At one point a few years ago, people who fear public speaking were coming into my awareness. I can remember back when I had that same fear but was cured of it when the meeting-script binder was grabbed from my hands and literally tossed into the group by my trainer. The group loved it and clapped! He said: “Just talk, you know what you’re doing!” So, I did.
I knew the material but didn’t realize it until I was literally “forced” into focus.
The mechanics of what happened cured me of the fear of public speaking. When I had the “binder” in front of me, it acted like a crutch. A false sense of safety was created, keeping me small and in my fear:
- It prevented me from being totally focused on the messages I needed to get across.
- I was focused on “me” and my fear of not wanting to leave anything out (internal) as opposed to my commitment to the audience getting the messages they needed to get (external).
- I was focused on the internal taunting of fear (you’re going to miss something, you can’t do this, etc.) as opposed to the communication itself.
The key factor in all of this was the shift in focus. When my attention shifted from my internal small-talk to the external commitment of training and getting the message out – my fear had to take a back seat, and therefore no longer had influence over me.
Transformation of Fear
I watched a wonderfully transformative interview from 2016 with Werner Erhard–founder of Erhard Seminars Training (est)–and Penn State professor Jonathan Moreno. They discussed a great many things, a few of which stood out enough for me to want to share about in this chapter.
Fear was one of the topics. Here’s what Werner said about fear:
Fear is pretty close to universal. You can’t get more basic when you’re talking about survival than fear. It’s what is required in a “tooth and claw” environment to be able to function. Walk down a street in the wrong neighborhood and you might feel some fear.
I’m not gonna get rid of fear because it’s a part of my nervous system – it’s biological. The question is: How am I going to be in the face of fear? Most people are never going to ask that question because most people are not going to get in touch with what they fear because to get in touch with what one fears is frightening.
Werner believes it’s important to look at the possibility of equipping ourselves to be able to function effectively and to be useful even when frightened. He suggests that we start to locate the source of the fear by asking ourselves:
“What is it, that this which is frightening for me, remind me of?
Can I complete that?”
He mentions that our fear had a useful and legitimate place in our lives when we were children and to have understanding and compassion for that child and their response.
. . . but do I need to have that response to a like situation now that I’m an adult? While it might trigger something for me, I don’t know that I need to respond in the way that I responded then.
The example I gave earlier illustrates Werner’s next statement.
Ultimately, I really think it’s possible to get to the place where you’re so related to what’s [jargon] out here that what’s going on in the aspects of myself that I don’t have any choice about, reduces the impact of what’s going on with those aspects of myself that I don’t have anything to do with.
My internal fear conversation would be what he refers to as: the aspects of myself that I don’t have any choice about. And when he mentions “out here” he is referring to something external, such as my commitment to get the message out to the group.
Here’s another example:
I was training to be a ropes-course manager (RCM) for an outdoor ropes course, responsible for the management and safety of the course which included people’s lives. If I failed in any part of my responsibilities, the consequences were dire – there was a potential for someone to get seriously hurt or die. It was the most responsible position I’ve ever held.
The member of staff who oversaw the rappel event had called me on the radio. In one ear I could hear his voice and at the same time, in the other ear . . . the voice of my fear was screaming at me –
“You have no idea what you are doing! Who do you think you are! You need to stop right now and quit this job! Tell them you can’t do it!!
And out of my mouth while listening to all this commotion was:
“Rappel, Rappel – this is the RCM. Come in, over.”
It was a very valuable experience. I knew I had conquered my fear in that instant. I heard it and observed it, but it wasn’t strong enough to compete with my commitment to be a great RCM who was committed to well-being and safety.
In Werner’s words: I got to the place where I was so related to what’s out here [my commitment to safety] that I was able to reduce the impact of what’s going on with those aspects of myself that I didn’t have anything to do with [fear yelling].
It was a transformation! Werner says:
A transformational experience, to go through a moment after which you’re left free to be and free to act, and when you can leave behind the way you wound up being – when you’re free to choose beyond the way you wound up being – that is so powerful an experience that you’re likely to become overly enthusiastic about it.
Have you noticed an area of your life where fear is preventing you from acting freely? Fear is prevalent in our society; it’s everywhere we look. We’re being asked to make life or death choices almost daily. Listen to the TV or radio – it’s all fear based, telling us we’re going to die horrible deaths unless we comply.
Everyone will make their own choices, and this may be hard to accept when family members especially, make different choices from our own. How then, can we attain or create a place ‘out here’ in order to deal with the aspects of ourself we don’t have any choice about?
What’s your commitment in regards to humanity, what are your values? What’s your commitment in regards to yourself? Put these things in perspective. Put yourself into a higher viewpoint. It may help with day to day living in this very challenging environment.
Are there any aspects of yourself that you “don’t have any choice about” stopping you from taking action? What is bigger than that?
Here is the full video!
I love Werner’s work and am proud to say I worked in a program of his for three years. It was amazing and transformed my life. I have other posts where I share more about transformational technology and how it has impacted my life! See below:
- Transformation of Fear: Moving From Fear into Action and Engagement: An Account of Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking
- Werner speaks on compassion: Finding Your Humanity in Times of Stressful and Uncertain World Politics
- Werner speaks on being authentic: Authenticity: Being True to Yourself is the Greatest Gift
- On transformation and presentation: A Long-Awaited Change is Coming: Don’t be Surprised if Your Life Starts Shifting in a Powerful Way!
- 5. Accountability and personal experience as a 6 Day Advanced Course staff member: How Paying Attention to Your Words can Increase Your Life Force and Vitality
- Moving forward from the future: Creating a Future of Possibility
- The shape of organizations: Let’s Cut Their Tea and Coffee – That’ll Surely Help the Bottom Line!