I came across this recently in a book and I’ve been pondering it ever since:
Steve Chandler is a transformative coach. He teaches his clients that situations themselves don’t cause our feelings. Only thinking can do that.
E.g. Thrust a microphone towards a group of people and some will run a mile while others will fight over the chance to perform. The microphone itself is not inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It’s a lump of metal. The difference lies in each person’s thoughts.
Back to Steve: One day his daughter was watching a video of a psychologist being interviewed. The psychologist mentioned that there was something in her past that was upsetting to her and that she was upset because she “had a lot of thinking” about the situation.
Even though Steve’s daughter had heard the theory that we are living in the feeling of our thinking a thousand times, for some reason, when she heard it this time, it sank in.
Afterwards, his daughter came up to him and said,
“I always thought I just had fears. That the fears were first. And they caused the thinking. I had it backwards.”
This made me ponder…
We think we have a fear of writing/drawing/singing/dancing/speaking in public etc and this makes us think negative/scared thoughts. But what if we have it backwards? What if our fears don’t cause our negative/scared thinking; what if our negative/scared thinking causes our fears?
Young kids jump at the chance to draw something. Anything. They throw themselves into the task with glee because they have zero thinking about it. They don’t fret about whether their drawing is good enough, or whether it will sell enough copies.
So what if the only thing standing in our way as adults is the fact that we have a lot of thinking about certain things (e.g. writing a novel) and little or no thinking about other things (e.g. writing a letter to a friend)?
We can’t stop thinking.
We could meditate on a mountaintop for months and thoughts would still pop into our mind (even if it’s just the thought that the mountaintop is rather hard and we’re an idiot for not bringing a cushion with us).
But clearly seeing that our fear is coming from a lot of thinking about the thing we fear and not the thing itself, might help to loosen its grip on us.
Our fear starts to look less like a permanent issue and more like a bad habit we’ve fallen into.
And if it’s a habit, we’re not stuck with it forever.
7 thoughts on “What if our fears aren’t quite what we think they are?”
Love the quote – Couldn’t agree more. Meditation, mindfulness is the act of dropping the thinking mind or becoming aware of it so you don’t get caught up in thought. It’s so often the thinking mind that generates negative emotions within. Simply learning to let go and come back to the present is often all we need to do. Easier said than done of course.
Thanks AP2. It’s so true – letting go and coming back to the present is easier said than done sometimes! Knowing it’s my thoughts that are causing my distress helps me drop them (or rather, watch them and be less bothered by their content).
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Interesting point, Katherine. I was watching one of Michael Neill’s videos last week – and he also talks about how our thinking leads to our feelings. And you’re absolutely right – we’re not stuck with our thoughts or our habits. I recently had a conversation with a friend about happiness – I always say that happiness is a choice I make, whereas she said she sees happiness as a practice. Now I can see it as both: first we make a choice to change something (our thoughts, for example) and then we can put into place whatever practice helps us to maintain that choice. Simple!! ;-)
Hi Julia, Michael Neill is great, isn’t he? I’ve been following him for a while now (Steve Chandler is one of his friends; they did an online writing course together last year). I think he would say that happiness is our natural state and we block our happiness with our thinking. But don’t quote me on that :-)
A really useful point as it is so easy to have a whole conversation in your head, or feel a feeling about x or y, and then you suddenly wake up to that conversation or feeling and realise you’re the one creating it. Ah ha I think I’ll just let go of this or that and breathe :)
Exactly! “Waking up and realising you’re the one creating it” is such a good way of putting it. Thank you pickeringspies :-)
I love this post Katherine. Absolutely fascinating. it’s so true to. I think i should just write and see what comes out on the page. Thank you