Our Little Walk Through the Fear Pile

Stupid, freakin’ fear. I hate it. And, sad to say, I’m walking in a big, glumpy pile of it as I write this.

Walk with me for a moment, won’t you?

As we begin, let me first acknowledge how ironic this post feels already. I’ve written lots of blogs on how to tackle fear. Heck, I even dedicated a chapter of my last book to the sucker.

Throughout it all I’ve confidently said that fear is not necessarily a bad thing, that even though it feels icky, it helps guide us.

And that’s all well and good. Except when you’re right in the middle of the fear pile like I am right now. And then it just feels terrible. Like you want to hide from everything.

We’ve all been there before, yes?

blog computer head

This time around, my particular fear is based on an uncertain future filled with risk. I’m about to launch a big new initiative, one that will take (and has taken) lots of time and lots of money, all with no guaranteed outcomes.

As I’ve asked myself “what’s the worst that can happen?” a gigantic monster made up of failure and shame and poverty come to mind.

And so, last night, I made the resolute decision to not launch the new initiative. And I sat there in my pile of fear and my sad decision and I cried and I watched terrible TV and I decided that this was all perfectly fine.

But I know it’s not. I must figure out what’s right, despite fear’s hold on me. And so here we are, back in the ick.

But, as I write this, I think I’ve got a way out.

I pause here to explain why I’m telling you all of this.

First of all, I know that fear is universal, that the fear pile can creep up on even the most confident of us humans.

Plus, through the ups and downs of these blog posts we’ve grown close, you and me. And so I trust you. I also just think you might appreciate how this journey through the pile of fear will end…because I just found a whole new way to tackle it.

This morning I was listening to a podcast on – what else? – fear, where a woman argued that fear is actually an amazing display of the imagination. Our fears come to us fully formed, with visual, pulsating stories of worst-case scenarios…

…our credit card bill comes in a bit high and in our imaginations we land our families squarely on the streets…we make a mistake at work and we imagine ourselves unemployed…we hear a creak in the middle of the night and we just know the angry monster is on its way.

Our imaginations can turn even the happy stuff…

happy clown


…into super-scary stuff.


Yes, some of our fears are good for us. They help us calculate risk and make wise decisions.

The trick, as this woman put it, is distinguishing between those pulsating, icky piles of fear that are just products of our imaginations, and the real risks that we should heed.

And how can we do that? By turning our brain’s channel.

We all have two channels…the imaginary, artistic side and the  scientific, rational side. We must use the right channel at the right time.

And when is precisely the wrong time to engage the imaginary, artistic channel?

When we are experiencing fear and evaluating risk. Whether it’s related to professional fears or personal ones, we must switch over to our scientific, rational side. The side that stays cool and logical. That can evaluate the true risk behind a situation.

We can then ask ourselves…”what’s the worst thing that can happen?”…with an eye to reality, not fixated on the terrible, graphic, never-going-to-happen imaginary scene we so easily conjure up.

And now that I’ve come to this, I’m switching the channel right now…the rational side rising up to weigh out my risks, my uncertain future.

And all of a sudden I know that the worst that can happen…isn’t really that bad at all. No poverty. No shame. No monster.

And, as I write this, the walk through the pile of fear is almost over…and I am (almost) ick-free.

Just like that, the scary stuff isn’t quite so scary anymore.

clown guys

And it sure feels a whole lot better.

As I’m sure you can imagine.

This week…

Walk through your own pile of fear by forcing yourself to turn the channel to your rational side.

Know that the answer to “what’s the worst that can happen?” doesn’t have to come with a scary imaginative monster story.

Go rational. Save your creative juices for later.

Discover the truth, and become ick-free.

Now go do good…and do it well.

9 thoughts on “Our Little Walk Through the Fear Pile

  1. Mark says:

    I think you’ve got it right, but you don’t give yourself enough credit for one major precursor to adopting your advice: enough self awareness to realize that Fear is what might be driving a decision – that your Amygdala is in control, because it doesn’t like anyone to notice.

    1. rick jackson says:

      Four things block progress:

      Thinking too much

      Fear is at the heart of all them. When you get “stuck”, check the list. It’s one of them. Most people have a tendency to hide behind one. When at a loss – do something! Take action. It isn’t inspiration that creates action. It’s the momentum of action that creates more action. Get started and let the snowball roll!

  2. Deirdre Maloney says:

    I appreciate your point, Mark…and you’re right, I didn’t even think to give myself credit on that one. Silly Amygdala.

  3. Tracie Smith says:

    So very timely, Deirdre! Thank you so much for sharing! Many good points here…and I appreciate Mark’s input also. Be well…

  4. Deirdre Maloney says:

    So nice to see your name here, Tracie – and thanks very much for taking the time to comment! I hope all is going great for you these days…

  5. Rancy Breece says:

    Your blog is very insightful and provides an excellent perspective on dealing with fear. It also reminds me of an observation that a friend, a recovering alcoholic, made. He said that the word fear is an acronym that can be used two ways – Forget Everything And Run, or Face Everything And Recover. He vowed to do the latter.

    1. Deirdre Maloney says:

      I love that! I’ll attempt to go with the latter as well…and on most days I bet I can do it. 🙂 Thanks!

  6. Patty says:

    Thank you Deirdre for your sharing and openness. Fear has always been an issue with me which leads me to the negataive of “worry” I agree with facing the fear honestly and then making a decision not out of emotion but out of reasoning. Easier said than done but being aware is a good beginning. I like that “Face everything and recover!

    1. Deirdre Maloney says:

      Thanks Patty – reasoning over emotion sure does make a whole lot more sense when it comes to fear. If only it were easy to switch the channel! Appreciate your comment!

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