October 2014
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Happy Halloween Everyone,

This is the season that celebrates being scared. Fear comes in several varieties and most of us have experienced at least a few of them. Some fears help us, such as those that protect us from danger. Fear of heights is completely natural, and quite rational to a point. As we all know, falling from high places kills people. Other fears are, well, silly. I know the cricket in my laundry room poses no threat to me but that doesn't stop me from screaming when I see it. And then there are the fears that limit our lives. For example, many of us are afraid to ask for what we need from others. Many more are afraid to speak in public or share an opinion. We may know, rationally, that nothing terrible will come from doing these things but fear keeps us from even trying. But by never trying, we are assured that we will not advance our career or start that new friendship or get a date with that person we can't get off our minds. And if you have ever conquered one of these fears, you know there is nothing more exciting and no better boost to your self-esteem.

The feature article in this issue looks at the gift that fear can be and ways to use it to get closer to the life you want. Then take the quiz to discover if fear is limiting your life. I know that asking for help is something many people fear, but please know that I am here to support you if you are ready to tackle a life-limiting fear. I can't help you with crickets though.

Take heart,
Scare Yourself Into The Life You Want

Go ahead, ask your boss for a raise. Speak up the next time you disagree with someone. Call that person you met and ask them out. Start the business you've been dreaming about for years. Audition for the show. Fill in the blank.

What's stopping you? Fear, right? These things all sound so scary! But you can turn your fear into a positive. Now that you recognize it, you can take the next steps forward. You can accept that something may be hard and scary, but choose to take it on anyway. If you don't take it on—because it's too hard, or you just don't feel like it—fear wins and you remain stuck.

When we face fear, when we act in spite of the fear, we grow. As we expand, we push through our perceived limitations, out beyond our comfort zone. We embrace freedom and become powerful forces in our own lives. And it feels sooooo good!

Make Fear Your Ally
Fear keeps us tucked away in our comfort zone. But we can make it our motivator by using fear as a compass needle. Wherever the needle points—whenever fear raises its head and says, "not there!"—that place is probably the direction we need to move.

Susan Jeffers' classic Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway offers some useful suggestions for ways to work through the fears that keep our lives limited.

Do Scary Things Intentionally
Try making it a practice to do at least one scary thing every day; share your opinion at a meeting, go to lunch with someone new. Doing so begins to exercise a muscle that may be atrophied from lack of use. Each and every time you take action rather than avoid you strengthen the muscle, building self-confidence, self-reliance and self-trust. It's a very exciting feeling. You begin to say "I can" and take on more risks.

Interestingly, taking calculated risks of a physical nature can often produce noticeable growth in our ability to confront fear in the emotional realm. For example, to learn more about his fear of going into business for himself, Michael rappelled down a cliff, something that had terrified him.

Michael discovered that fear is most present in the thinking about the event—not in the actual doing. When he thought of the future, a host of "what ifs" crowded his brain and kept him worried. But when he was actually rappelling, he was 100% focused on his task. Only when he let his thoughts wander from the present moment did fear intrude.

Now, when he finds himself fretting about his future as a self-employed person, Michael focuses his complete attention on the task at hand and not the "what ifs." In this way he has continued taking the necessary steps for his business and is reaping the rewards.

We all feel afraid sometimes; fear is natural. But when our fear is limiting our lives, or preventing us from moving in a positive direction, it may be time to face that fear, accept the challenge, and do something that scares us. If you think you might need some professional help to face your fears and move forward, give me a call. I am here to help.
Scared Stiff?

Helen Keller said: "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." Sometimes it's wise to be cautious, particularly when physical safety is at stake. However, when we play it safe to protect our ego or heart, we may close off possibilities that could bring us greater joy and fulfillment. What choices are you making? Answer "true" or "false" to the following statements to discover if your cautiousness may be negatively affecting your life.

Set 1

1. Life doesn't feel safe. I'm okay with things as they are and prefer to stay in my "comfort zone."

2. I'm afraid something bad will happen if I veer off my usual course. I like to stick to what I already know.

3. I frequently worry "what if... ?" If I can't be certain of the outcome, I won't take the risk. Being rejected, looking stupid or failing are not options.

4. I know there are business and romantic opportunities I've missed out on because of being so risk-averse.

5. My fear of the unknown is paralyzing. When I look at my life, I have many regrets about things I didn't do.

6. I feel bad about myself for being so cautious. I think of myself as a coward and I expect that others see me that way, too.

Set 2

1. I am committed to my personal growth, despite my fears. It's not that I'm unafraid; it's just that I am more committed to my goals and realize the cost of playing it safe.

2. Developing courage is like building a muscle. The more I practice taking risks, even small ones, the more empowered I feel.

3. When I have a goal or dream that feels big and scary, I minimize feeling overwhelmed by "chunking it down" into more manageable, short-term steps.

4. I enlist the support of those who can help me move beyond my comfort zone to a more fulfilling life.

5. When I take risks, I believe I can handle whatever comes. If I fall, I know that I can get up again. I don't conclude that I shouldn't have tried or that I'm a failure.

6. My biggest successes have come when I've taken a big leap of faith.

If you answered True more often in Set 1 and False more often in Set 2, you may wish to learn some effective ways to move beyond your comfort zone and live a more fulfilled life. Please call me if you'd like support in exploring this further.

Please call me if you'd like support in exploring these issues further.

Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications
Barbara is a psychotherapist with over 20 years of experience helping individuals and couples to achieve happier, more fulfilling lives. She assists clients to better understand themselves, improve their relationships and develop more effective responses to life's problems. Barbara works with adults confronting all types of challenges but is especially skilled at helping survivors of trauma.

Barbara always welcomes the opportunity to work with new clients.
Barbara Hill, LCSW-C
6236 Montrose Road
Rockville, MD 20852
Phone: (301) 340-3050