Random Tools to Counter Unclear Fear

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

One benefit to growing the Counterfear idea is that I’ve got notes on about a hundred counterfear tools in my arsenal - and that is a real number.  I’m in the process of getting as many of those as possible on the website in the near future.  In the meantime, this post is a bit of a Toolbox sampling... as I tried to process some unexplained fear one night.

Practical Fear

It would be nice to think that if you’ve decided to champion an idea called “counterfear” that you might not have so much fear.  I realized a couple of springs ago exactly how untrue that is.  A mentally unstable person wrote me a multi-page threatening letter using a colorful marker, and left it on my vehicle.  Deep-gut immediate full-on fear. 

Fear can be incredibly practical, and sometimes it is very, very useful to follow that gut feeling.  It may also be very useful to bring in backup (tool #1, for the purposes of this post).  Like, in the form of the police department.  Turns out I’m not the only one with a gut reaction to marker-scrawled missives; cops spot potentially dangerous instability in a heartbeat.

Sorting Out Unclear Fear

Sometimes the source of fear is less clear.  And less clearly actionable - whereas going to the police was an obvious choice in the case above.  Tonight I was working, just like any normal night, and I got a hit.  A sudden, deep-in-the-gut, totally random, sharp pang of fear.  Only it was more than a “pang.”  What do you call it?  A “round” of fear?  A “bout”?

Whatever it was, it dug in.  My shoulders immediately tensed, and I lost my appetite.  A light nausea spread.  In the life coach / wayfinder world I trained in, we refer to “the body compass” as a useful tool (tool #2).  In this case, several of my body compass bells were ringing - off the hook.  What the heck?

I started with a situation assessment, and triage (tool #3).

A nanosecond check of my environment confirmed what I already knew:  nothing dangerous around me.  I checked all of the multi-tasking I was working on:  nothing there either.  I checked the Google News - nada.  Well, there was some of your becoming-more-standard 2016 election news:  unfortunate violence in Anaheim over politics.  Icky from several angles, but not something directly affecting me - halfway across the country.

One option for this sort of situation is the Phone-A-Friend tool (#4).  I considered it; but it was getting later in the evening.  Most of the folks in my immediate Phone-a-Friend not-a-crisis-but-would-be-helpful-to-talk-to short list would be turning in soon for the night.  It is important to discern the level of crisis involved.  Some of those folks I would call anyway if I had any earthly idea what was causing the fear, and if it was causing actual danger in any way.  Not the case here.

On the triage subject, I also did a check-in.  Anything outstanding and urgent that I was missing, or needed to attend to?  Sometimes things pop up, or perhaps something is in the back of your mind that needs attention.  For me, there was nothing immediately urgent lurking, but it was good to stop and make sure.

Post-Triage:  Analysis & Action

After the situational assessment, I did a quick fear inventory (tool #5).  What are the things in my life that could be causing fear - suddenly or not?  Turns out there are several.  It would make sense that I could suddenly get deeply panicked about any of those things.  Even if for no obvious reason.

Here’s the counter for that:  there wasn’t a darned thing I could do about any of those things, right there in that moment.  This is one reason I like the “Sphere of Control” concept as a counterfear tool (#6) with a useful diagram here.  In the diagram, there are three circles - each inside the other. 

The smallest, innermost circle is “control.”  It is a small circle indeed, because the things we can actually control are often less than we perceive.  A career of risk and emergency management has taught me that.  And life.

The second circle is “influence.”  That’s a bigger circle.  We can’t tell how far our direct influence reaches… so much as maybe figure out what’s in the outermost circle:  those things we “can’t control.” 

I re-checked my panic and my quick fear inventory list.  There were definitely things on my current list that I could influence; but not all at once, and not all in that moment. 

The remaining bit of fear appeared to be that which was and is outside of my control.  I think my deepest fear - and possibly the one that suddenly struck me - is almost always outside of my control... or even my influence.  That fear is about the well-being of my family and friends.  One goes into surgery tomorrow.  So many are dispersed around the country.  But some are here, near where I live.

