Doing what frightens you

Since the Buzz Tour I have run several workshops for groups and individuals about overcoming fear. We all feel fear differently at different situations depending upon our capabilities and previous experiences. There is useful fear which gives us fight or flight hormones to deal with emergencies but there is also unhelpful fear that we can develop techniques to overcome.

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  • Reducing risk
  • Using motivating emotions
  • Be inspired
  • Use habit and familiarity
  • Taking care of the physical
  • Courage together

Reducing risk

Risk is composed of probability and consequence. Simply doing something that frightens you will not reduce your fear of that thing unless it makes you more capable, increases your knowledge/familiarity or it goes well. Doing something badly and having your fears confirmed can be traumatising rather than helpful. The first stage to doing something frightening can be to reduce the probability and consequence of harm. Knowledge reduces the fear of the unknown. Finding a mentor, learning from others and practicing also reduces fear. By becoming more capable and managing the situation to the best of your ability you make the reality less frightening in real terms.

Using motivating emotions

When considering how to grow our courage we are exploring a behavioural change, which by necessity must involve motivating emotions. Develop and use your motivating emotions – gratitude, devotion, duty, love, anger, frustration. Why are you compelled to do this thing that frightens you? Explore and visualise your motivation so it can be recalled when you need courage.

Be inspired

Use the inspiration of others. Who can you use as role models to give you a template for your courage? Emotionally connect with what they did in order to normalise what you are about to do. Human like to follow and copy each other so use that to your advantage.

Use habit and familiarity

Humans have a useful ability to go on ‘autopilot’ and the more we are familiar with a situation the less stressed we are. If you are going to have to do something in a frightening situation can you do the activity hundreds of times so that you can use the habit to do it with little conscious effort? Can you bring familiarity and normality with you into the fearful situation in order to reduce stress levels?

Take care of the physical

Some physical situations will lead to more fear and stress so taking care of the physical needs makes courage easier. Eating (especially carbohydrates), sleeping, keeping warm, not abusing substances, resting and removing stress hormones from your body will all help reduce fear and anxiety.

Courage together

There are many factors that make it easier to have courage in a group. Our bodies release more reward hormones when we take risks with a peer group than alone. The immediacy of protecting our friends is motivating and you have someone to literally watch your back. The social pressure to perform and conform in front of others and group pride is also a useful tool. For these and many other reasons we must pick our peers with care, communicate our wants, limitations and fears, and take responsibility for each other.

When we have done all we can to reduce our fear, there may well still be a gap that remains, between our courage and what we need to do. Never give in to self pity. When there is nothing left for it, stop thinking, use your motivating emotions and just do it.Do-You-Have-The-Courage-to-Price-High

 

 

 

Arriving as yourself

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Everyone who came to Paris made some kind of sacrifice to be there, but how do we ensure that as we take leaps forward, that we are still ourselves when we arrive?  In this long distance relay run to save ourselves, we need to look after each other to reach the finish line.

Our identities evolve over time and encompass our behaviour and habits, which are highly influenced by the immediate culture we live in.  The environment movement learnt some painful lessons from the Copenhagen COP. This time discussions were about ‘beyond Paris’. Everyone was aware of the trap of pinning hopes on governments or burning yourself out for the sake of just a couple of weeks. But even with that awareness, some who were there for weeks or months still found they were not themselves by the end. An awareness of the global crisis, unheated squats, terrorist attacks, police raids, organisational crises, late night noisy parties, and no defined breaks were just some of the challenges.

Creating a sustainable culture of resistance involves prioritising the basic support infrastructure – food, shelter, sleep. It also involves organising ourselves to reduce the stress of situations and respecting other people’s needs and valuing rest. A tendancy I observed was for people to get sucked into a habit of not taking breaks. When there are no organised rest breaks and no ‘work free’ areas it’s hard to relax because around you other people are stressed and you feel guilty. The use of alcohol and other substances for stress relief is only effective in the very short term as the body becomes resistant and leads to further stress on the body the next day.

When people become stressed over a prolonged period of time, the hormone cortisol builds up in their bodies, causing harm. Decision making becomes impaired and further stress is caused by the resulting bad decisions. To avoid serious damage there must be periods of time where hormone levels return to normal. Dancing, shaking and laughing are good ways to remove cortisol from the body.

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Some tips for arriving as ourselves:

  • Take care of the basics – food, sleep, shelter, exercise and time in nature
  • Plan effectively. Anticipate things that may go wrong and arrange spare capacity
  • Learn to let go, to delegate and to put people and processes before outcomes
  • Never feel sorry for yourself. Embrace your power and do not regret
  • Celebrate, forgive and be grateful for yourself and each other
  • Value and make time to be kind and loving to each other
  • Avoid the use of substances for stress relief except for the very short term
  • Remind yourself of the broader long term perspective. It will pass
  • Practice resilience and self care when it is easy, so that when it is hard it has become habit
  • Take breaks with friends and reinforce a subculture of resilience
  • Invite and be grateful for the wider support of the community

Over the next ten years the tactics, work and results of the whole environment movement will evolve. It is my hope that as we take power of our global culture, as we succeed in creating the world we want to live in, that we will arrive there as the people we wish to be.