If you’re human, you’re going to experience fear. It’s just part of the deal.
Fear helps keep us alive, so that’s cool. But it can also prevent us from making positive changes in our lives.
In today’s episode of the FHTH podcast, you’re going to learn how to live with your fear and how to use it to your advantage.
Get your pen and paper and tune in.
You don’t want to miss this one!
Mentioned in this episode:
EPISODE 209 TRANSCRIPTION
Hello everyone. How are you? I hope you are doing a fantastic happy Cinco de Mayo, which is today, and one of my Mexican friends, I just teased him all of the time because every 5th of May I would text him and say, "Happy Mexican Easter, question mark." He's like, "No, it is the Mexican Army's victory over France at the Battle of the Pueblo." So if you have a need of some history, there's your history for today. So happy Cinco de Mayo. Don't drink too much is what I will say.
Today we are talking about the one emotion that you misread to your detriment. So let's be honest, what's the one emotion that most lawyers feel a lot of the time? And that is fear. We misread fear and it prevents us from kicking ass in the courtroom, from having the lives that we want to have. So today I want to talk about why that is and what we can do to work with fear and use it to our advantage.
So here's what we think fear means. We think it means when we feel the fear that I shouldn't do the thing that's causing this fear. So maybe we're thinking of trying something new in trial, maybe we're thinking of changing law firms, maybe we're thinking of starting our own law firm, whatever it may be, we feel the fear and we tend to misread it and say, well, this is a sign. I shouldn't do it. And I'm going to tell you right now that this is probably the number one reason why you do not have the life that you want because you do not know how to overcome this because you're misreading it as a signal that something is wrong.
See, we tend to think that if we aren't scared to do something that, that's the sign we're looking for, right? This is the right move for me, whatever the change you're about to make, if I don't feel scared about it, if I feel good about it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most of the time, nearly all of the time when we are making a decision to change our current circumstances or change the way we've always done things, fear is something that's going to be present.
Now, I'm going to teach you today how to know the difference between, oh my goodness, I shouldn't do this thing, and I'm just feeling scared because my brain is wired to feel that way and how to decide based on which one you are feeling. But in general, because as coaches, Kevin and I were talking about this, so often people come to our sessions and they will say things like, "I'm really scared, or I have this fear and that means I shouldn't do it, right?"
So this is a common thing because we're looking for signals in the world, in ourself to tell us that the thing we're about to do is the right thing to do. And so when we get that feeling of fear, we automatically think, "Oh, well, that means I shouldn't do it." And we just continue to stay the same.
Now, got to go into some brain science, which I know y'all love, and I love it too. Here's what you have to understand. Your brain is wired for fear. Fear is what kept us from danger thousands of years ago and for me 50 years ago. So when we were little kids, now you have to understand that fear resides in the amygdala, that reptilian part of our brain, the habit or instinctual part of the brain. Now, we talk a lot about the amygdala around here, and I don't want to give the impression that the amygdala is the bad part of your brain.
It's the part that continually keeps you alive. We call it the habit brain for a reason. We don't think about filling our lungs with air. We don't think about making our sure our heart is beating. We don't think about having control over our bladder. That's all the amygdala. It's all happening in the habit center of our brain because that's what literally keeps us alive. So it's a great thing to have, but there are things in there that reside in there like fear, and it's our non-thinking brain. So we do not want to be making decisions from the non-thinking part of our brain. I would hope you would agree with that.
Now, it is risky being a trial lawyer just by virtue of what y'all do. So I did have a podcast on how to rewire your brain for risk. But I also want to point out that just chasing your fulfillment, which is what we're all about here at H2H, is also risky. And why is that? Anytime you're about to change something, your brain freaks out, and that's because it's always on the lookout for danger because it's number one job is to keep you alive. And so when something is unfamiliar, which change almost always is, the brain automatically assumes that it's dangerous because that's the safest choice to make in the spur of the moment. We hear a noise, we automatically bypass the prefrontal cortex. It's in the middle of the night and we automatically think someone's in our house until proven otherwise. That is the safest option.
So the brain always goes with the safest option because it wants to keep you alive. Now, that's again not helpful for those of us who want to change our lives, become the best people we can be, or just trial lawyers in general. We need to be able to understand what that fear means and how to overcome it after reading where it's coming from.
So when we talk about rewiring our brain, we talk a lot about the CTFAR model. It's not my model, but I'm borrowing it from Brooke Castillo. And so C stands for the circumstance, T stands for thought, F stands for feeling, A stands for action, and R stands for result.