One nice thing about being “home” and not halfway across the country is that it is pretty easy to do a quick drive-by wellness check (tool #7) on at least a few of my nearest and dearest.  Quick wellness checks are a little more involved when you live 1,000+ miles away, because random phone calls can generate more concern and attention than you might want.  My blessedly-local quick reconnaissance indicated no signs of chaos, unusual activity, or ambulances.  Helpful.  Low-hanging fruit to give me some extra peace of mind.  A simple step.

Cascading Tools

After all that, I still had the tension - but it was markedly improved.  I pulled out one of my anchorpoint tools:  profound wisdom from Spaceballs, the movie.  Actually watching the movie would be another tool - because it’s funny - but I don’t have all night for that sort of thing.  I just need to revisit one bit.

Here’s the scene, featuring intrepid antagonists Dark Helmet, and Colonel Sanders.  They have just put their spaceship into "Ludicrous Speed," because the ship they are pursuing went into "Hyper-Active" and they intend to pull ahead of their target:

Dark Helmet:  [as the ship is going into “Ludicrous Speed”]  We've passed them.  Stop this thing!

Colonel Sandurz:  We caaaaan't stop, it's toooo dangerous!  We have to slowww dowwn first!

Dark Helmet:  Bullshit!  Stop this thing, I order you!  Stoppppppp!

[Colonel Sandurz reaches out and uses the emergency brake, which is labeled "Never Use."  Dark Helmet keeps flying forward as the ship stops, yelling, and hits a control panel - denting both it and his helmet severely.]

Colonel Sandurz:  Are you all right, sir?

Dark Helmet:  [slightly dazed]  Fine.  How have you been?

Colonel Sandurz:  Very good, sir.  It's a good thing you were wearing that helmet.

Dark Helmet:  Yeah.

Colonel Sandurz:  What should we do now, sir?

Dark Helmet:  Well, are we stopped?

Colonel Sandurz:  We're stopped, sir.

Dark Helmet:  Good.  Why don't we take a five minute break?

Colonel Sandurz:  Very good, sir. 

That’s right:  Spaceballs “the movie” brings in today’s Tool #8:  take a 5-minute break.

So.  I stepped out of my back door and onto my mini-patio… or as it is otherwise known, my “sidewalk with adjacent decorative rock.”  Just outside the door are two buckets of fresh hosta cuttings, waiting to be planted in pots filled yesterday with soil.  Yes, soil.  Because in farm-country, it’s way more than just "dirt."

Speaking of agriculture, my current neighborhood is built on what was a cornfield when I was a kid.  This apartment complex is less than two years old.  The adjacent town center is not much older.  Even at night, it is obvious that spring has sprung:  everything looks extra-fresh and still-new.  The grass got its first mowing of the new season just today.  The mini-tree outside my window is in full bloom, and I didn’t even realize it’s got my almost-favourite smelling spring blossoms (lilacs = #1) until I took this little time-out.  Awesome.  That is a very short walk to spring flower fragrance bliss.

Tons of security lights indicate, well, security.  Electrical grid functionality, at any rate.  I can see the water tower from my vantage point.  More shiny, functional infrastructure.  What a lucky place to be in.

It’s spitting rain.  There’s a bit of a chill:  47 degrees.  Some of my apartment neighbors are running their air-conditioning units anyway.  The absurdity goes nicely with the security lighting overkill - but it fits the overall scene.

The overall scene is peace.  Well-being.  Comfort.  Folks are settled in for the night.  The night is quiet.  It’s breezy.  You can’t see the stars for the clouds - which are busy with the rain-spitting and the wind-causing.

But there is peace.  I find peace. 

I find the flow.  I remember to follow the flow (tool #9).

I remember to put my faith first (tool #10). 

I ask for help (related to tool #1: bring in backup).

I breathe (tool #11). 

My shoulders relax.  I breathe some more.  I stretch.  I thank all that is good and holy for bringing me to this place; to this potential.  To this place to grow.  And, there we have tool #12: gratitude.

Then I get cold.  I come inside, and I finish this blog.

As always, I am amazed at the power of the “5-minute break.”  Tonight, that powerful tool is a finisher.

#CounterfearAccomplished.  #AtLeastForToday.  #ToolsWork.
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WRITTEN: 2016-0426
MINOR EDITS:  2016-0524

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