Facing Our Fears on Friday the 13th
Hello and Happy Friday the 13th to all of the faithful readers of the studio blog. It seems fitting that this Friday, the 13th, I should be writing the 13th blog in my blogosphere about FEAR. If you are superstitious, knock on wood before you continue reading, just in case. Just like walking under a ladder, crossing paths with a black cat, or breaking a mirror, many people hold fast to the belief that Friday the 13th brings bad luck. Though it’s uncertain exactly when this tradition began, negative superstitions have swirled around 13 for centuries. Fear of the number 13 has even earned a psychological term: triskaidekaphobia. Face your fears and read on dear readers, be fearless and powerful; you’re in a safe place.
Our first experience of the world we all share is one we all share. At birth, we are suddenly thrown into a new environment with air to breathe and hands handling us for the first time. We may not consciously remember that day, but subconsciously it must stick with us. As we grow older, it can seem like the whole world is built to scare us, and our fears come complete with crippling physical symptoms. All fears occur as we get lost in our imaginations, so the cure for fear also lies there. My cure for fear is fun. If I can always make what I’m doing fun, I am free to do it without any harmful physical symptoms. I am fearless and, therefore, powerful.
The Power to Create Fear
Fear is an emotion caused by our belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or a threat, and it is human nature to avoid danger. Common fears include heights, tight spaces, illnesses, abandonment, isolation, aloneness, humiliation, shame, sadness, and spiders, of course. When we are feeling fearful, we usually imagine something that might happen in the future or something that did happen in the past. Our fear is not from a reaction to the spider we see now but from years of being scared of spiders after seeing that scary spider movie in a dark theater when we were younger.
Our imagination is a time machine giving us the same feelings we’ve experienced in our past again and feelings we would have if the most terrible thing we can imagine were to happen to us in the future. Now we’ve created fear. Yes, we are the ones creating the fear. It lives in our imaginations, and the imagination is a powerful tool for creation. We spend so much time and energy creating the negative stories that scare us in our minds, and we can easily find better uses for this energy and time. We can create any story, or better yet, no story. A story is being told as we live it. At this moment, while you are reading. Hi! We are always making the story here and now. Let’s see how it turns out.
Changing Your Mind
Changing your mind is easy. Likely, you do it all the time, though the kind of change I mean might take some conscious effort. Knowing your mind and how it works will help you learn ways to ignore it. Observation is the way to start. It may seem like your mind never stops, but there is an observable space as we move to the next thought. Enjoy the silent spaces between your thoughts, and they will grow longer. Observe your mind as if you’re watching television. You may find it oddly similar to watching a tv, complete with commercials for your favorite foods or activities. The fact that we can observe our thoughts lets us know that we are separate from them.
Getting to know your mind is also easy. You’ve been living with it all your life, and you have the power to ignore it. It takes some practice, but like anything we put our mind to, even ignoring the mind, the more we do it, the easier it gets. When you start imagining a scary future or reliving a failure from the past, it activates your feelings. Your feelings help give energy to fear. Dive into your feeling with a kind and compassionate, nonjudgmental, and forgiving self, and you will start to understand how and why we create fear. Forgive yourself anytime you think you‘ve made a mistake. Mistakes happen, and if you can move on from them, you will learn from them. If you can’t, you will keep making the same ones.
Nothing Grows with Fear
Imagine your fear is a creature that needs your ego to survive. The more you try to conquer fear, the more you feed the beast. You are the fear and the one fighting it. It seems so real because you’ve created it. It is personal, and in a way, your ego is proud of its creation. This can make it difficult to let it go. The ego puts up obstacles to give us a greater sense of accomplishment, but this doesn’t help us accomplish things. Seeing how we make things more complicated for ourselves makes it easier to let go of these thoughts that do not provide a suitable environment for our growth.
If everything we do is fun, it is easy to be the thing we are doing and not the person doing it. Without the ego, we are free of fear, and a soft focus sets in as we perform. Fear will keep us from learning, and we will not grow until we let go of fear. It is hard to see how not to be afraid when we are afraid. Stop for a moment and enjoy the state of no fear you are in now. It takes no energy; you’re already there. You have to create something to experience anything inside. Create a sense that you can handle anything that comes your way. You have been preparing for each moment, and you are ready for anything. Detachment from the person and the body will give us an easier time dealing with the physical symptoms of fear.
The Symptoms of Being Nervous
Physical symptoms that occur when we are scared or nervous can be crippling. A pounding heart or tightness in the chest, sweating, hot or cold flushes, shortness of breath or a smothering sensation, trembling or shaking, numbness or tingling sensations, nausea or diarrhea, and even dizziness or fainting can appear during stressful situations. At the first sign of a symptom, I bring myself out of whatever fearful dream I might have by focusing on the present moment. Rubbing my fingers together, I become aware of my breathing and remind myself that I can create a better experience, then I smile. I’m having fun again. I can get back to work, and my energy levels rise again.
