Of all the human emotion that create pain for yourself and others, creates limitation and stops progress in businesses, fear is the hidden stopper that causes untold damage if not understood, looked at and let go. As the title of the book “State of Fear” spells out loud an clear, we certainly are in the midst of a fear cycle in the western world. What happened? After years of peace after the World War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the global rise of human rights, why has fear crept up so much that it effects are everyday lives so much.
What is fear? Where does it come from? How does it grow and how can it be released?
In my life there are two completely separate paths that have led to my understanding of fear as an emotion, about as opposite as paths can be.
The first is in the postures and cycle I see in markets that effects business. At a level the 7 year cycle- of which we are at the end of the bottom part of the recession as I write this, is an up abnd down cycle that repeats itself over and over again. I look at my life and even though in general I’ve worked hard throughout, I seem to always do well in the first part of the up cycle. This by itself was an amazing discovery- that the sea level has more to do with the outcome, than just the effort you do. Over time, I am beginning to see these not only as business or financial cycles, but as large emotional cycles.
Consider the adage in a up market the bears say:
This can’t last,” while the bulls say, “no, this time it’s different.”
And in a down market the bulls say:
“This can’t last” while the the bears say, “No, this time it’s different.”
What are the forces that drive us to feed off the negative energies of others and in a down cycle feel fear? Yet being realistic at the same time and understanding that life will be different and business will be harder and slower in those times. How can one see the fear, feel the fear, but not allow yourself to be brought down and controlled by it? Or simply, how can one feel the emotion, let it exist, yet keep our minds separate from what is going on.
One of the best examples of trying to avoid this was when the down cycle started at Glam last year. There was the famous email in Silicon Valley that said, “fire 50% of your employees and prepare to not survive.” This created a massive reaction, with employees being fired, people changing their plans, and an overall deep recession. The interesting thing is that many of the companies actually did not have business models, and this created the start of many companies shutting down. Everyone was affected by this and the mood was very very negative.
Given the number of times me and my team that been through these cycles, we decided to take a different approach. We changed our plan in anticipation of the slow down, trying to be as realistic as we could, however, we wanted to listen to the actual market to see what the opportunity really was absent our fears. This led to a plan that believed that we would grow, although at a slower rate than the earlier years, in an environment that everyone assumed, planned for and thus manifested huge losses and lower revenue.
The important thing here was that we listened to the environment and created a plan based on that, not on the raw emotion that was running through the valley. If the reality would have told us that the markets will be down considerably, for example in real estate, we would have acted differently. This grounding in being open, yet not falling in the trap of fear allowed us to buck all the major trends, delivering 40-50% growth is the toughest part of the recession. This also could have been applied to the top part of the market, where the emotions of hyper growth forever were, in fact, not consistent with the realities of the market and a more conservative approach would have helped many companies.
The learning here was to learn about fear and what creates and grows it, and the ability to understand it and finally use it in our lives. The market cycles are at some level, the sum of the emotional states of the people, so to understand this, we do need to understand what creates growth and what leads to fear in people and markets.
Fear as a personal emotion.
This is a much more personal subject. Fear is one of he lowest of the emotional tone specially when not expressed or deeply repressed.
Starting as a baby, one of the first reaction “built-in” is taking the fetal position in dropped suddenly. We come pre-wired with this reaction as a saving ourselves from the force of gravity. This reaction uses many of our flexor muscles and we create a pattern of using our body to support and keep fear in this way from then on. This remarkable discovery was first talked about by Moshe Feldenkrais, and remains one of the deep principles that have helped understand emotions.
From this starts our fear pattern, anytime we feel danger of any kind, we repeat these patterns, creating over time the “red light” posture as Thomas Hanna describes it.
I have never met a person in deep fear that does not also have the matching fear posture. Repressed fear leads to grief. Repressed grief leads to feeling depressed that leads to more serious apathy.
One of the examples Dub Leigh always used was watch a game on TV at the end with the sound turned off. You’ll always know who won by the people that have their hands up in the air and their postures tall and open, and the ones that lost would be crouched down and low.
This is our way of dealing with fear, unfortunately, we pull it in ourselves.
So how do we develop a sense of fear without pulling it deep within us. One of the easiest ways to get mislead is the concept of not feeling fear- specially wrapped up in the messages boys receive- don’t cry, don’t feel fear, etc. There is possibly nothing more damaging than any message that tells us not to feel what we are actually feeling. This alienates our self and creates a whole new set of issues that leads to many many hours spent with our therapists to undo. This is also a trap I see many students of the eastern ways fall into, don’t feel angry does nothing but the opposite of getting you closer to happiness. Many young people who read Ayn Rand fall into another related trap, being for the individual and rational does not mean not listening to your emotions. There is nowhere that Ayn actually said this, but it became enough of an issue that she had to try to explain it in her later years.
There is actually no way to stop feeling what you are in the moment. You can only change what you feel after the moment you felt it has passed.
Fear, like any other emotion, first needs to be allowed space to exist. All emotions are a door. And fear is a door that says there is something that may harm us. Being able to stop and breathe and see the emotion changes its grip on us. We can them have the possibility of looking at the situation and seeing what harm is actually possible or imagined. This is what it is all about.
What about the fears that are now deep within all of us? What so you do with your past?
The work is to look at them- by whatever modality that works for you where you are now. Looking, seeing, understanding, exploring and releasing fears is the only way we can get past them. Anything we don’t get past is brought to the present with us and effects our now and future. The only way to be fearless, is to start by relasing old fears. As Nietzsche said, “if you are not afraid to die, you are strangely free to live.”
What tools can you use to learn the practice of fearlessness? That to come in future posts…