She might have been off-base about what happens when you cross your eyes (they won’t stick that way, kids), but mom was right about one thing: you can actually worry yourself sick. It’s no coincidence that when you’re anxiety-ridden over that deadline, meeting, or tough conversation you’ve been meaning to have, the sniffles start to arise. And the longer your fear lingers, the worse the health consequences – everything from heart disease to cancer.
We’re loving physician, bestselling author and wellness all-star Lissa Rankin‘s newest read, The Fear Cure. Lissa is adamant about taking the idea of the “mind-body connection” to a whole new level, explaining exactly why and how we need to heal ourselves from the fear that puts our health in jeopardy and ultimately strips our lives of joy. The kicker? We actually need fear in order to cultivate the courage that heals us.
Catch Lissa at this week’s Longevity Now Conference alongside our April Guest Editor David Wolfe, Bulletproof’s Dave Asprey, and a whole host of TCM health heroes changing the way we live well. Until then, you’ve got a brand new fear-busting prescription to fill – doctor’s orders.
Your Prescription for Courage may not include roller coasters, ropes courses, rejection therapy, silent meditation, or baring your soul on the Internet. Your journey will be your own, guided by the wisdom of your Inner Pilot Light. Cultivating courage is not necessarily about forcing yourself to do things that terrify you, and this process is not meant to traumatize you. It’s meant to sink you into peace, which is where you’ll find your courage. You’ll have your own way of letting fear nudge you into soul growth as you surrender into peace
Cultivating courage doesn’t lend itself to a simple step-by-step process the way making Jell-O does. Every journey is as individual as a fingerprint. However, some aspects of the process are similar for almost everyone, and some practices are predictably helpful, such as finding the support of a professional who can guide you and finding your stillness through some form of daily practice. If you read my book Mind Over Medicine, the Six Steps to Cultivating Courage might look familiar, because the steps are parallel to the Six Steps to Healing Yourself that I laid out in that book. Because the process of cultivating courage is a journey of healing and transformation, the same six steps that work for healing the body can guide you as you cultivate courage.
That said, unlike the processes taught in many self-help books, this is not a one-size-fits-all cure. I’ll be offering you tools and helping you brainstorm ideas, but many of these have been filtered through my own biases, beliefs, and personal preferences. Yours may be radically different, which is why nobody can write this prescription for you. As you read on, take ownership of this process. Borrow what resonates. Leave what doesn’t. Get inspired. Let yourself imagine a life characterized by peace. What will it take for you to free yourself?
Replace fear-inducing beliefs with courage-enhancing trust. Stress is just fear in disguise, so what’s the solution? We must cultivate beliefs that limit our stress responses and allow the mind to relax. You may not realize that most of your false fear stems from limiting beliefs you hold as truth. You may not even recognize that you carry these beliefs with you as baggage, because you’ve accepted them as such truth that you don’t even question them. What limiting beliefs may be operating you? Are there any negative patterns that keep repeating themselves in your life? List them. Be careful not to judge yourself. Practice self-compassion as you examine this question.
It’s tempting to try to ditch all negative thoughts and beliefs, but sometimes these thoughts are not just harming you—they’re helping you in some ways as well. This creates a paradox, and leaning into paradox has the potential to loosen the grip of the cognitive mind and make space for creative problem solving. When your mind opens in this way, it invites possibility in.
Seek out support from people around you – and offer your support to others. While cultivating courage is a self-guided process, it would be inaccurate to suggest that you can do it all alone. The journey from fear to courage is ultimately an intimate hero’s journey, but every hero needs mentors, sidekicks, accountability partners, and cheerleaders. When you’re trying to alchemize fear into growth, it’s common to encounter well-meaning family, friends, and loved ones who are projecting their own fears onto you, rather than supporting your courageous choices. Not only does this make it hard to feel supported in those choices, it can also amplify your own fear. Fear begets fear, and when you’re in the vulnerable beginning stages of this kind of transformation, you may need to work at creating a cocoon that nurtures and nourishes your courage instead.
It’s critical to the success of your journey to surround yourself with a community of people dedicated to living the kind of courageous life you are committed to living. Your soul community can lift you up, give you accountability, increase your commitment to living courageously, and mirror back to you where you’re on track and where your growth edges are.
Learn to trust your intuition in order to discern true fear from false fear. Once you can differentiate between true fear and false fear, you can trust that your instincts will alert you to the true fears that need immediate action, so you can question and examine your false fears and let them fuel your growth without letting them guide your decisions. The more you can do this, the more you can cultivate courage. As long as the amygdala is on high alert, triggering stress responses an average of 50 times per day, making courageous choices can be challenging. When the nervous system calms down, it’s easier to access your brave.
Discerning between true and false fear requires learning to identify how intuition shows up for you. Those who have really developed their intuition report that this inner stillness is often what helps them discern whether an intuitive feeling is real. Others find that the body helps with discernment. Fear often shows up as a gripping feeling in the solar plexus, whereas intuition often comes with a feeling of inner spaciousness, even relaxation.
Identify what lies at the root of your false fear. The crux of The Fear Cure lies in letting fear illuminate the obstacles between you and inner peace. What still needs to be healed within you? What predisposes you to fearful thoughts? What influences from your childhood trigger false fears that may still be operating you? How might your unconscious be driving you to be unnecessarily afraid? What people amplify your false fear? Your answers to these questions can help you make your “Fear Diagnosis.” Diagnosing the root causes of your fear raises your awareness so fear can no longer hide out in the shadows of your consciousness and run your life without your permission. By gently and compassionately outing the roots of your fears, you bring them into the light, where they automatically begin to dissipate in the brightness of your awareness.
Write The Prescription for Courage for yourself. Get a piece of paper or open a document on your computer, and title it “My Prescription for Courage.” State a clear intention, either out loud or in writing. Assess your readiness. Ask yourself, “What do I need in order to cultivate courage?”
Start small so you can revel in your success when you bravely act upon an idea you might have been afraid to implement before. Don’t forget to celebrate your courage when you do! As you go, keep a list of brave actions you take as your courage grows, and reflect upon it when you need inspiration.
Release attachment to outcomes and accept what is. We live in a culture that teaches us that if you want something, you have to go get it. Push. Strive. Put your ass in the chair until it’s done. Make it happen. Go for it. Put your nose to the grindstone. No pain, no gain. If it’s not going well, try harder. But never let ’em see you sweat. And for Pete’s sake, don’t stop and savor what you’ve achieved, because there’s a bigger goal right around the corner.
It’s time to let yourself be guided. Practice radical listening. Watch for signs from the Universe. Pay attention to your intuitive knowing. The signs are everywhere, and they’re trying to get your attention, but you’ll miss them if you’re not on the lookout. Anticipate guidance and then tune in. Be aware of the tendency to misinterpret guidance, especially when it is guiding you away from what you desire. This is where nonattachment is especially crucial. Remember, it’s not about getting what you want; it’s about surrendering and aligning with what wants to become.