Tag Archives: fear

One Creative Way to Conquer Fear of Rejection or Failure

“Swing” — Ernie Els by Mimi Stuart
Live the Life you Desire

I failed my way to success.

~Thomas Edison

People often lack the courage to take initiative because they fear failure or rejection. Yet to pursue friendships, romantic relationships, and work aspirations, we need to face potential failure and rejection without being constricted by the choke-hold of trepidation.

When you go out and pursue something you want, you are going to be rejected and make mistakes. You might as well expect rejection and mistakes and learn to handle them better.

In Coach John Wooden’s second to last game, UCLA was down 2 points with a few seconds to go. After the game, a reporter asked him why he chose to set up a play for Richard Washington. He replied,

Because he’s not afraid to make a mistake. He thinks he’s a pretty good shooter—and he is—but if he misses he’ll think, “Well, you can’t make them all.” He won’t be devastated. Therefore, he’s harnessed his fears. The others might be thinking, “I’ve got to make it.” If that’s their thinking, they’ll be fearful about missing. I didn’t want that.

Rejection Therapy

How do we harness our fear?

In a desire to desensitize himself from the pain of rejection and overcome his fear, entrepreneur Jia Jiang developed his own so-called “Rejection Therapy.” For 100 days, he set forth to make one rejection attempt a day, making sure his requests were legal, ethical, physically safe, and likely to be rejected.

For instance, he asked to borrow $100 from a stranger, he asked for a burger re-fill, he asked to play soccer in someone’s backyard, and he asked to dance with his waitress. Not only did he stop dreading rejection, he learned that if he accepted rejection gracefully or asked “Why” or “Why not?”, often the rejection had nothing to do with him, or it would turn into acceptance. What surprised him most was that he was not rejected 42 times out of 100, despite his weird requests.

We are all human. So rather than worrying about being perfect, we can embrace the opportunity to learn from our blunders and miscalculations. Accepting that we are going to get rejected and make mistakes can free us to move forward in a more relaxed and confident way and to live our journey more fully rather than agonize about reaching or failing to reach the destination.

Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.

~William Shakespeare

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Reference: Jia Jiang’s Tedtalk

“My life feels out of control.”

 "Peace - Buddha" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Peace – Buddha” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

If you are facing life challenges, such as a break up, illness, tragic choices made by family members, or financial distress, your life can feel out of control. As a result, you can feel helpless and powerless, and become anxious, overwhelmed, and depressed.

There are many things we don’t have control over in our lives and many more that we have very little control over. While we may not be able to change our external circumstances, what we can change is our internal perspective, and this can make all the difference in the world.

It may be difficult to change negative thought patterns, let go of grudges, and stop complaining about our circumstances, all of which bring us a certain comfort. Yet with practice, we can control our thoughts and change our perspective. We can admit to our negative thinking, understand it, and then move on.

Viktor Frankl, who survived the most dire circumstances in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Therefore, we should focus on what we usually do have control over. We often can determine the following:

1. how we spend our time,
2. whom we spend our time with,
3. what we read,
4. what we think about,
5. how to view the events in our lives,
6. what we learn from our relationships,
7. how to respond to other people—their love, their anger, their expectations,
8. the words and tone we use,
9. where we spend our time.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

~Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

by Alison Poulsen, PhD


“If I don’t keep on top of everything, I don’t know what will happen.”

“Garden of Eden” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Being organized, dependable, and creative in planning for the future are wonderful qualities. They allow you to create beauty in the home, order in your finances, and enjoyment in your social life.

Control and order

Responsible people generally strive to achieve security, order, and harmony to prevent upheaval, chaos, and turmoil. When circumstances become stressful, however, the drive to sustain order can get out of control and actually add to the stress. Ironically, the attempt to take too much control of life sometimes results in excessive vigilance that leaves you feeling powerless and out of control.

