Would you like an extremely useful tool for dealing with fear? So many of us get bogged down, stopped dead in our tracks, or turned away from our goal due to fear. One of the primary reasons this happens is due to our innate tendency to hold our breath or breathe shallowly when afraid. Gay Hendricks, author of The Big Leap, shares a wonderful insight he gleaned from Fritz Perls, M.D., the founder of Gestalt Therapy.
Hendricks writes in his book, “There’s only one way to get through the fog of fear, and that’s to transform it into the clarity of exhilaration”. How cool a statement is that??! He points out that Perls described it this way, “Fear is excitement without the breath”. By that he meant, “the very same mechanisms that produce excitement also produce fear, and any fear can be transformed into excitement by breathing fully with it”.
He further points out that “On the other hand, excitement turns into fear quickly if you hold your breath.” He notes that most of us tend to hold our breath to try to avoid or get rid of an unpleasant feeling; attempting to dissipate it by ignoring it. “…we use holding our breath as a physical tool of denial”. As I’m sure you’re aware, what typically happens is the feelings intensify when we hold our breath.
Hendricks’ advice is “…take big, easy breaths when you feel fear…Celebrate it with a big breath, just the way you’d celebrate your birthday by taking a big breath and blowing out all the candles on your cake. Do that, and your fear turns into excitement. Do it more and your excitement turns into exhilaration”. It’s rather like Lamaze for the emotions! Breathe your way through the unpleasant feeling and not only does it dissipate, but it transforms into something far more pleasant.
His final thought on the topic is “I find it very empowering to know that I’m in charge of the exhilaration I feel as I go through life”. I hope you choose to empower yourself in a similar fashion whenever you feel fear, knowing that it is entirely under your control to transform it into a more positive emotional state!