movie: defending your life

Dealing With Fear

This year marks the unbelievable 25th anniversary of the movie Defending Your Life.  The movie is true and timeless, because, as writer, director, and star Albert Brooks said, “I think what the movie is saying is going to stay relevant for a long, long time, because fear isn’t going away.”

The angel-like character, Bob Diamond, sums up how fear is part of the human experience.

Bob Diamond:      Being from Earth, as you are, and using as little of your brain as you do, your life has pretty much been devoted to dealing with fear.

Daniel Miller:      It has?

Bob Diamond:      Well everybody on Earth deals with fear – that’s what little brains do . . . Fear is like a giant fog. It sits on your brain and blocks everything – real feelings, true happiness, real joy. They can’t get through that fog. But you lift it, and buddy, you’re in for the ride of your life.

Where is the fear fog holding you back? Are you not asking out someone who could become your significant other? Are you not following your dream job because another path is “safer”? Are you holding back expressing your truth for fear of being misunderstood or hurting someone else? Are you afraid to be truly authentic because you are afraid others will not accept you?

DEFENDING YOUR LIFE, from left: Albert Brooks, Meryl Streep, 1991, © Warner Brothers
DEFENDING YOUR LIFE, from left: Albert Brooks, Meryl Streep, 1991, © Warner Brothers

When we look at our lives, the root of all of our pain is founded in fear. Fear is the pain in our stomach. Fear holds us back from acting. Fear keeps us from pursing our dreams. Fear makes us judge others and ourselves. Fear creates an us-versus-them mentality in an attempt to feel safe. Fear keeps us from acknowledging and accepting change. Fear holds us back from joy. Fear restricts our living. If you follow anything causing you pain right now, at its base you can find a fear.

This morning I spoke with a friend who was once again overwhelmed with her job. I asked what had changed with her role or the company. And although there was a shift, the shift was not enough to warrant the stress she was now feeling. When we explored the situation, we uncovered an unfounded fear of losing her job. This fear, I believe, was generated by her closing in on her dream outside of work and she is frightened she may fail – or actually succeed. The fog of fear enveloped her, masquerading as overwhelming stress. The result is the same: exhaustion, cloudy thinking, inability to hope, and being stuck.  When we exposed the fear and decided it is not what she wants to feel, the fog began to lift.

To release fear it is not necessary to determine where the fear came from. Knowing that the fear came from this or that childhood experience is unnecessary. Knowing simply what triggers the fear is all you need. Once you know the trigger and can recognize when you are triggered, you are now enabled to release the fear. Instead of feeding your fear, focus on how you want to feel. What feels free? What feels clear? What feels empowering? Feed those feelings and notice the power of your fear reducing.

If your fear is strong, look to the facts. Think of three reasons why your fear is unfounded. Recount examples from your life or those you know which show your fear is untrue. Use your logic to counter the illogical fear keeping you stuck.

Having the courage to face your fear is the first step to experiencing your ideal life. Are you ready to move forward like Bob Diamond who “got over my fears and [I] got smarter”?

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