Boxing Fear

Boxing is a sport of self-control. You must understand fear so you can manipulate it. Fear is like fire. You can make it work for you: it can warm you in the winter, cook your food when you’re hungry, give you light when you are in the dark, and produce energy. Let it go out of control and it can hurt you, even kill you… Fear is a friend of exceptional people. I should add that at no time does fear disappear. It’s just as bad in the hundredth fight as it was in the first, except by the time he reaches a hundred fights or long before that he’s developed enough discipline where he can learn to live with it, which is the object, to learn to live with it.

~ Cus D’Amato

Conquering Fear - A Formula

I really like this formula for conquering fear :

1. awaken desire

"Before this desire was kindled, language had lost its power because the people were rendered stone-deaf by fear. But, in this aroused, anticipatory state, their ears open up. Their mouths become looser. From a state of being cramped up in terror, there is a moment of relaxing. The 18th-century thinker Rabbi Nachman of Breslov wrote that romantic desire clears the throat."

2. tell/write your story

"Storytelling becomes central to conquering fear. It’s a way of naming and making sense of fear and imagining different routes out. Storytellers expand the consciousness, waken the sleeping self and give their hearers the words and motifs to use for themselves.... Stories create new ways of seeing, which lead to new ways of feeling and thinking. "

3. sing

"They are singing in defiance of terror....The song produces energy and spiritual generosity. Borrowing from Oliver Sacks, Zornberg writes that the people have become “unmusicked” by fear and pain. They have to become “remusicked."

"Eventually, the Israelites are able to cope with fear. This makes them capable of loving and being loved....We’re always told to confront our fears. Take them head-on. But, in the sophisticated psychology of Exodus, fears are confronted obliquely and happily, through sexiness, storytelling and song."




What scares the king of scariness, Stephen King? From a recent NPR Interview:

"So here's the movie that scared me the most in the last 12 or 13 years: The movie opens with a woman in late middle age, sitting at a table and writing a story, and the story goes something like, 'Then the branches creaked in the ...' and she stops and she says to her husband, 'What are those things? I can't think of them. They're in the backyard and they're very tall and birds land on the branches.' And he says, 'Why, Iris, those are trees,' and she says, 'Yes, how silly of me,' and she writes the word and the movie starts. And that's Iris Murdoch and she's suffering the onset of Alzheimer's disease. That's the boogeyman in the closet now. ... I'm afraid of losing my mind."

Do We Ever Leave High School?

I sometimes feel like my life coping skills haven't changed much from what they were in my junior year of high school.  So it's comforting to learn that this is pretty normal, if not what I want for myself.  Why? Studies suggest "that  memories from the ages of 15 to 25 are most vividly retained" - it's called the "reminiscence bump." In fact, a lot of who we are is developed in adolescence.  According to developmental psychologist, Laurence Steinberg: "if you’re interested in how people become who they are, so much is going on in the adolescent years.”

It's a period of great fear. Research shows that adolescents are in far less control of their fear response than children or adults. Which could mean that, lacking a way to deal with fear in adolescence, many carry that fear into adulthood.

It's a period of shame. Brené Brown says shame “is all about unwanted identities and labels. And I would say that for 90 percent of the men and women I’ve interviewed, their unwanted identities and labels started during their tweens and teens.”

According to Brown we use one of three methods to cope with shame. We avoid it, “by secret-keeping, by hiding”; we engage it, “by people-pleasing”; or we use "shame and aggression to fight shame and aggression.”

No matter the method, she says that we're likely to use that method for the rest of our lives.

So do we ever leave high school? Maybe not.

Fear or Fuzz?

This ever happen to you? You see a black something out of the corner of your eye. It seems to move so you jump and maybe even let out a quick scream. You're convinced it's a big hairy spider. But then you look closer and realize it's just a piece of black fuzz from your favorite sweater? I remember seeing this Peanuts comic when I was in junior high and thinking it was the best thing ever. I still do.


