Mastering Fear (#722)

One of the primary models we teach on Supercoach Academy is “the three levels of coaching”.  Each level corresponds to a different place to focus attention and a different style of intervention.


    • At level one, we are primarily concerned with performance, and our focus is on eliciting peak performance states and triggering them at the appropriate times.
    • At level two, we are working with the horizontal dimension of life, sharing strategies for success in disparate areas ranging from career and money through to relationships, social action, and health.
    • At level three, we are dancing directly in the vertical dimension, opening up the space for a new way of seeing the world and in so doing, transforming people’s experience in every area of their lives.


One of the issues that comes up most frequently with my coaching clients and indeed human beings in general is fear – and again, there are three levels at which fear and fearlessness can be usefully explored:

Level One:
What specifically are you afraid of?

One of the things I’ve learned is that people can learn to fear pretty much anything, and over the years I have spoken and/or worked with people suffering through everything from a fear of raccoons to a phobia of wobbly Jello.

Since we are born with only two “natural” fears – falling and loud noises – all other fears can be handled quite quickly on an individual basis through psycho-physiological interventions ranging from NLP to TFT to EMDR to the “baby bird technique” (see this short video for more thoughts on being thrown into the deep end of life and learning that you can swim!)

The problem with this approach is that the learning rarely generalizes – we overcome our fear of raccoons but Jello still terrifies us; we move past our fear of asking someone cute out on a date but cold calling sales prospects still seems completely beyond our grasp.

Level Two:

How are you using your fear?

When we look a bit deeper into the phenomenon of fear, we see that there are only three reasons why anyone would ever actually want to be afraid – to protect themselves, to motivate themselves, or some combination of the two.

Since protection and motivation are powerful drivers, often people hang on to unnecessary and even unpleasant fears because of what they are afraid would happen if they didn’t.

For example, someone who is afraid of asking for what they want might be attempting to keep themselves safe from a feeling of “rejection”; someone who is afraid of being poor is often attempting to motivate themselves to engage in more wealth-producing activities.

Here’s the problem:


    • “Protective fear” often creates side-effects that are more debilitating than whatever it is you are attempting to protect yourself from.
    • “Motivational fear” often backfires, creating so much discomfort that you drop out of the game rather than continuing to push yourself forward.


And even though we can see that our fear based “strategies for success” aren’t working, we’re reluctant to give them up for fear of what might happen if we did. So to intervene at this level, we question our beliefs about the necessity of fear and find alternative ways to protect and motivate ourselves.  Once these new ways take root, the “purposeful fears” we had been clinging to become easier and easier to let go.

When we understand fear in this way, it becomes considerably less scary. But there is an even deeper level of understanding which makes fearless living an even more immediate possibility…

Level Three:

What is Fear, Really?

Have you ever wondered where fear goes when it’s not there anymore?  Or where it comes from in the first place?

One of the most interesting things about fear is that it always seems to either come from something outside of us (like a raccoon or cold calling or Jello) or from something inside but separate from us (what my mentor George Pransky calls “psychological bogeymen”).

Yet when you look closely, you’ll find that every fear you experience (outside of a clear and present danger) is actually a reaction to a thought. It’s not “false evidence appearing real”, as the acronym suggests – it’s thought appearing real, in the sense that we react to the thought of a raccoon biting or dentist drilling or person shouting as if it was actually happening to us right here, right now.

Steve Chandler uses the analogy of a young child drawing a picture of a monster on a piece of paper and then running out of the room in terror. We create a scary thought in our mind, and because we do not recognize ourselves as its creator, we are run ragged by that thought, doing all sorts of things to avoid an imaginary consequence that we ourselves have constructed.

The exact moment the child sees that the monster is just a drawing and can’t hurt it, the fear is gone.  And the moment the child sees him or herself as the creator of the drawing, the very same thing that was so frightening becomes fascinating.

And the same is true for each one of us. The moment we see that our own deepest, darkest fears are just a thought, we open up a space in our minds for our innate health and wisdom and well-being to come through.

There may well still be things to do in the world – but we will do them based on what is actually wanted and needed in each situation, not as a knee-jerk fight or flight response to our own unrecognized thinking.

And the moment we recognize that we ourselves are the creators of our own experience, this very same world that was once so frightening becomes an endlessly, wonderfully fascinating place to be.

With love,

Related Articles

What’s Fear Got to Do With It?

If we love us some self-help, we know that love is the opposite of fear and that we’re supposed to “feel the fear and do it anyway”. But what if fear was completely irrelevant to creating what you want in the world? Join Michael for this fun and fear-less exploration!

The Three Levels of Change (#728)

Traditional coaching takes place primarily on a horizontal dimension – coaches assist their clients in getting from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’. Yet lasting, sustainable change nearly always happens in the vertical dimension – a deepening of the ground of being of the client and greater access to inspiration and spiritual wisdom.

Who Cares What You’re Afraid Of? (#912)

The other week, I was sitting in a cafe looking out over the rooftops of London when a question came to mind:

“What’s your biggest fear?”

The thing I found so interesting is that my thoughts didn’t follow the expected path of scanning through my past and future memories looking for a specific fear to call their own. Instead, they went to the practical implications of the question and an exploration of the nature of fear itself…