The emotional response to scary things can be highly personalized. Fear involves some of the same chemical reactions in our brains that positive emotions like happiness and excitement do. Fear under certain circumstances can be seen as fun, like watching a scary movie. Some people are thrill seekers and thrive on zip lines or sky diving. Others negatively react to fear and avoid fearful situations at all costs. Although the physical reaction is the same, the experience of fear may be perceived as either positive or negative. The good news is that with a little effort, we can choose.
Habits of Creating Fear
Habits are easy to start and challenging to break. Make a conscious effort to stop your imagination when it starts a story and change the story. You can even let it go completely. This will begin new and healthier habits of creating confidence. Imagine putting all the energy that you’ve previously used for creating fearful scenarios into building what you truly desire in the real world. Maybe you desire a meaningful musical performance or to win an audition. Can you make the whole experience fun? From the beginning preparation through the final performance, you can make your work light and playful. With an attitude of fun, you’ll have all the energy you need.
If dark thoughts are hounding, you look deeply into your fears; you will find they are rooted in desires. From a desire for no pain to desires for money, fame, acceptance, or love, our desires are many and are deeply layered. Develop a desire for inner peace and keep your mind peaceful and energetic. We can change the mental habits we’ve developed and stop creating unwanted fear. It is just a habit, and when it starts, there’s no need to run, fight, or freeze. Stop and explore the physical symptoms the moment they begin. The more you do, the easier it gets to release its hold on you.
Making Your Own Movies
Have you ever seen a scary movie in a dark theater and experienced fear? The actors, directors, and musicians may be the film’s creators, but we create fear as we watch that scary movie. We may know we are sitting in a chair and not being chased by whatever threatens the victim, but we still feel the fear we imagine that character is feeling. This excitement can be thrilling and keeps us coming back to the theater.
Your imagination is fantastic at creating fear and exciting our feelings. We can also use it to create feelings of belief and confidence that help us relax to perform at our peak. If fear can be perceived as positive or negative and we can make our own movies, then we can make those movies fun. Choose fun instead of horror films that send our feelings into flight, fight, or freeze mode. We can train these good habits of thinking in helpful ways by doing it. Observing your mind will help you recognize when the horror film begins and allow you to flip the script to make it fun. A simple trick of wordplay can help here. By replacing the words we use to describe what we do, we can make our mental attitude a fun one.
Choose Your Words Wisely
Have you ever paid attention to the words you use to describe yourself, your friends, your family, and the things you do? The words we use to describe the things that we do can tell us about our genuine attitude. By observing how we speak, we can understand how we think. Changing the words we use can change the way we think. Do you talk yourself or others down? Do your words describe the victim blaming others or bad luck for your misfortune? No need to feel bad about it; we all face the same challenges, and these thoughts are common, just not helpful. Moving on from old ways of thinking can be challenging, especially in situations that stress us out.
One of the most nerve-racking situations a musician faces is an audition. Try calling it a performance, and you will start to experience new feelings toward the experience. I’m never practicing the horn; I’m playing it. When we make work play, we have energy for it all day. You’re not nervous; you’re excited. The feelings are very similar, aren’t they? Our narrative of excitement over nervousness keeps our energy positive and available for the actual performance. Fun is the cure for fear and anxiety, and you can choose how you think. Hurray! You can make your audition fun from start to finish as you begin to play instead of practicing your excerpts. Through all the polishing and preparations, you are playing your way to the final performance instead of an audition.
Signs from The Studio Wall
This is the third sign from the wall I’ve covered in an article, and they all have an underlying theme. In “Attitude is Everything,” we see that a good positive attitude is a helpful one for success and that we have the “power to choose” our attitude. “Simple and Easy: A Complex Idea” covers the idea that if we label everything we do as simple and easy, it can make things easier to do and that we have the “power to choose” a narrative of simple and easy.
Now in this 13th blog from Friday the 13th about FEAR, we learn that we are the ones creating fear and anxiety and that we have the “power to choose” to let go of fear simply and easily with an attitude of fun. We can choose! We don’t have to keep thinking the same way all our life. Decide today to think in ways that will allow for growth and peace. The only world you have any hopes to control is your Inner World. Make it one that serves you and all around you. Let go of fear and be free to do anything you do efficiently and without hesitation. You can relax and realize your potential.
Did You Knock on Wood, Just in Case?
I sincerely hope that this blog has helped cure you of your superstitions, but just in case you are still worried, let me ease your mind. My 11th blog, “The Inner Musician,” had a part 2, “Electric Boogaloo.” So this blog from Friday, January 13, 2023, is just my 12th article, not my 13th. This should keep us safe from any unfortunate luck dealing with too many 13s.
Finally, a heartfelt thanks to all of the faithful readers for supporting me in my efforts to share what my students have taught me about the human experience, how the mind works, and effective ways to play music. I appreciate the many real-world conversations about the topics covered here, and the anticipation expressed for each new entry has a sweet energy that I use to create them. See you back here for my 14th, I mean my 13th installment of the Leenhorn Studio Blog, “What’s in a Name?”, where we’ll meet Neil and Marie. They are a fearless and powerful couple that knows how to have fun.