Charming your fear of snakes (and other things that stress you)
You’re on a solo hike in unfamiliar country when you hear a sudden rustling in the bushes. What would you do?
Creep away quietly?
Run screaming bloody murder?
Grab a rock and go after your new arch enemy?
Question your hearing?
Tell yourself it’s nothing?
Stay alert and continue?
Insert your secret snake strategy: _________________
Humans are wired for flight-flight (or freeze-fawn) mode in response to perceived threat — from a possible snake to a pressing deadline, an underperforming team member or a slow Wifi connection.
Raw experiences of pain and threat are useful and deeply human. They’re designed to keep us alive in a world that’s not perfectly safe or “human-proof.”
It’s our judgments and actions around these experiences that tend to run amok. This includes negative emotion laden judgments of ourself, others and circumstances — e.g. “I need to hit my numbers (or else), snakes are bad, this company sucks, I’m not good enough.”
Our willingness to be with the full depth and breadth of our human experience, including negative emotions, is what makes it rich. And there is wisdom and greater effectiveness when we can forgive, release and learn from or look beyond the things that take away from our joy.
- Negative emotions are useful information, and we are evolved enough that we don’t need them to drive the bus.
- Feeling intensely and living fully in our emotional bodies humanizes us, giving us rich and meaningful lives.
- Getting hijacked by negative emotions or our stories about them, avoiding negative emotions, and chasing or clinging to positive emotions — think denial, addiction, toxic positivity, and manipulating others against their best interests to support our own — are (fear-based) survival strategies, each with major costs.
Survival strategies are our snakes of suffering and stress. We reach the most inspired destinations when we learn to charm or walk on by them, and continue on our way.