I’ve been grappling with an unaccustomed emotion over the last few weeks: fear. Not anxiety, not nervousness – I’m good at both of those – but real, visceral fear.
Why? Well, one of the projects I haven’t been talking about is how to make an income. While I can get through the end of the year without going bankrupt, I do eventually need to bring in enough money to pay expenses. To do that, I’d like to start a business of my own: teaching (mostly online) about the creative process. So I’ve been reading up about online marketing and content creation, with the intent of creating a new website for the business.
And that’s when the fear hit me.
What if I’ve got it wrong? What if I create a ton of valuable content that nobody wants to pay money for? I know the things I’m writing about have value, both because I see it directly and because my beta readers have told me that this is great stuff. But for people to be willing to pay money for it, it has to solve a problem they already know they have, and they have to be able to find my offerings when they look for solutions. Given that most craftspeople look for help within their craft, is there any chance for a business that teaches about the creative process across all crafts?
I don’t know. I hope there is, but I also have the grave suspicion that there’s not. So I’m terrified.
I do, however, have a solution – the only effective antidote I’ve found for fear:
(That’s taped to the wall right behind my monitor, so I see it every time I look up.)
One of the most transformative experiences of my life was an Impact self-defense class, “Defense Against the Armed Assailant.” Impact, for those of you not familiar with it, is an emotionally intense – and very effective – women’s self-defense program. You fight full-force against a padded instructor who behaves like a real assailant – pinning you to the ground, threatening you, reacting when hit or kicked. The program was started when a female state karate champion was raped, and her sensei realized that karate generally does not address the ways in which women are typically assaulted. In particular, it doesn’t address predatory attacks, and it does not address fear. She was attacked and thrown to the ground, and found herself paralyzed by fear.
To address this, Impact trains their students in the most realistic scenarios possible, so their students will be prepared for a real attack. Their goal is to make their students afraid – and to teach them to fight through it. They transform their fear into anger, and then into explosive power.
There is a moment, staring down the barrel of a gun, when you know. This is it. You’re going to die. There’s nothing you can do about it; if he decides to fire the gun right now, you’re going to die. Fear fills you, completely paralyzing you.
But there’s another moment, a few seconds later. You’re still staring down the barrel of the gun, still frozen, but you realize: “Even if I’m going to die, I can still act. And I will act, even though it means I could die.” Once you reach that tipping point, that moment of internal commitment, you explode into action, and you fight with total commitment, because doing anything less means giving up your life. And that transforms your fear into power.
So the unofficial motto of Impact is: “Feel the fear. Do it anyway.”
So that’s what I’m doing right now. I believe the right thing to do right now is to put everything I’ve got into marketing the book and creating my business, and have committed myself to that. So I need to feel the fear. And do it anyway.
Leap and the net will appear. You are creative. You will find a way to make this work.
phil lack says
You are so talented, I am sure that your wisdom will find a large audience. Go for it!
Nancy Warren says
You are so right!!! Fear Can lead us to avoid challenges.
Thank you for such a clear explanation of the process!!
Regret is what sets in later, leading to sadness and self-reproach. Dont want to live with that!
Sharon Alderman says
You go, Woman! When I am facing something that scares me I take a deep breath (that is important) and charge ahead. It can be scary but it works.
I know you and know your determination. Good luck, good energy!
Harold Zable says
I’m curious why you insist that “anxiety” isn’t the right word for this sort of emotion. You are, of course, welcome to use whatever labels you want for the emotions in your head. In my head–and in the variety of anxiety materials I’ve dealt with both in therapy and out–this sort of fear-of-what-could-happen is more or less the definition of anxiety.
The right thing to do to combat anxiety is, as you write, to do it anyway. If you let anxiety stop you once, it’ll keep coming back.
Just wondering if there’s something there in the definitional insistence…
Tien Chiu says
That’s interesting. I’ve always thought of anxiety as the lesser cousin of fear, but you’re saying it’s actually a type of fear, not a degree of fear, right?
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Harold Zable says
Well… labels for subjective brain experience are tricky. I think they’re more siblings than cousins, and I wouldn’t call either “lesser”. I’ll write even more about it, in an attempt to confuse matters further. Perhaps we could bring it up as a conversation topic, the next time we’re sitting around at some party somewhere.
I would say that there’s a variety of feelings based on being energized–where your heart races and your mind focuses on some particular idea or event. If you read that experience as a positive thing, I’d call that “looking forward to something” or “being excited”. If you read that experience as a negative thing, and there’s an active stimulus at that time in need of an immediate response, that’s “fear”. If you read that experience as a negative thing, and you’re focused on some future event, that’s “anxiety”.
My own personal battles with this sort of unrelenting and unjustified state of anxiety are the proximate cause of much of my therapy visits. Fortunately, I now get to take a beta blocker, which seems to drop things back to more tolerable levels.
Tien Chiu says
Interesting, and probably more apropos than my own usage. I generally don’t stay anxious very long, though – and, in fact, I seem to have resolved this particular case. Anxiety (and stress generally) can trigger bipolar disorder episodes for me, so I’ve become very good at being philosophical. Glad to hear that the beta blocker is helping for you.