The Lesson in Struggle

The Universe is trying to teach me something. Why else have I been struggling so much these past two years? What started out as a leap of faith into the unknown has been one lesson after the other - on dealing with uncertainty, facing fear and managing struggle. It's been so difficult that a friend recently said: "I see you feeling really uncomfortable and then thinking that’s wrong because other people around you don’t experience that. But the difference is you are willing to go through that phase of learning. Others are not."

His words helped and so did this article on learning:

"In Eastern cultures, Stigler says, it's just assumed that struggle is a predictable part of the learning process. Everyone is expected to struggle in the process of learning, and so struggling becomes a chance to show that you, the student, have what it takes emotionally to resolve the problem by persisting through that struggle....

All of this matters because the way you conceptualize the act of struggling with something profoundly affects your actual behavior.

Obviously if struggle indicates weakness — a lack of intelligence — it makes you feel bad, and so you're less likely to put up with it. But if struggle indicates strength — an ability to face down the challenges that inevitably occur when you are trying to learn something — you're more willing to accept it."


What If?

Worried? Anxious? Fearful? When this happens, stop, drop to a chair, and write out the following: 1. What is the worst that could happen?

Answer the question.

2. What could I do about it?

Answer the question.

This simple process will show you that there is always something you can do (even if that something is to simply stop worrying about it) and realizing that will show you that you have power in the situation and when you know that, your fear will go away.



Who's Afraid of Math?

You don't need to be. The first step is understanding the anxiety and fear that math can provoke. Recent research located the emotions math provokes using fMRIs. The researchers found that "the key to boosting students' math performance isn't through remedial teaching, but through providing students tools to cope with their fears." Or said another way, teaching students to strengthen their pre-frontal cortices.

How do you do that? Meditation is a great way to learn to manage your anxiety and fear.

Worrying Mind

The goal every day is to be present. Or at least that's my goal. But what the heck does that mean? Well, in essence, you don't want to be distracted but focused on the task at hand or the person you're with. While that might sound as easy as turning off the television or blackberry, many folks, myself included, are distracted most by our thoughts. I have a lot of thoughts, but on a percentage basis, my fear thoughts are greatest. I'm a regular Fraidy cat!

I recently learned a tip for managing my worrying mind - it's called prayer. If worrying minds direct attention to exactly those things we don't want, then prayer focuses attention on what we do want.

So I'm giving it a whirl. Every time I have a fear thought, my goal this week is to turn it into a prayer. I'll let you know how it goes.

How TV Ruined Your Life

How TV Ruined Your Life is a six part British series that is hilarious. The first episode is on fear or as the host puts it, how many television safety programs are "designed to fear you to not going all dead." It's also why I don't watch the local news. Check it out here.

"During my substantive years, mushroom clouds were all the rage." Mine, too! Steve Guttenberg anyone?

Anticipatory Anxiety

Victor Frankl in his book Man's Search for Meaning talks eloquently about Anticipatory Anxiety: “It is characteristic of this fear that it produces precisely that of which the patient is afraid. An individual, for example, who is afraid of blushing when he enters a large room and faces many people will actually be more prone to blush under these circumstances. In this context, one might amend the saying, ‘The wish is father to the thought’ to ‘The fear is mother of the event.’ Ironically enough, in the same way that fear brings to pass what one is afraid of, likewise a forced intention makes impossible what one forcibly wishes.“

“Paradoxical intention” is based on the fact that “fear brings about that which one is afraid of, and that hyper-intention makes impossible what one wishes. In this approach the phobic patient is invited to intend, even if only for a moment, precisely that which he fears.”

He shares a great anecdote, that I can really relate to, about how to fix the problem: “A young physician consulted me because of his fear of perspiring. Whenever he expected an out-break of perspiration, this anticipatory anxiety was enough to precipitate excessive sweating. In order to cut this circle formation I advised the patient, in the event that sweating should recur, to resolve deliberately to show people how much he could sweat. A week later he returned to report that whenever he met anyone who triggered his anticipatory anxiety, he said to himself, ‘I only sweated out a quart before, but now I’m going to pour at least ten quarts!’ The result was that, after suffering from his phobia for four years, he was able, after a single session, to free himself permanently of it within one week.”

This simple change in thought has worked wonders for me. Give it a try.