!

    In all seriousness, yet more incredible advice from a very generous artist. Thank you for sharing with us.

  2. Fear can be seen, felt or heard of as being a stepping stone to success, another level of living. reflect back on your biggest achievements and notice you crossed the fear barrier~YOUR fear barrier! and when you did you found it was not there!

  3. cambridgehypnotherapy

    Fear can be seen, felt or heard as a stepping stone to our next success. Reflect back tio your biggest successes in your life and notice you went through the (your) fear barrier and found it not to be there! You created it, you made it dissappear!

  1. Pingback: Limitations. « sassanista

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