Podcast Transcriptions

Pursue What Matters

Episode 226: Book Review – My Friend Fear

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Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
What are you afraid of? Nothing? I don’t believe you. As children, we were all afraid of something. The dark monsters under the bed, maybe the principal? And here’s the thing. We weren’t afraid of letting anyone who would listen? No, we were afraid. So as adults, though the subject of our fears may shift, we still carry fear. It’s time to get acquainted with your friend fear.

Dr. Melissa Smith 0:27
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast, where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So it’s another month and I have another great book review for you. So this is a pretty unconventional choice. So this isn’t a traditional book that you know, you can maybe listen to on Audible that will give you some specific tips, and pointers for your leadership development. This is a book that you want to hold in your hands. This is a book that you want to come back to again and get. And again, it’s a beautiful book brought to us by an artist. And it is called my friend fear, finding magic in the unknown. So this is by Meera Lee Patel, I have had this book for years, I bought it a few years ago, it struck me it was really beautiful. I’m like I need a reflection on fear. And that’s really the best kind, or that the best way to kind of think about this book. It it sounds kind of weird, but it’s a devotion on fear. And for for many of us, you’re probably like why? Why would I want to spend more time on fear. And that’s really what we’re going to be talking about this idea of recognizing the fear that each of us carry, and learning to be friend our fear. Now, why would you want to do that. So right now we’re talking all about self awareness and self leadership on the podcast. And a, a, an essential component of self awareness is understanding your fears, understanding what’s going on, within you. For so many of us, we have been taught to push away any of those uncomfortable emotions, fear being chief among them, so to pretend to perform to numb ourselves, right. And we know that that doesn’t lead good places that really, in order to have greater wellbeing in order to heal. And to really reach our potential, we need to learn to befriend our fear, we need to turn towards our painful emotions, because they have a lot to teach us. And so that’s exactly what we’re gonna do today with this book. And again, you know, my recommendation is if it’s in your budget, this would be a book to own and to reflect on. So you know, I bought it several years ago, it’s on my bookshelf at work. But even as I was reviewing it for the podcast, I’m like, I’m gonna take this home and put it on my nightstand. I need a bit more reflection on that right now. So let’s learn a bit more about this book. So again, it’s a beautiful book, it’s one to keep on your nightstand. That’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna take it home with me and keep it on my nightstand. Because it’s just a good reflection on this topic. It’s full of inspirational quotes. She’s got some messages, and then there’s just a lot of beautiful artwork. And so, let’s learn a little bit more about the books. So what if I’m afraid? What if our deepest fears are shining guideposts, lighting the way to what we truly want in life? Instead of pushing them aside? What happens if we begin listening to our fears, and allow them to lead us bravely into the unknown? Through a mix of personal writing watercolor paintings and thought provoking questions for reflection? This vividly inspiring book will help you make friends with fear in order to become who you really are. And so right there’s a purpose and B in befriending our fear. It serves as a guidepost. It really helps us to know what we care about. And that is certainly one of the lessons that I’ve learned in my own life about fear is that whenever I know fear is showing up. I need to get curious I need to get quiet because it’s there to teach me something sometimes it’s teaching me about how I need to skill up how I need to be brave how I need to speak up. And certainly what I care about, so this connection to purpose. So when we notice having fear of losing something that gives us a direct line to what we most care about. And that’s good to know. That’s really good to know. And so again, the author is Meera Lee Patel, she’s a self taught artist and author of The Best Selling journal start where you are. And that is also a really beautiful book, it’s a journal is full of really great artwork. So let’s hear what others are saying about the book. Experiencing this book feels like sitting in a quiet corner with a trusted friend, having a conversation that affirms your faith in yourself and the world. So that’s by Emily McDowell, co author of there’s no good card for this. And then another review by have Heather have her Leschi author of How to Be a person in the world, she says, when you’re done reading this book, somehow the whole world feels so much more exciting and welcoming. I love this book, so much it hurts. So again, she’s she’s had some successful writings, this book has been around for quite a while. I mean, I’ve had it for several years, there’s a lot of advanced praise for the book, and I’m sure we would hear a lot more, because it has been out for a while. So let me just start by just kind of taking you through an outline of the book, so you kind of know what to expect with it. So again, there are inspirational quotes and some writing on art, work by this author. And so she does speak in the first person, she talks about her relationship with fear a little bit. But I think it’s just a nice invitation for you to reflect on your own experience of fear. And so she starts by talking about how fear became her friend. And then she really does a deep dive into fear asking, Where does fear begin, she talks about being in the body of fear, saying hello to fear, right, so welcoming it in and learning to become friends with fear, which sounds kind of crazy to most of us. But there’s really power in it. She also talks about fears, many faces, learning to recognize it in your body, right? So what does it feel like? What does it sound like? Why does it look like this is such an important part of self awareness. And so I really love her exploration of that. And she’s got some really great questions to help you get curious about that for yourself. Because how you experience fear may be different, very different from how she does. And so there are some really good reflection questions there. And then she finishes up with with asking what dreams are hiding behind between your fears, and fears here to help you find beauty in vulnerability. And that is one of the the real profound truths about fear is it’s so vulnerable. And again, invulnerability are the things that we care about. They are there are our insecurities, the uncertainties about life, the unknown. And so, just like our other emotions, fear has a lot to teach us. It teaches us where we need to strengthen ourselves, it teaches us where we need to ask for help. It teaches us where we need to maybe challenge the stories we’ve been telling ourselves. Another big thing about fear is it helps us to start to distinguish the difference between past or present. So if you’ve had any history of trauma, or really, you know, just painful history, and it’s easy for those emotions to really flood you in the present moment, because our emotions don’t distinguish between place and time. So emotional memory knows no, no hard time boundaries. And so if you’ve had experiences in the past where you felt a lot of fear, or you know, attachment worries, you know, don’t be surprised when that fear floods you in the present moment, about, you know, a relatively benign situation. And so when you have a flood of fear, that feels like an outsize response, that’s always a good opportunity to ask, like, what’s, what’s happening for me right now? What’s the past, what’s the present, and reminding yourself that you’re safe in the present moment, and if you have any sort of history, with trauma, that can be particularly important to do to be able to help yourself in those moments.

