MoneyWatch (COMMENTARY) Let's just get this out of the way now: You can't get rid of fear or pain, but you can minimize it, control it, and even use it to create your best life possible with a little practice. If you are in perpetual fear or are avoiding that one thing that terrifies you, there is relief. The solution, however, is counter to what you probably have been doing.
Is your fear holding you back at work? Are you afraid of giving a speech? Of stepping up and taking more responsibility? Of raising your hand when you know you are right? Of starting a business? You're not alone. "Avoiding pain wouldn't be a problem if we did it once or twice a year, but for most of us it is a deeply engrained habit," says Phil Stutz, one of the authors of a new book called "The Tools: Transform Your Problems into Courage, Confidence, and Creativity."
I would go even further and suggest that avoiding pain is not only a habit, but a disease -- a disease that limits your options, opportunities, and your life. If you're sick of cowering from fear and having it run (i.e., ruin) your life, there is another option.
There are three basic responses to fear -- fight, flee, or freeze. What do most people do? They run. They arrange their days and their lives in order to avoid all of the areas that may cause them pain. But you and I know how well this works. In fact, the more you attempt to avoid fear the larger and more ominous it becomes. The moment you confront the fear by flipping up the sheets and shining a flashlight under the bed is the moment you have some relief. By avoiding, hiding, and running from fear, it becomes worse and worse.
In my wealth management firm, where I focus on "sudden money" recipients, and in my practice as a life coach and therapist, I see this phenomenon play out every single day. You cannot run fast enough or hide well enough to avoid fear. The only way to minimize the fear in your life is to stop fleeing and to start fighting. Go after it with a vengeance. Hunt it down and slay it every opportunity you get.
Stutz, a psychiatrist, and co-author Barry Michels offer a solution that helps people face fear head on. They call it the "reversal of desire." It is a tool for when you need to take action on what you have been avoiding. According to the authors, to overcome pain you must desire it. Desire pain? Yes, really. And we're not talking about living with fear or accepting it. You need to wholeheartedly desire it. Why? The authors will tell you that when you desire something you move toward it and the pain shrinks. But how?
The idea is to focus intently on the pain you have been trying to escape. Visualize the pain as a dark cloud and silently scream, "Bring it on!" and "I love pain!" as you become one with it. Continue by passionately saying, "Pain sets me free!" and then pass beyond the cloud to a realm of pure light. Do this over and over and over until you have boosted your self-confidence and are ready to act.
I'll be honest. I don't get the "pure light" bit, but I love the basic concept -- stop running from fear and pain and face it head on. Give yourself a new mantra that you embrace pain and that the pain will set you free. Every time you feel yourself shifting away from pain or fear, stop yourself and try this tool. Continue until you are trembling... with anticipation.