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Four kinds of fear (what the self-help books might be missing) – Heather Plett

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Fear. It shows up in nearly every coaching conversation I have. Sometimes it’s bold and in-your-face and can’t be denied, and sometimes it’s sneaky and disguised as anger or laziness and has to be coaxed out into the light.

Fear fills a lot of pages in self-help books. Everyone’s trying to master it. Some tell you to befriend it, others tell you ignore it, and still others tell you to stare it in the face. Do an image search of fear quotes (see above image) and you’ll find endless memes about how you can conquer, befriend, embrace, or ignore fear. Or, if you’d rather, you can dance with it, kick it to the curb, or pray it out of existence.

The problem with much of what is written about fear in self-help books is that it is oversimplified. Diminish fear into only one dimension and it’s easier to give you a meme-worthy quote about it.

But fear is a multi-dimensional creature that requires a multi-dimensional response. It can’t be contained to a simple meme or a singular response.

Diminishing the complexity of fear can have devastating results for those who read self-help books. Sometimes clients come to me even more beaten down than they were before they read the books. Now, not only do they still have the fear, they have accompanying shame that they weren’t able to address their fears the way the self-help books told them to.

There are at least four kinds of fear that I have encountered in many conversations and much research. (I suspect it’s even more complex, but this is at least a start in understanding it.)

So… how can you tell which kind of fear is showing up for you? There is no simple answer to that. Instead, there’s a life-long practice of mindfulness, discernment, and experimentation.

Here’s a place to start…

There is nothing wrong with turning to self-help books (I’ve read quite a few myself), but if you find that those books make you feel worse about yourself instead of better, they might not be the right books for you. You have the right to toss them in the recycling bin, even if everyone else in your social media feed seems to be eating them up.

Seek out what’s best for you and do the work that heals you and makes you stronger.

Note: If you’re looking for a coach, perhaps I can help. Check out my coaching page and book an informal conversation (for free) if you’d like to explore what our relationship might look like.  I will be happy to work with you AND I promise that if your fears are beyond my capacity to support (ie. trauma fears), I will help you seek out the right kind of therapeutic support.

Interested in more articles like this? Add your name to my email list and you’ll receive a free ebook, A Path to Connection and my weekly reflections.

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