My sweet niece, Megan, started high school on Monday morning. She has been anxious about it and finally on Sunday morning she told her mom, my sister, that she wanted to make a list of all the things she was nervous about that might happen on her first day. Impressed with her daughter, mom immediately got pencil and paper and became the scribe. Megan’s list included, among other things, earthquakes, flooding, her house tipping over, and car wrecks. Her list might make you smile, but it got me to thinking. Megan has Down syndrome and speaks whatever is present in her mind. I began to see her list as an incredible example of what it really feels like inside to be fearful.
It’s easy to see her list as an example of how we make up stories about the future. It is the stories we tell ourselves that create the fear, often unfounded by the facts of the situation. It’s in our filtered perception of the situation where we get lost.
Thinking that her expressions of fear might also relate well to a dream state where the subconscious gives us images of our fear, I looked up this list in my dream symbols book. Here’s what I found:
- Earthquakes – an enormous event creating general insecurity; also a sign of making a new beginning.
- Flooding – seething emotions and the fear of being overwhelmed by your emotions.
- House – symbolizes a place of protection and security, the shelter of the soul.
- Car – points to the transformation into something new, while “Wreck” represents obstacles and barriers toward your goal.
Smart girl, eh? She expressed through images many of the things we all feel when we are headed into a new situation, a place of the unknown. But wait, it gets better. After she made the list of what made her nervous, she wanted to make a list of what she could do to combat her fear. (My sister swears she didn’t even prompt her to do this!) This list included some very practical things like “looking out the window to check the weather” or checking her iPad for weather updates. It also included her most powerful coping strategies such as prayer and talking to her imaginary friends. What impressed me the most about this list is that it was about getting present to the moment. It is when we are conscious and aware right in each moment that we can feel safe, confident, and more of who we really are. When I listen to Megan talking to her imaginary friends she frequently is describing the situation she is in, and how she is feeling and “they” seem to help her sort through her sense of confusion to an understanding of what she needs to do/be/act in that moment.
Do you feel fearful about your future? Can you see the “earthquakes, flooding and car wrecks” that you are making up?
Learning to stay focused in your present moment is a first step to diminishing these stories. The second step is learning quality tools for sensing, feeling and managing the wide range of emotions that flow through us constantly so that you can be with any emotion, even BIG ones, without the fear of being overwhelmed by an emotion you can’t handle. If you want help with either of these steps, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to talk about forming a coaching relationship.
Oh yea, Megan had a GREAT first day in high school.
Want to address your fears? Try Megan’s approach:
- Make a list of the things that make you feel nervous or anxious.
- Notice if anything on your list is an idea, fantasy, belief or thought about what might happen, instead of what is actually so. Can you rewrite your fear based strictly on facts as they stand in the current moment? Notice if your fear or anxiety shifts a bit. You can keep rewriting and editing as you continue to refocus on what is so versus what is made up.
- Make a list of what strategies/tools you can use to get you out of your story-making thoughts and in to your present moment. Do one of these right now (one very simple, yet highly effective technique is to take three or four deep full breaths, breathing in and out very slowly.) When you feel like you’ve brought your mind back to the current moment, make a list of all of the sensations you feel. These could be things like calm, peaceful, relaxed, more free, shoulders released, face relaxed, etc.
- Keep your focus on your “present moment” feelings and ask your Higher Self to give you one or two concrete action steps you might take on ONE of the issues that is making you anxious. Write this down followed by a commitment statement about when you will take the action.