Moreover, you may become preoccupied with your worries to the exclusion of appreciating your blessings. As a result, you end up feeling tense, angry, and tormented — even panicked, while others seem to be nonchalant. It doesn’t seem fair.

Effective Problem-Solving

Paradoxically, by focusing exclusively on what has gone wrong and what might go wrong in the future, you lose your objectivity and effectiveness. If you dwell too much on a problem, you may lose sight of the bigger picture and access to your intuition. You may get mired in the mud of hopelessness. You may also drive other people away with your anxious energy.

Brain research shows that the best way to resolve a problem is to focus on that over which you have control. Inform yourself of all the facts and seek good advice if necessary in order to consider the problem thoughtfully. Then engage in something other than thinking about the problem. Stepping away from the problem at this point will allow your intuition to inform your decision-making. It also allows you to maintain perspective, while being able to enjoy other aspects of life.

Security

Taking the time to plan and organize fosters security and harmony in life. Too much planning and organizing, however, creates excessive tension that wipes out feelings of security and harmony. While you can hedge against some risks in the future, you cannot prevent all misfortunes and loss. Life is fleeting and mercurial. At some point you have to let go of trying to control against all misfortunes, and face the unknown with courage and acceptance.

Balance

Given the ephemeral quality of life, we need to balance planning for the future with being present in the moment. It may seem inappropriate and even absurd to think about enjoying life when faced with uncertainty, misfortune, and stress. Yet it is the present moment that we actually have the most control over, that is, we have control over our attitude and reactions to whatever is currently happening. Regardless of how beautiful and safe we try to make our world, we inevitably must accept what comes our way willingly and gracefully.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen


“I am overwhelmed by worry.”

"Stars of Valor" by Mimi Stuart © after Thomas Franklin

“Stars of Valor”
by Mimi Stuart © after Thomas Franklin

Fear as a signal – it can be lifesaving

Fear is a healthy emotional response that alerts you to potential danger. But when you allow fear to turn into extreme anxiety or panic, you can no longer respond to danger in an effective way. When fear and anxiety take control of your life you can become debilitated.

Three negative consequences when fear turns to panic:

1. Excessive fear leaves you vulnerable and is ineffective

Extreme anxiety can lead to mental paralysis or physical illness. It also prevents you from being taken seriously by others. Imagine a doctor, lawyer, or military leader who expresses extreme anxiety in facing an emergency.

2. Anxiety can be contagious

Extreme anxiety is infectious, particularly among emotionally-fused people, often causing others to become more anxious. Emotional fusion is the dissolution of boundaries between people, which can cause anxiety to become extremely contagious. Emotional fusion occurs when people do not function with emotional independence. For example, one person’s anger or anxiety causes the other person to react with the same emotion or to polarize to a position of having no concern. This extreme reactivity takes away from productive problem-solving.

3. The anxious person become the problem

When you allow anxiety to overwhelm you, it may cause others to respond to you rather than focus on the problem at hand. In order to effectively handle difficult or emergency situations, you have to learn to keep things in perspective and control your emotions. Only with a calm and rational approach can constructive and deliberate action be taken.

Differentiation

To resolve the anguish caused by emotional fusion, individuals need to become more highly-differentiated, that is, emotionally separate, and therefore, less reactive.

Differentiation will —

1. permit you to get deeply involved with a problem or with another person without becoming overwhelmed by anxiety,

2. eliminate the need to withdraw from or control a situation to modulate your own emotional well-being, and

3. give a modicum of peace of mind in knowing that you best influence others through your presence of mind and composure rather than through fear or emotional coercion.

Even if only one person becomes less reactive, the ability to handle difficulties will improve. Ironically, if you really care, keeping a cool head is the best way to help others and yourself through difficult times.

