Posted by: Cathy | September 3, 2012

Head vs stomach fear

I talked a while ago about conquoring your fear(s), but did you know there are different kinds of fear?

The first kind is what I referred to as “valid” fear – this is when you’re in a dangerous situation and you need to choose fight or flight. This kind is pretty obvious; someone is threatening you, or you’re alone in a dark place and you hear footsteps behind you, or you’re driving and hit a patch of black ice. This kind of fear is built into your DNA to help protect you, to help you survive.

There is another, more subtle fear that also helps protect you, and I’ll call that “stomach” fear. This is fear that creeps up in your gut, and it comes from your intuition. Maybe you’re talking to someone and get a bad feeling about them, or you get a sudden impulse to call your best friend and check in with them, or you decide to take a different way home from work and hear later there was a bad accident on your main route.

But there is a third kind of fear that is not there to help you, it is there to protect the status quo, and this I call “head” fear. It comes from your ego and has no real use for you. Your ego likes control and does not like change. This is the kind of fear where maybe you stay with a partner you’ve outgrown because you’re too scared to be single again, or you stay at an unsatisfying job because you’re scared to make a career change, or you’ve always wanted to visit London but you keep wasting money on new shoes you don’t need and sabotage your travel fund. This fear keeps you trapped in situations you don’t love because it is easier to sit and do nothing than to try something new. It is limiting you, not protecting you.

How can you tell apart the stomach and head fears?

1. Stomach fear feels true. You can feel it in your body. Head fear thinks it is true. It doesn’t exist in reality, it exists in an idea.

2. Stomach fear usually pops up quickly. Head fear gets worse the more you think about the problem.

3. Ask “is this limiting me?” You can still choose to sit and do nothing, but make it a conscious choice; or start to make baby steps to change, you don’t have to do it over night.

Your ego doesn’t like change because then it risks failure; but if you never take any risks, you can’t grow and benefit either. I would rather fail and know I tried than always wonder what could have been.

So next time you recognize head fear, thank your ego for its opinion and check in with your inner wisdom. Don’t let fear limit you.


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