Now, when we're talking about suffering that we create for ourselves, the CTFAR model is very, very helpful. So you have a circumstance, I lost trial, or my partner's mad at me or they said this thing.
And then the T line is what creates our suffering. It's where we make a choice about how we're going to think about that circumstance. And the circumstance could be something in the future, something we're worrying about, excuse me, or can be something that happened, something in the past, something we have guilt about or shame about.
But that T line is where all of the suffering lies. Now, here's what I need you to understand, and we're talking about fear, like primal fear. We will bypass the T line altogether. In fact, we're just going to deal with the F-A-R, the feeling, action and result, and that spells far. So I think the way to think about it is that fear takes you far away from your prefrontal cortex because your prefrontal cortex is where the thinking happens. But when we have a fear, it bypasses that all together. So now the fear is in the F line, and oftentimes we take no action and then the result is things stay the same.
So that's how fear functions in our life. It just bypasses the prefrontal cortex all together. Now, if we leave fear unchecked, we will live lives that we don't recognize. It'll just keep going further and further and further because you're going to keep staying the same, the same, the same because we're allowing the fear to rule our lives.
So that danger piece of our brain is hardwired. And again, that's that habit. We feel the fear and then we assume we shouldn't do the thing we were considering doing because, well, the fear is something that it's telling me danger, danger, wrong thing to do. But here's what I want you to think about, we're thinking about fear in a different way. Fear is often the sign that you are about to change something. Therefore, when you feel fear, you're probably onto something good. I remember when my coach said that to me, and she used the term saboteur, which we're going to talk about in just a minute. She said, when your saboteur is all over you and telling you that the newest idea you have is stupid and you shouldn't do it, and how dare you risk all these things, that's often a sign that you're onto something.
And that completely shifted my thinking ever since I've heard that. Now when I'm scared, I start to ask myself, "Ooh, what am I trying to change? This is a good sign that I'm freaking myself out because that means something's about to change" and that's exciting, and that is the biggest way to use fear to your advantage.
Now, here's what a lot of people will question then, because we do talk a lot about instincts and you want to trust your instincts as a trial lawyer. And so how do I tell the difference between this old wiring that was created in the amygdala since birth to ward off danger and scare me from doing it and actual danger or actual bad decision? Well, guess what? You have a prefrontal cortex, and that is something that did not develop until your late 20s, which explains a lot of my early marriage because Kevin was 24 when we first met, and he's laughing right now.
I'm so glad Kevin's prefrontal cortex is now developed. Mine was barely developed at that time too. I was 30, he was 24. That's a whole story. Anyway, so your prefrontal cortex isn't fully developed until your late 20s. And so here's what I want you to remember is that you did not have access to that until then, which is why you have the habit of immediately going to a fear response. Anytime change is in your awareness, which means that now you do have access to your prefrontal cortex, we can use it. We can now run the situation that is creating the fear. Now, it may still go to our fear center and create all the things I just talked about, but I'm going to show you today how to calm that down and turn that shit off. It'll never turn totally off because you would die.
But I mean the whole fear response off and then access your prefrontal cortex, which is where your wisdom lies. Now, we do have body wisdom. I'm going to talk about that too. But you cannot access either one brain, IE, prefrontal cortex wisdom or body wisdom when I are in a fear response, a fight or flight response. This is why coaching is so helpful because we will look with our coaches because here's what I want to say about that is that once you do get in your prefrontal cortex, it's not like you're all good to go, right? Because your saboteur lives in the T line. So we have this fear response that's hardwired in yes, but even when we calm down and we go up into our prefrontal cortex, the saboteur is living there and going, "Well, now I'm going to fuck with you. I mean, you may be using your prefrontal cortex, but I'm still going to be here and telling you how stupid you are."
That's where coaching really helps is that once you get out of your fear response and now you are filtering through and trying to find your own wisdom, the work with the saboteur that the coach can do with you is literally life changing. To understand what this voice is and how it's very connected to the fear response and how it's going to try to fuck with you, but for good reasons and how to have that quiet down, they're very related, but for me, the distinction is that the fear response is a biological thing and the saboteur lives in that T line. It's something that was created from the fear that we experienced when we were young. So how do you push past your fear? Well, here's what we know about the prefrontal cortex.
So we want to have access to that when we're making decisions about our lives and not be guided by this fear response. The prefrontal cortex has to be rested. You have to be fed, you have to be in a space where it can function, otherwise you will default automatically to your habit brain. So I'm going to give you three steps for when you feel the fear response to some new thing that you're going to attempt that is happening in the moment, whatever it might be that you can take and start to get out of the fear response and into your prefrontal cortex or into conversely into your body wisdom. They're both very helpful.
