A Simple 2-Step Exercise for Dealing with Dream Fear

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Catherine Hughes

Director of the 8 Women Dream Project at 8 Women Dream
Catherine’s dream is to make 8 Women Dream the premier online publication for women looking to pursue their dreams. She is a published author, a freelance writer, and a guide for those who want their dreams to come true online. Catherine would someday like to be invited to speak at TED about her observations about her 8WD project inviting women to take a chance on their dreams. Wine was required... Catherine posts on Sunday evenings and fills in dream stories as needed. If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

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Dealing with Dream Fear: It's only too late if you dont start nowOur feelings about our dreams can do more to derail our efforts than lack of money, lack of time, or lack of influential connections — combined.

99.9 percent of the time it’s our fear-feelings talking.

And if we don’t take the time to understand our fears and why we are feeling what we are feeling, we then turn to obsessed attempts to stuff them by drinking too much, eating too much, shopping too much, taking up smoking, or participating in compulsive behaviors that leave us feeling empty inside — with fear still in control of our hearts.

Writers are famous for letting fear get in the way of their dreams, because good writing requires that they pull out what’s deep inside of them and lay it out for the world to judge. What if no one buys my book? What if readers hate this? Wow, does anyone else think I sound stupid?

Trust me, it’s not for the faint of heart.

I was introduced to the idea of dreaming by Barbara Sher, a best-selling author, dream counselor, and prominent public speaker. She’s published several best-selling books on dream achievement and believes that you can achieve any dream in spite of how you feel, and most importantly, in spite of your fears.

In her book (a sort-of bible I read along with Marcia Wieder’s ‘Making Your Dreams Come True’) It’s Only Too Late If You Don’t Start Now Barbara Sher talks openly about dealing with fear as part of your big dreams.

She states —

What over-extended adults are really afraid will overwhelm them is a broken heart. They are afraid the pain will flood over them, and they’ll drown in it.

But that flood of pain can actually save them. In fact, nothing else will make stress disappear.

Fear isn’t something you can bluff.

You can’t talk yourself out of fear; you have to go to its source and take away the danger. Danger is the underlying feeling that you are having, the child’s feeling of grief.

What’s so dangerous about giving into the feeling of grief? Well, nothing in reality, but we automatically shy away from emotional pain just as we avoid physical pain, because they feel equally threatening.

But if you take some time and allow the sorrow to surface, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the outcome. You will experience the hurt, but you won’t drown or be overwhelmed at all because nothing is more natural than releasing feelings.

Look at any baby, and you will see the truth in that. And once expressed, the feeling will pass, leaving big changes in your viewpoint. (Haven’t you ever noticed the clarity that comes after a good cry?)

Because no matter how realistically bad any situation seems, once you let your feelings out, everything looks very different and far more manageable. You may feel the remnants of sadness for little while, but almost immediately you’ll feel calm and unafraid.

But you can’t reach this calm fearlessness with adult logic.

Just because you know you’re more grown-up than you feel at that moment, there’s no point in saying this is only a childhood feeling and can be ignored. Childhood feelings are huge, and if they are not dealt with , they can create enormous stress on you.

If you try and reason yourself out of them , they’ll stay as powerful as ever, and you’ll have to fake self-confidence. Faking anything is exhausting.

So turn the job over to the real master of emotions, the child inside you who is having these feelings in the first place. She’ll know exactly what to do.

Let your inner child show you how.

Excerpt from Barbara Sher's book on overcoming fear

Here is Barbara’s 2-step exercise for dealing with fear —

1. Bring on the anxiety.

Take a look at your checkbook and think about your expenses, or remember all the things you aren’t doing to make your dream come true, or simply think about all the things you should be doing in your life, whichever makes you feel the most overwhelmed or tense.

Pay attention to what this anxiety feels like. Become conscious of its effect on you, and give it a name. Tell yourself that this is stress, this is what it feels like.

2. Now bring up the hurt.

For a few moments close your eyes and pretend you’re very young and full of this same stressed feeling. Heave a big sigh. Imagine you are a young child with responsibilities too great for you and no one to help you. Let your feelings rise up and roll over you just as if you were a small child without inhibitions.

Let your face express the feelings just like a small child might. Search for the words that will bring up the most emotion, “I am scared,” “I hurt,” “I feel so unprotected,” “Nobody wants to take care of me!” Sigh again, and if a tear falls, all the better.

It might seem a little scary at first, but releasing your feelings won’t harm you. Remember that babies do it every day.

Keep your eyes closed for at least a full minute, and let the hurt feelings roll through you. You’ll feel them rise inside you like a tide or wave of heat. Take the palm of your hand, and press lightly on your upper chest just under your collarbone.

If the hurt is centered there, a deep sigh will release it. Or touch your throat, and see if you want to let out a quiet groan. Or put your fingertips just below your eyes on either side of your nose, and if the feelings is there, you’re moments away from feeling tears in your eyes.

Try and stay with your feelings until it peaks and subsides. Then take a deep breath and release it and open your eyes.

Now check out what you are feeling, paying special attention to your stress level. Has it changed?

Your feelings of fear about your life and your dream must be allowed to surface, to be felt and to be released so that you can move forward.

Try this little exercise the next time you begin to experience stressful thoughts of fear or anxiety.  It absolutely works and should allow you to move past your fear.

I am a firm believer that only doing your dream when you feel like it, or when life is good and you are happy just doesn’t work for most people.  You have to be able to understand your strengths and weaknesses and use them to your advantage on days you just don’t feel like showing up for your dream.

And there will be those days, trust me.  Just don’t let the fear get the best of you.

Hopefully this exercise by Barbara Sher will help you feel it and move forward anyway — even when you think you can’t.


  • remy

    I will give it a try in the shower today!  No shortage of stress and fear here!  xo Rem

  • This is what I needed this morning, thank you Catherine, and Barbara Sher (you are one my sheros!)

    • Catherine

      LOL you are so cute.  Thanks for the heads up on the load time.  We are still configuring everything on the new server, so hopefully it will get better throughout the week.  

      I love this exercise.  With having Hashimotos disease, stress can really mess with my system so I’ve had to learn ways of calming myself down and letting go of negative feelings.  This one has really worked for me.

      Thank you for your comments and (as always) loving support.


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  • 8womendream

    If the idea of meditation seems like too much work, this is a simple, short exercise to help you overcome strong emotions based in fear and move on.