How to handle fear

When you imagine a downward spiral of catastrophic consequences, you are likely to become overwhelmed, panic-stricken, despondent, and mentally paralyzed. If you become overwhelmed with worst-case expectations, the situation will likely spiral out of control and your worst-case prophecy is more likely to come true. Thus, it is important to redirect your focus as follows:

1. Engage the rational part of your mind to address the challenge as well as to alleviate the panic.

2. Figure out what you have control over and take appropriate action.

3. Imagine what the worst possible outcome could be. Then imagine the most constructive and self-possessed way to accept the worst consequences. Once you prepare for the worst, know that reality will probably not be as bad as you fear.

4. Continue to engage in other parts of your life — your work, family, friends and interests — in order to buoy your strength, be a good role model, and enjoy the blessings that you still possess.

While it is important to be prepared for potential dangers in the world, we should strive for a balance between fear and hope, viewing the world with an informed awareness and equanimity.

How do we handle difficult times?

Life will present us with challenges. The best way to handle difficulties is to face them head on, while maintaining our dignity and having faith in ourselves. Above all, we must remember that we do not have control over other people nor over all situations, but we do have control over our actions, words, demeanor, and perspective, and how we respond in a given situation.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

“I worry a lot over my adult children and I often call them to give advice.”

"Tempest" by Mimi Stuart ©  Live the Life you Desire

“Tempest” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Fear is an important emotion that signals there is potential danger. Being aware of danger makes it possible for us to protect ourselves and others from jeopardy.

Worry

Worry, however, is an ineffective state of anxiety where we repeatedly imagine all sorts of negative possibilities. Once our children are young adults and off to college or work, worry on our part degrades the quality of our lives rather than helps our children. While unfortunate things do happen, there is a point where worrying about our children doesn’t help and in fact sometimes can make things worse.

Too much warning

When you continually warn your adult children of all the dangers in the world, it often causes them to be less careful. Even with young children you should make sure not to be overly anxious or you will lose credibility with them. Moreover, you will annoy them by infantilizing them and implying that that they are not capable of thinking on their own.

Imagine being a child. If an adult is constantly warning you of danger, you don’t take on responsibility and accountability for looking for those dangers yourself. Moreover, you soon see the warnings as being exaggerated. So the reckless part of you wants to act out. The degree to which someone focuses on telling you to be careful is the degree to which you will either become overly fearful or overly reckless, and sometimes ironically both.

Learning to evaluate risk

The best way to learn to evaluate risk is by having many experiences of evaluating risk, and sometimes making mistakes and facing the consequences. When you know that you are accountable for yourself, you tend to put more effort into evaluating situations and making decisions.

Children need to be able to make mistakes, sometimes painful, within the context of a safe environment. Of course, small children need to be kept safe. Over time, however, parents should gradually allow their children more leeway to think about the choices they make. Certainly by the time their children become adults, parents are only cultivating codependence, resentment, and rebellion by inundating their children with lectures and warnings.

Thus, if you tend to worry and frequently give caution to your adult children or excessively give warning to your younger children, you need to take stock, gain some self-discipline and resist focusing on your children. If you rarely give advice, the advice you do give will be taken more seriously.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “I am overwhelmed by worry.”

Read “I fear something bad is going to happen. It feels like the end of the world.”

Read “I found out my daughter has cancer. All I can do is cry and worry.”

Communicating Effectively under Stress:
“This is horrible!”

"Enlightenment" Dalai Lama by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Enlightenment” Dalai Lama by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

Fear and anger are signals to pay attention to your physical surroundings, your current situation or your relationships. Appropriate fear and anger often mean that you may be in danger or are being treated unfairly.

When you recognize the emotional signal, take a deep breath, and switch over to your intuition and rational mind to determine what to do next. Becoming overwhelmed with emotion is usually counterproductive when you need to take action or communicate with others.

Get calm

It’s highly important to calm down and get centered before you speak. Otherwise your anxiety, hostility or panic will be infectious. There are subtle forms of tone of voice and sarcasm that will put the other person on the defensive and hinder your ability to resolve the situation effectively.

