Being brave doesn’t happen in the absence of fear, it occurs in the presence of fear. Often it occurs with our knees shaking and our hearts racing. Taking courageous action in our lives becomes possible when we learn how to work with fear and vulnerability. A key part of this is being able to work with fear-based thoughts and the negative stories we hold about ourselves. Being able to work with these products of our mind can enable us to take our brave steps forward even in their presence.
What is courageous action?
Courageous action is planting both feet firmly on the ground, looking fear straight in the eyeballs and saying I see you, but I will not be led by you. I choose to be led by me. It is my choice to be led by love, by what my heart knows I need, by my values, my experience of truth and my own inner wisdom.
I choose life, possibility, and opportunity.
I choose to stand my ground. I will not run.
I choose to stay open, instead of closing down.
I choose to show up, instead of hiding.
I choose to speak my truth, instead of staying silent.
I choose trying, instead of giving up.
There is something courageous all of us would like to do in our lives. These courageous wishes can be many and varied, some examples include following a secret dream, standing up for ourselves, telling someone that we love them, attempting something that is out of our comfort zone.
Being brave in our lives means meeting vulnerability
In order to follow these wishes and to take courageous action in our lives, we must inevitably meet vulnerability. Vulnerability is a space from which many good things arise. These things include intimacy, connection, love, joy, and belonging. But to meet vulnerability is a scary, sometimes even terrifying, space for us to inhabit. It can leave our knees weak.
Vulnerability is also a ripe environment for our minds to generate fear-based thoughts and for the negative stories (beliefs) we hold about ourselves to start to roar. When these two things happen, all sorts of challenging emotions can erupt. So, the desire to step back into the safety and comfort of our known world is very understandable.
What are the skills we need to cultivate in order to take brave steps in our lives?
There are a range of skills that come into play when we want to take courageous steps in our lives. Learning to manage unhelpful thoughts and the negative stories (beliefs) that we hold about ourselves are key skills.
Learning to work with unhelpful thoughts and beliefs begins with us being able to recognize them as what they really are, just thoughts and just stories.
Our thoughts are not facts, although our minds try hard to convince us that they are. Our stories are also usually not factual. However, they are generally linked to painful experiences from the past. Consequently, they are tied to old and often very painful emotions. The old emotion that is attached to our stories makes them feel like truth. Because of this, we are easily pulled into the storm of the old emotions and the stories they are connected to. This often occurs before we realise what is happening.
What I know about truth though is that it doesn’t roar. Truth also doesn’t usually feel like fear. It is quieter and gentler, like a penny dropping. Recognizing a truth is more like “Oh yeah, there you are, I see you” and then the sands of your reality shift and that truth settles in.
When we jump into the boat with a fear-based thought or a negative story, and we head off out to sea with it, this often pulls us off course in our lives. Our fear and negative stories have a tendency to lead us far away from who we really are and from our values (the things that matter to us most in life). In essence, our fear-based thoughts and our negative stories have the tendency to make our inner compass misfire.
In order to take the brave steps we really want to be taking in our lives, learning to work with fear-based thoughts and our negative stories are essential skills. This working with process allows us to right our ship, and return our compass to its true north.
What does the process of working with our unhelpful thoughts and beliefs involve?
The first step to working with fear-based thoughts and our negative stories is to create awareness of what is happening in our minds. We need to get to know the thought patterns and habits that may arise to trip us up on our path. We need to get to know the stories that we hold. For most of us, we are only partially aware of these things and becoming aware takes conscious effort and exploration.
Creating awareness is a powerful and potent first step. It is the most important step. If you don’t know where you are getting stuck and what stories you are holding, it is impossible to change the way that you respond to them. In our response lies our power to create the lives we really want to be living.
Additionally, these stories and thoughts are at play even if you don’t know it. This is because they can operate unconsciously. They fly around in the dark of our subconscious if we don’t get out our torch out and shine a light on them. From the dark, they are still impacting upon your life, your choices, your mood, and your wellbeing. This is why getting out our torch and building awareness of our thoughts and beliefs is so critically important.
Recognizing & Naming them
Once we know the patterns of our mind and we have gotten an understanding of the stories we are holding, the task becomes learning to recognize our unhelpful thoughts and beliefs when they arise in the moment. This usually starts out as recognising them after we have become pulled in by them. Gradually, over time we start to catch them at play in the moment. When we start to recognise our fear-based thought patterns and negative stories our next step is to be able to call them out for what they are, just thoughts and just stories.
There are a range of different skilful responses to fear-based thoughts and negative beliefs. These generally fall into the categories of either learning techniques to reframe our thoughts or to defuse from our thoughts. Defusion involves recognising an unhelpful thought or story and learning to untangle from it. Mindfulness is also one way to untangle ourselves from unhelpful thoughts.
Returning to ourselves, our vision and our values
Once we have become aware, recognised and named our thoughts and stories as what they are, and we have chosen a response to work with them, we can then return our focus to ourselves. Returning our focus to ourselves involves reminding ourselves of who we are, of our own personal truth and reconnecting to our own wisdom. It involves reminding ourselves of our values and of why this courageous action really matters to us. It involves reminding ourselves of the vision we hold for our lives and what is important to us about that vision. It is a sinking back into the heart of who we are.
Dr Bri Roberts runs a 5-week online course named ‘Mind Taming Techniques’ to help people to learn how to respond skilfully to unhelpuful thoughts and beliefs.