So the number one thing you need to do when you feel the fear response is calm your nervous system. So Kevin and I both have trauma backgrounds that we've only recently discovered and come to find out, our traumas love to play with each other. My trauma triggers his trauma and his trauma triggers my trauma. And so when we are "triggered", we will absolutely ratchet up and it's not good. I mean, people look at us and they're like, "You guys love each other so much." And we do. We totally do. I'm the love of his life. He's the love of my life. I love him more than anything in the world except for my daughter. And I mean, we are wildly in love and when we're triggered, it's not a good situation.
So what we've worked out with some help from therapists is what we call pause. So I don't know if you've ever heard the Lady Gaga song Born this Way, but at the very beginning she's like "Put your paws up." And my daughter just thought that was the funniest thing ever, like paws, like dog paws or what does that mean? But we also loved it because it's like pause, let's take a pause. And so now instead of ratcheting up when one or both of us get triggered, we literally put our hands up in the air and we're like, pause. And the rule is we have to separate immediately and calm down for a minimum of 30 minutes. It takes a minimum of 30 minutes for your nervous system to actually calm down.
Then we decide we're going to text each other even in the same house, which we almost always are because we work together and say, "Are you ready to discuss when we can discuss again?" And if the person isn't ready, we say "Nope." And so we say, "Great, let's check back in 30 minutes." And normally by that point we'll say, "Okay, yes, we can talk now or let's talk after you coach your clients today or whatever it may be." But we have to decide on a time to talk.
Now, the reason why this works is because we cannot have a logical rational conversation when we are activated. We are in our fight or flight. We are in our fear response. So the same thing goes for you whether you're dealing with someone else or it's just your own fear. Primarily. The thing of primary importance is to get your nervous system calmed down. So for us, that means separating and then doing something that calms our nervous system. That's going to be different for everybody. For Kevin, he goes and plays his drums. For me, I might do some yoga or take a bath. You're going to have to find out what that is for you. How do you calm your nervous system.
Now, because I have a trauma background just this year started going to massage every single week, not just because I hold a lot of tension in my body, but because it calms my nervous system down. It's literally something I do to help me stay in a calmed nervous system situation.
The second step after you calmed your nervous system down is to now go into observation mode. So now that you're calmed down, I just want you to start to notice what your body's trying to tell you. So I've started this new therapy with a somatic therapist. It's super cool. And so she will ask me about traumatic stuff in my life and then she will notice what's happening in my body. And so this last session we're on Zoom when she can do this, she knows. She said, "Do you notice that when you're talking about" whatever I was talking about "that your shoulders go up?" And I said, "Oh yeah." And I dropped them right away. And then when we talked about when I was calm and grounded, she said, "Do you notice now anything different in your body?"
I noticed that my feet were now flat on the ground and I felt much more grounded. You can also do this. So you can start to notice what your body does when you are in fear. And this is helpful because when we go to step three, which is how to work with your fear, this is going to give you some insight like, oh, I'm in my fear response. Again, it's a great tell, so to speak for you, not for anybody else. So when my shoulders start to go up, for me, I now recognize that that is me trying to fix something. That is me trying to hold something up that's not mine to hold, right? Whether it's trying to work out something for my husband that he can easily work out for himself or try to work out something for my family because they put that on me, whatever it may be, that's my signal. "Oh, okay. I'm trying to hold something that's not mine to hold." So you can observe and notice what is it that your body does when it is in the fear response. Oftentimes you can't notice in the moment, so you have to kind of think and you go, "well, I don't really know," but just taking that moment to go, just check in will have you more aware when it's happening, when it's happening.
The third thing is how to then work with the fear. So notice we didn't go to, okay, "Well how do I fix this," which is where I want to go a lot of the times. We first said, "Okay, calm the nervous system down minimum of 30 minutes." Second is just observe. Just take a moment to be like, "Okay, where am I right now? What's my body doing? How am I feeling? How's my breath?" The third thing now that we've got all that, we have a little bit of awareness and we're calmed down, is we are now going to be with it. We're going to learn how to be with it. We're going to take it and we're going to reframe it.
So this is a great place to use your CTFAR for example. Now you can go back and you can say, "Okay, I was feeling fear because of this circumstance." Now, if there was a thought in there, there often isn't. You can throw that in the T line and then you can go and do what we call a proactive CTR model, what you want to be thinking and you can say, "Okay, the next time that circumstance comes up or the, I'm going to be discussing whether to go out on my own, here's what I want to choose to think about it."
