Reviewed by Jessica Withers
From Wall Street Journal to Whole Living magazine, we are being exhorted to make 2011 the year of living fearlessly. Why has overcoming fear become such a popular topic? What frightens you? The state of our economy? Birds falling from the sky? Losing your job? Losing your home? An empty nest? Success? Flying? A terrorist attack? Leaving an abusive partner? Whatever your fear is, I have two approaches to moving beyond fear to share with you.
In Feel the Fear…and Do It Anyway, Susan Jeffers shows us that we can handle everything we fear. Once we know that we are capable, fears are not so overwhelming. Jeffers includes a variety of tools to assist you in realizing just how capable you are: affirmations, charts, vocabulary changes, and new steps for decision making. She also discusses the importance of having a “Whole Life”; if all aspects of your life are in balance then having one aspect fall apart won’t be the end of your world. For example, if your life is in balance, then leaving an abusive partner will be difficult and heartbreaking, but it won’t leave you feeling completely empty. Fears arise, we handle them and learn about ourselves in the process, we grow, and we move on. We move on as a stronger, even more capable person.
Pema Chodron’s Taking the Leap emphasizes some of the same ideas as Jeffers’ book but from a Buddhist viewpoint. By discussing the idea of shenpa, Chodron explains how we take a particular emotion–like fear–and respond to it in the same way over and over again. She calls it being “hooked” by a habit. Instead of habitually, mindlessly responding to fear, she advocates being mindful and pausing when we feel fearful. The pause gives us a chance to recognize that we are hooked and to choose to respond in a way that brings us happiness and freedom rather than more suffering.
Both styles remind us that we cannot do away with fear completely but we can change the way we approach fear and react to it. Either book will also help you grow to such an extent that you are able to help others with their fears. In fact, I recommend reading both; Feel the Fear…and Do It Anyway then Taking the Leap, which at a slim 109 pages is a nice companion book that builds upon Jeffers’ practical ideas.
I am someone who needs reminders, and since I would love to handle my fears more constructively I came up with a visible cue to help me along. I bought 3 fishing lures and hung one in my bedroom, one on my rear-view mirror, and one in my office; these remind me to notice that it is so very easy to get hooked by old habits and reactions. And because I found Jeffers’ statistic that less than 10% of the things we worry about–and fear– ever happen, I wrote “10%” on each lure.
Here’s to a less fearful 2011!
Jessica Withers for The Stepmom’s Toolbox