Reality Check: Fear or Excitement?

Do you live with a feeling of fear? Or maybe you call it dread, anxiety, or worry. It’s a troubling feeling, no matter which name we use.
Our fears may be valid. There’s plenty to worry about. And it’s surprisingly difficult to discern the truth about whether what we fear is a genuine threat, a minor threat, or not a real threat at all.
Even when our fears are valid, there are downsides to letting them take us over. For one thing, it makes life miserable. Fear colours everything—how we interact, how we work, how we play.
There’s also the question of how we deal with people who don’t share our fears, or who even belittle them. If we choose to rage or blame because they don’t understand or don’t care, we can cause permanent relationship damage.
What if fear has taken us over and we can’t seem to shake it?
Somewhere in my piles of research and reading, I’d come across this interesting question, “Is it fear? Or is it excitement?”
Dr. Glasser’s theory suggests that there are four components to behaviour—what we Do; what we Think; what we Feel, and how our Body reacts. They’re connected. So when we are fearful, like during a big thunderstorm, what do we do? Hide under the blankets. What do we think? “Oh no! The house is going to flood.” What do we feel? Afraid. What does our body do? It chimes in with trembling hands and quivering stomach.
Now, let’s say we’re excited about throwing a party. What do we do? Make food and invite people. What do we think? About the details that will make it successful. What do we feel? Excitement. What does our body do? It may chime in with stomach quivering and maybe even excited trembling. That body response looks a lot like fear. Curious, isn’t it?
Can we use that similarity to our benefit? Could we reduce some of the negative consequences of being fearful by deliberately choosing to reframe fear as excitement?
Dr. Glasser suggests that of all the behavioural components, we can most easily change our actions and thoughts. They influence the rest. So if we want to change what we are feeling, it’s most effective to change our actions and thoughts.
For example, let’s say that I am fearful because I am being forced to move. That fear is showing up in my actions, thoughts, feelings and bodily responses. It’s causing me to be miserable. I can’t change the reality of the situation, but I want to change my feeling about it.
Can I change my fear of the move into excitement about the move?
I could choose to think about the move as if it is an adventure, and act as if I am excited rather than fearful. If I succeed in this, I would certainly feel better. It might even make the reality better, because if I act as if this is an exciting change, the people around me will be more inclined to be excited too. They won’t feel the need to walk on eggshells and avoid mentioning the move around me. They might even help out!
I’m not suggesting that we attempt to reframe every fear as excitement. That would be absurd. Rather, the suggestion is simply: When we are aware of our fearful physical sensations, ask, “Is it possible for me to perceive this differently, in a more positive way?”
Is it worth a try?

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