Because here's the thing, we cannot manage our thoughts when we are in fear response. We are literally not thinking. So that's why you need to calm down and observe and then start programming what you want to do in those situations. Here's how I want to be in that situation as part of our pause with Kevin and I, once we have calmed down and once we have decided when we are going to reconvene, then we both have these exercises that we need to go through about when we talk again. And part of what those exercises are is to say, "How do I want to be in this conversation?" We actually have to decide that for ourselves. I want to be calm, I want to be clear, I want to be kind. Whatever it may be, we have to decide that ahead of time, and you can do that too. You can say, "Okay, when that happens again, I want to be this way. I want to think these things." But you can't do that again unless you are calmed down.
Other things that I do, I journal, you may have heard me in a previous podcast say that I journal, I write down the bad things about myself because that's my saboteur. So I'll write that down and then I'll write what I want to think instead. You can journal with your inner leader. This is a great exercise. Some people do it with God. You can do it with your inner leader. Whatever makes sense is you just say, "I'm scared about X and I don't know what to do." And then listen and write down what you hear. You might think, "Well, that's weird." It so works. You might hear, "Well, what do you want to do about it?" Then you might write, "I don't know, that's what I'm asking you." And then the next thing will come, it will come. I do it all the time, and as it never failed me. You can have conversations with your inner wisdom, your inner leader.
Fear, what I want you to leave with, and I'm going to give you a caveat too before I let you go, is something that we're all going to feel because it's wired, but it does not necessarily mean what you think it means, which is what I'm about to do is bad. Oftentimes it means what you're about to do is exactly what you need to do because fear is a response to change, and change is often good. It's scary, but it's often good because we're trying new things.
Now, how can you tell whether it's the good fear? Okay, I'm feeling scared because I'm about to change and that's good, and the bad fear like this is something bad that I shouldn't be doing. Well, again, when you calm yourself down, you're going to be able to run it through your prefrontal cortex and your inner wisdom will know. That's the first thing, is that you cannot stay in the fear response and say, "Well, I feel bad. So that means X." You need to do these three steps, and once you get to step three and you have access to your inner wisdom, you will know. You will know. Know what the right thing to do is, absolutely.
But the caveat I want you to take is if you have not already read this book, Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker, every single person should read this book, especially women, but everybody, because he talks in there about how people tend to override their instincts when in actual danger. So isn't this interesting? I think that we tend to, when we actually don't have danger and we feel the fear, we'll not do the thing, but when there's actual danger, we tend to override it. So I just want you to be aware of that. That is our tendency as human beings, is when we feel fear and we don't need to be actually feeling fearful, we will shut down whatever it is that's causing the fear, but when there's actual danger, we will override it to be polite, so on and so forth.
I'm just going to read a little bit from chapter four. He says, he's talking about a rape survivor who had downplayed all the signs before being raped, and of course, none of this is victim shaming at all. He just works with survivors by empowering them, by saying, "Okay, here's the things you missed that you can now be on the lookout to protect yourself in the future." And so he talks about forced teaming. I think some of you guys will find that this is very interesting with trial lawyers. Forced teaming is using, we, right? We got a hungry cat up there. Wow, we got a lot of groceries we're carrying. It creates this. We're in the same boat attitude, so that's something that somebody trying to deceive or hurt you may use. Charm and niceness, right? Being super charming to try to get you to do something that you don't want to do. Too many details. Thought this was interesting for trial lawyers. People who wanted to see you will often use a simple technique that has a simple name, too many details, and so when you have a lot of details, he says, when people are telling the truth, they don't feel doubted, so they don't feel the need for additional support in the form of details. Come on now. That's useful for you in the trial world.
Typecasting, labeling someone in a slightly critical way hoping that they'll feel compelled to prove that their opinion is not accurate. Loan sharking, unsolicited promise, discounting the word no. He's got all of these tells in here for actually how to sharpen your instincts to really learn what is actually dangerous. So when you are getting really good at managing fear, which I think all of you need to do, every human needs to do it, but particularly trial attorneys, what I want you to be thinking about is the fear that is created from our brain wiring, but then really honing in on how to get really sharp with your instinctual fear, which is actually telling you something is wrong, and Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear is a fantastic way to do that.
All right, well, I hope that helps start looking at fear as a sign, either that you have real danger by reading the book or that you're about to change something, and it can actually be a positive, exciting feeling to have. I know that feels weird, but it can be. All right, talk soon.
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