I just finished reading Extreme Fear, by Jeff Wise. Ever since I faced my fear of heights, I have been interested in learning more about fear, how the body responds to fear, and strategies to deal with it. Fear has benefits, but it also has the power to limit how we perform, and our ability to take chances.
Wise’s book confirmed that exposure therapy is a proven way to overcome certain fears. Looking back on my own experience, this is exactly how I approached my fear of heights. Early on, I could not see an end to my fear and therefore did not expect to ever move beyond it. Each time I climbed the stairs to the board at trapeze school jitters filled my body, adrenaline rush, increased heart rate, sweaty hands and that voice inside my head warning me about danger and potential failure. Each time I mustered up the courage to make the leap, I challenged the reality of these feelings and my emotions. I also used Barbara Conable’s advice on dealing with performance anxiety, which is to recognize the fear but also acknowledge all of the other emotions I was experiencing. Not only was I scared, I was excited, happy and energized. In time (3 classes) I started to recognize the fun of flying on the trapeze, that I felt great after the workout, and I began to recognize powerful connections within my body (how the arms and legs connect to the torso.) My fear morphed into one of the best learning experiences of my life (also the most fun.) Experiencing new ways of moving, facing fear, the physics of trapeze, and performing have helped me to grow as a flutist, teacher and person. This week, why not take a chance, face your fear. If the voice inside your head gives you pause, take a moment to acknowledge all of the emotions & feelings racing through you, shift your focus to the good ones and go for it! You might be pleasantly surprised at the outcome 😉