Dr. Melissa Smith 9:27
So she starts book by talking about what the book is about, right? So so I’ll just read a little bit. This is a book about fear. It’s a book about longing and loneliness, and the way we hide from the world. It’s a book about how we hide from ourselves reluctant to look inside, frightened by what we may find. This is a book about unlikely friendships and how to forge the truest relationship you’ll ever have the chance to build the one that connects your heart to your body and mind. You will spend your entire life nurturing This relationship, and there’s no better way to spend your time. So she continues, this is a book about you. And it’s also a book about me, this book is a window that allows us to see each other. So again, through her first-person experience, you know, her hope is that that becomes a window for you to be able to reflect on your own experience. And I think she does a nice job of that. So I just want to cover a couple of things just to kind of give you a flavor for this book. But again, this is a book you really need to experience. So one of the chapters that she focuses on is becoming friends with fear. So maybe you can relate to this, she said, I let fear scare me for years, because I didn’t know how to see it.

Dr. Melissa Smith 10:43
For what it really was my closest friend, right? I, I’ve become very acquainted with my fear, but I wouldn’t call it my closest friend. Fear is someone who knows me, well, who knows each dream and longing and what prevents me from going after them. Fear knows who I want to be, and what keeps me from being that person. Fear knows where I want to go, and what stops me from taking each step. So she’s saying that fear is her closest friend, because it knows all of her tricks, it knows all of her insecurities. And so, you know, when you think about fear as a friend, we don’t need to hide, we don’t need to push against, we don’t need to resist when it comes to. So when it comes to our emotions, we get in trouble when we resist those emotions, that often comes in the form of numbing behaviors, defensiveness, anger, that our emotions are there to teach us something. And so if we can look at fear, as a friend, we can welcome it in, we can get curious about it instead of reactive. And we can start to understand what’s coming up for us in our body so that we can have a game plan moving forward, right. So sometimes, it’s reminding ourselves that we’re safe. Sometimes it’s checking our assumptions, or the stories that we’re telling ourselves. But this idea of allowing the fear in, so she said that fear is my closest friend, once I accepted this, something began to shift. For the first time, I was able to take a step back from myself, and recognize what was happening. Becoming aware of fear is the first step two befriending it. Right. So that’s that self-awareness piece. After all, how can you become friends with something you’re pretending doesn’t exist? And here’s what I would say in addition to that, how can you understand what’s going on with yourself, if you don’t ever turn towards that experience, and if you want to continue to be plagued by fear, continue to resist it. That’s a really good recipe for it. And there’s a ton of research that confirms that. So she said, every time I felt scared, instead of letting my anxieties build up and take over my body, I took the first step and asked myself a question, I’d always avoided, am I afraid? So that’s a good question to ask yourself in those moments. And then write often answers, yes. And she said, accepting your fears is the only way to overcome them. Fear isn’t something that wants to stay hidden inside you, preventing you from moving forward. Fear wants to quietly shine beside you, helping you find your path. Becoming aware of why you are afraid, is the next step. So I began asking myself the second question, why am I afraid? So the first question is, am I afraid? The second question, right? If the answer’s yes, is why am I afraid? So let’s start to wrap our hands around the fear that you’re experiencing. And we can have a lot of answers to that question, right? Maybe it’s a fear of belonging, it’s a fear of rejection, a fear of abandonment. And that will be personal to you. But understanding where those roots of fear lie for you can be so helpful, because it gives you guidance in terms of how you can help yourself, sometimes it is around soothing, sometimes it is around asking for support, or for help. And the answers to that question are always going to be personal. And then she has a third question, which is, so what if I’m afraid, right, which I really liked that question because basically, she’s sending the message that we can learn to tolerate that fear. It’s not the end of the world if you have that. And this is similar to a cognitive behavioral intervention, which is kind of worst-case scenario. So you you take your fears out to the nth degree right and really look at well what if the worst happen? Now, you might feel really scared by that kind of exercise, but I’m telling you, it can be really powerful in right, sizing the fear because you can take To get out to its natural extension, and then you can bring in a little objectivity to be able to say, well, even if the worst thing happened, first of all, it’s not very likely. There are a lot of things that would have to happen for it to get that bad. But another thing that you can find is that you get to the worst-case scenario, and it’s like, okay, I could probably find a way to live with that. It would be very painful.