You may need to take a walk or talk with someone. It may take a few minutes or it may take hours to feel balanced and calm enough to be able to have an effective conversation. In certain serious situations, such as potential divorce, it may take days or weeks to get a handle over your feelings and gain adequate perspective to have an effective conversation.

If you need time to feel in control before speaking to someone, but if that person wants to speak with you right then, it’s critical that you say that you need to calm down first and to do so. If you simply walk away to calm down, the other person may feel rejected, abandoned, or ignored and become angry, which is not helpful.

It’s better to give a time frame:
“I need some time to calm down. Let’s talk in five minutes/after dinner/tomorrow.”

If the other person says, “What do you mean? Let’s talk about it now,” just firmly say, “That’s not going to be productive. I need a minute/some time alone.” Stand firm and don’t be swayed.

Tone of voice

Tone of voice and body language are more important than words. Some research says that they account for 80% of what is communicated. They can convey positive intention, self-control, respect, and self-respect, which will make it easier for others to really listen to you. Or they can convey weakness, loss of control, and desperation, which can freak people out or put them on the defensive. Even if you are extremely angry, it is more powerful and effective to show self-control than to let your anger loose.

No judgment

Avoid negative judgment, name-calling, and expressing yourself in a way that makes the other person feel attacked. By keeping yourself from exaggerating or listing all the bad things the other person has ever done, you make it more likely that the other person will listen rather than take things personally and defend him- or herself.

You’ll have a more productive conversation if you say,  “I waited for 20 minutes,” than if you exclaim: “You drive me crazy the way you are always late. It’s so rude!”

Feelings

Some people tend to control others rather than simply state their own feelings because they don’t want to seem weak or self-oriented. Yet a direct declaration of one’s feelings is powerful, not weak. Rather than attacking the other person, state your own feelings: “I was worried.” “I felt angry.” “I’m disappointed.” “I was sad.” “I felt frustrated.” When you state a feeling, no one can reasonably argue with it.

Feelings are not judgments such as, “I feel that you are selfish.” That’s a negative judgment pretending to be a feeling.

It’s important not to become immersed in the feeling or identified with the feeling. If you’re sad, you can show a little sadness, but don’t fall apart. If you’re angry, don’t become ballistic. People who are able to express their emotions without being overwhelmed by them, garner more respect and empathy from others. They are also more capable of dealing effectively with the problems the feelings are signaling.

Desires and needs

Express what you desire, value, or need. “I would like more intimacy.” “I want a trusting relationship.” “I need support.” “I would like to have more time alone each day.” “I want to pursue my passions.”

Some people don’t like to express their needs because they don’t want to appear needy. Yet a direct declaration what you value and want is less manipulative than using blame or guilt trips. Such openness also supports the other person’s autonomy, allowing the other person to choose his or her actions freely.

Needs and desires are general, not tied to a particular person. For example, “I need you to love me more” should be replaced with “I want to be in a relationship with someone who loves me.”

No one can argue against your desires or needs even if they might not fulfill them.

Make a specific positive request

  • Specific: General requests such as “Support me” or “Clean your room” are not nearly as effective as a specific request such as “Would you help me pay the bills tonight?” or “Would you be willing to put your clothes lying on the floor there, inside your closet?”
  • Positive: Beware of saying something like “If you’d just get up off the couch and help around the house once in a while.” This reeks of hostile criticism.
  • Request: A request is not a threat or a demand. By making a request, you offer the other person the opportunity to do something nice for you. Rather than a scolding session, where everyone feels lousy, it can be a win-win situation, in which someone will likely help you and you will feel appreciative.

Transform the relationship

If you make repeated reasonable requests and another person repeatedly refuses to accommodate you, that is the other person’s prerogative. However, you should probably change your expectations of the other person and in some cases consider changing the scope of the relationship.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Anger: ‘I have a right to be angry.’”

Watch “Expressing Anger Effectively.”

Read “Random Thoughts from So What I Really Meant.”