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Our Greatest Fear

“Fear not.” “Do not be afraid.” Some claim that “fear not” or similar statements, to not be fearful, are reflected in scripture 365 times – one for each day of the year. Others would suggest that there are not that many references, yet at the end of the day, we’re told “Do not be afraid” more frequently than anything else (70 times in the NIV). Why is that?

Fear causes anxiety, anxiety cause stress and stress are responsible for any number of negative consequences. Among those are health (mental and physical) issues and dysfunctional behaviors or shame screens. Fear ultimately is responsible for the fight or flight responses that compromise our ability to navigate conflict, hear others and be open to alternate views, respond versus react, accept negative feedback and innumerable other derailing and anxiety managing behaviors. Our stress related behaviors that strain relationships are simply means by which we manage the anxiety resulting from fear.

A noted author and researcher Brene’ Brown has written extensively on shame and vulnerability and the association of these to defense mechanisms. Brown suggests that shame is at the core of our feelings of inadequacy. According to Brown – “Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.” Shame creates fear which results in our use of “shame screens” or defense mechanism to protect ourselves. These defense mechanisms, or derailing behaviors as Robert Hogan defines them, compromise our ability to effectively engage others in a productive manner and may derail relationships and/or careers. The three broad methods that characterize these reactions include:

· “Moving against” by trying to gain control or power over others

o Being excitable, cautious, skeptical, reserved, and/or leisurely

· “Moving away from” by withdrawing, hiding or staying silent

o Being bold, mischievous, colorful and/or imaginative

· “Moving towards” by seeking approval or belonging

o Being diligent and/or dutiful

Overcoming or effectively navigating these reactions are what drive psychologists, counselors and coaches alike in their efforts to assist others in living to their full potential. Brown’s “shame resilience theory” (SRT) based on building resilience to shame by connecting with our authentic selves, relies on these four elements:

· Recognizing the shame (fear) and its triggers

· Practicing critical awareness (understanding it)

· Reaching out to others and tell our story (write it, tell it)

· Speaking shame - Resilience grows as we tell trusted advocates removing its power

Advance change theory posited by Robert Quinn suggests that we:

· First look within – make a fundamental choice of who we will be

· Embrace the hypocritical self – “We cannot change from what we are until we thoroughly accept what we are" – Carl Rogers

· Engage our fears - Identify the fear and its implications – name it and understand it

· Transcend object reference accepting our flaws, removing their power. Practice being inner directed and other focused.

At its conclusion, we all have fears, one of the most prevalent is the fear of not measuring up i.e. imposter syndrome. While there are many contributors associated with the manifestation of this fear – failure, shame, self-worth, etc. the ability to overcome it is tied to forgiveness and acceptance. An inner peace that comes from a deep knowledge that you are loved in spite of your flaws.

Perhaps that’s why “fear not” is referenced so many times.

For more on transcending fear, gaining #executivepresence, #composure and #confidence utilizing SRT or ACT theories and their application, drop us a line ( or give us a call (877-689-8256).

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