Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I've been thinking about fear.  I'd like to say it's because we're getting close to Halloween but the truth is, I think about fear a lot.  Maybe that's because I think about a lot of things a lot or maybe it's because I encounter fear often.

Many, dare I say all, of the people I work with are fearful.  Some fear losing control in their lives.  For some, it's fear of rejection, fear of illness, fear of change  --  there's no end to the things we are afraid of. 

We've all heard about fight or flight, right?  When you experience a fearful situation, your subconscious makes a decision to stay where you are and fight for your life or run for the hills.

What doesn't fit into that neat little package is the pause that happens while you're making that decision.  Think about it --

If it were 1000 years ago and you were walking through the woods, what would happen if you came upon a bear?

First, your instinct would be to stop dead in your tracks, your pupil would widen so you could gather more information about this new threat, your muscles would tense, adrenaline would flow -- and these events precede your decision to stay and fight or run like mad. All this takes time -- not very much time, to be sure, but there is a space of time where you would be in a pause  -- full of fear but taking no action.

This pause is where a lot of my clients (and, let's be honest, myself) get stuck.  Full of fear, trying to gather more information so we can make the best decision possible. 

In the woods, there is a finite amount of information to be gathered.  Ground conditions, whether the bear looks hungry, our chances of outrunning it, (I'm sure there's more but never having been in that situation, I'm at a loss).....there's a logical end point to the amount of data we would need to collect -- many things (the color of the sky, chance of rain this afternoon, what we had for breakfast, or what our tribe is going to say about our stupidity for getting in the situation in the first place) are not relevant to our assessment.  Plus, there's a drop-dead time limit (literally) to make our decision.

Decisions about dealing with our fears now days are hardly as cut and dried.  It is literally impossible to gather all of the pertinent information -- with the Internet, there's not enough time in the day to read all available research on weight management.  And, we really have too much time to make our decision.  The threats we face from our eating behaviors are slow to show themselves and we can always improve our situation -- regardless of when we initiate our behavior change.

People get stuck in the pause.  They just stay fearful and don't do anything about it.  They don't fight.  They don't run for the hills.

In my experience, people who are the happiest (which is probably the greatest boost to health anyway) are the ones who pick a direction and go.  It may not be the "best" course of action -- but they're moving and not staying stuck!

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