Monday, February 25, 2008

Handling The Fear Factor

There's a nice post over at Mother of Shrek about FEAR, in her case fear for the next transition in her son's future and how he will handle that transition.

I suppose we all have times in our lives when we have concerns or even fears for the future. But I think as a parent of a challenged child, there are many times when you move and live in a different universe. And this is one of them.

For most parents, there's a general developmental timeline through which they can rest fairly assured their child will move. Sure, there may well be a few (or perhaps even more than a few) bumps along the road, and certainly not all our children will turn out as we might have hoped but still, most parents, essentially know the realm in which they operate.

But as the parent of a special child, the future can often look like a black hole, a complete unknown.

  • What will happen when they are out of school?
  • Where will they live?
  • Will there be a job or day program available to them?
  • Will they some day live on their own?
  • Will we be able to secure them the amount and type of help they will need to live as independently as they are able?
There's no way around it, it's a worry. Even when you're not consciously thinking about it, it's a worry. So, what, if anything, can we do about it?

Are you familiar with the saying that "Worry is like praying for exactly what you don't want to happen to actually happen"? For some people, fear of the future, of the 'what ifs' can be terrifying. Even paralyzing. Which really, when you think of it, isn't particularly functional or helpful, is it?

So what can you do about it, when you get that familiar feeling in your gut and you just can't make those thoughts go away? In all honesty, of course I don't have the complete answer to that question. If I did, I could be totally at east about my own child's future. But I did find a real gem in the site Casdock linked to.


Set a landmarc
Firstly: identify the thoughts that make you feel fearful. What is it that you are thinking, and why? What must be an underlying belief about yourself that makes you project this sort of thoughts? When you can identify your fear-creating thoughts, you straight away weaken their influence on you!

Secondly: For each fearful thought you may have, ask yourself: have there been times when this thought didn’t prove to be true? The more evidence you can find, the less influential the fear thought will be; you undermine its power over you.

Thirdly: Choose to have different thoughts about the subject that makes you fearful. Choose affirmations that go directly against the fear, and stick with them. Don’t allow your mind to dwell on the old, fearful thoughts. The more you can “think yourself away”, the less grip the old thought has on you.

Lastly: Take action!! Create new honouring and effective beliefs about the future with your coach. If fear is an illusion, you don’t have to buy into it! Design an action plan in which you deliberately do the things you are fearful of (gently!), and take good note of what happens when you get to “the other side”.

Feels pretty good, right? Nothing to be afraid of, right? That’s one more nasty illusion gone!

Understand me correctly here: fear can be very functional and a great driver for action. For instance: if I see a crocodile in the water I am swimming in, boy, will I swim!!!! Same if I would be in a burning house. I’d get out of there straight away! That is functional fear, and it is very useful.

The thing with fear is, though, that a lot of it is based on thoughts about a possible future. That’s dysfunctional fear. And that’s where it gets nasty, because we do not know what the future is going to hold. We only have (often negative) assumptions and ideas about it. And why would we want to focus on negative assumptions and ideas when we can, with just as much validity, focus on the good things in life?

I will leave you with one last thought on the subject ... there is also something very important to be said for being aware of catastrophisizing. I think many people do this without even realizing it. It's taking a given situation and expecting that the worst possible scenario will play out; to put it simply, waiting for the worst to happen, assuming that the worst will happen.

But, speaking from personal experience, I know that you can get yourself into a mindset of 'catching yourself in the act', so to speak, realizing what you are doing as you are doing it and making a conscious decision not to think that way. And, trust me, when you develop the ability to do that, to change those thought patterns, it can and will make a difference in the stress level in your life.

1 comment:

Casdok said...

Great post! I actually found it difficult to write, its so hard to explain what it really feels like without sounding like a gibbering idiot!!
Your right you have to catch yourself at it and make an effort to stop!
Not always easy!