Move Out Fear

moving from fear and stress to grace

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Fear and Stress

As a creative person, you create stories about yourself. These may involve capabilities, collaborators, style, or whatever. You set your heroes, idols, peers and competitors up and play your own work off against theirs. Out of this, you create a negative story about yourself. “I’m afraid I won’t live up to my potential.” “I’m not as good as ______.” And these comparisons to either real or imagined measurements seem to prove your fear right. (Anyway, that’s what I’ve done and have heard similar stories from some of my fellow musicians and artists.)

Some people can turn this fear into energy that is creative and motivating. But for many of us, this fear is at least part of what feeds a lack of creativity or limits creative output. What I mean by that is if you are afraid that you won’t do well, you are likely to create that poor performance. Performing poorly is likely to produce stress. And that stress feeds your belief that any feelings that come up around our art will be too much for you. “See? I told you I was too scared and look at me now!”

Move Out FearMovement

I ran into this kind of fear when I was preparing for a recent gig. In my case, I was intimidated by the venue where I was going to be performing. After all, some of my musical heroes like Keith Jarrett and Jim Ridl have performed and recorded there. How could I be worthy? Instead of facing my fear, I tried to find ways — addictive behaviors and procrastination — to avoid it. Eventually, I had to get help.

In my case, the help this time came in the form of a creativity coach. She was able to offer constructive ways to get me to be present to my feelings while staying focused on preparing for the gig. What was key in this process? The way into this was to breathe and move my body. When I felt stuck, I just repeated these simple steps: breathe deeply three times and let the exhale come as a sigh; then, shake the body and voice around. If that doesn’t sound like much to you, try it some time when you’re procrastinating. You may find that it can initiate a shift. (Of course, the creativity coach offered many other pointers, homework and so on. This was just the way we started each of our sessions.)

Not every one or every situation will call for hiring a coach, but it’s a great option when you’re really stuck. And a good coach will provide you with techniques and resources that you can use even when the coaching sessions are over.

GraceSwan Grace

For creatives, there has to be an alternative to stress and fear about what we want to create. My friend, Phil Porter, taught a class in which he asked the participants to list things that are stressful. Once we had a (lengthy) list, he asked us to list the opposites. Those, he labelled “grace”. Fear tells you that you’re stuck in the stress. Grace releases you from that and opens you to creativity. It’s your choice. Choose wisely.

When have you recently chosen breathing, creativity, and grace? Where do you need grace right now to break down a place of stress in your life?

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12 comments

  1. Stan I just love this post. When you think about it, the word stress means to place physical pressure on something, sometimes as a test (hence the term “stress test”). We perceive situations as stressful when we interact with our environment in our human quest to fulfill our needs. So stress is an unavoidable part of engagement. Stress is not a good or bad thing, it is just a survival response that gears us up physiologically to act: to remove ourselves from danger or to take advantage of opportunity. I think that grace is a great way to describe turning stress from a negative into positive. I particularly like the idea that grace allows us to become unstuck, frees us and opens us to creativity. Stress is the thing that initially makes us pay attention, revs our adrenaline for action – but getting stuck inside it is exhausting and unproductive. Channeling it into positivitity and creativity – that’s the ticket! I can totally relate to your experience as a performing artist. I always appreciate tips (like yours on breathing) that can help turn that stress from a negative into a positive energy. Nice post!

    1. Solveig,

      I’m so deeply honored that you dropped by. And appreciate even more that you left a comment that says so much. I agree 100% and think you’ve put it quite beautifully. Ironically, my notes for a next post surround the idea of adrenaline and passion around performance. But don’t tell anyone…
      🙂

      Playful blessings,
      Stan

  2. This is a lovely and well-timed post, Stan. I feel stress most often when I think in terms of success-or-failure in whatever I am doing at the moment. When I am doing for the sake of enjoying what I am doing stress doesn’t enter mind or body. Comparison, then, and fear of judgement are my main causes of stress. When I remember that, I can return myself to peace.

    Blessings…
    Stephanie

    1. Thanks, Stephanie!

      Yes, comparison: I know there’s a Kierkegaard quote, but I can’t find it right now. The idea was that he was sending his students off as they graduated and he warned them not to get caught up in comparison because it would cause great harm to both the self and their comrades. At least that’s how I remember it without having the source in front of me.

      Really glad you stopped by. I enjoyed having a look at your very inventive, creative art work!

      Playful blessings,
      Stan

  3. This post meets me right where I am in this moment. As I get closer and closer to finding an agent for my book–and my career–sometimes it’s the thought of *success* that terrifies and immobilizes me, strange as that may sound. But most days, it’s the fear of not being “enough”–not living up to my potential, not meeting some abstract criteria necessary to be part of the “club” of successful professional writers. This post is a great reminder to slow down, to breathe, and to find the beauty in the place where I’m at. Many thanks.

    1. How wonderful that we both got to read (experience?) my post from two years ago and that I had something to say to the “me” we’ve each become right now. Glad that it reminded you to breathe and best wishes with your continued journey, Brenna!

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