Dr. Melissa Smith 15:25
But we recognize in those moments that we no longer need to resist and protect against the fear. Because we’ve already kind of war games, that scenario. And, you know, I have had an experience in the past couple of years, that has been really challenging, and I had so much fear around it. And it wasn’t until I went through that worst-case scenario. And like, the worst-case scenario is pretty bad. Like, it’s not that pleasant. And I certainly don’t want that worst-case scenario. But I’ve got to tell you, right, like, it was actually a relief to me, because I’m like, Okay, if that’s the worst that would happen? Well, I’m going to be okay. Like, I’ll move forward from that. So, it right sized the fear I didn’t, I didn’t need to be so plagued by fear. And, you know, when I was protecting against that fear, I was totally in my emotional mind, I was not able to think clearly I wasn’t able to function productively I wasn’t efficient or effective with my days. And so, you know, being able to ask, so what if I’m afraid, right? Or what if the worst happens, can actually, you know, counterintuitively be very helpful. So that is a skill from cognitive behavioral therapy. So the last thing that I’ll talk about with this book, is a topic that she covers, which is learning to recognize fear. So I mentioned this a little bit. But this is all about self-awareness. So she says the single greatest step we can take to change the position fear plays in our lives, is also the most essential learning to see it when it appears. So how does fear fear feel in your body? This sounds easy. But as humans, our species is notorious for failing to recognize truths that are usually right in front of us, The fastest way to summon your fear at any time, is simple. All you need to do is look at yourself. And so she even has like some exercises of looking in the mirror, really kind of acquainting yourself with the look of fear. And so some questions, right? What does my fear look like? How, how do others know when you’re afraid? So I definitely have some telltale looks. For a lot of us, it’s maybe tension, a lack of worry. We can also ask, What does my fear feel like? It might be a knot in your stomach or in your chest? Tension, so tension in your throat tension in your neck, a headache, that sort of thing. Maybe you feel heat flushing through your system, or an adrenaline rush.

Dr. Melissa Smith 18:05
So these are all ways that you might experience fear? And then also asking the question, What does my fear sound like? So sometimes you can, you can get altered hearing, right, especially if you’re in a fear experience, where other stimuli is, it kind of go falls by the wayside. And you just kind of hyper-focus in on one or two things. So that happens with vision, but it also can happen with hearing. And so these I think, are really good reflective questions for you to just start to understand how fear shows up for you. And again, this is in an effort of Self Awareness, so that you can respond to your fear with loving kindness with gentle compassion rather than criticism rather than relying on defensive rejection or numbing behaviors to help yourself. And so it’s a great little book, it’s a great resource for you for someone that you love.

Dr. Melissa Smith 19:09
And so head on over to my website to check out the show notes with the resources for this episode at www.drmelissasmith.com/226-myfriendfear. Please consider joining me on Instagram, I always have more resources associated with the podcast @dr.melissasmith. And if you’re so inclined, I’d love it if you would give me a five-star review on Apple or Spotify, that helps other people find the podcast. So I will link to this book and to the author. Again. It’s really a beautiful book and a great, a great devotional on the topic of fear. So in the meantime, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work in love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care

Transcribed by https://otter.ai