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The Art Of Fear
Considered the best female professional extreme skier for 12 years, Kristen Ulmer speaks around the world on the topic of fear. Retired now for 15 years, she recently released her book, The Art of Fear.
An Addiction to Fear
Kristen was voted the most fearless woman athlete in all sports, but eventually realized that her near death experiences and war against fear were driving her to PTSD, adrenal failure, and a variety of other symptoms. She described two ways repressed fear can show up: extreme anxiety or stress, and a combination of anger, insomnia and depression.
Wisdom for Responding to Fear
Trying to conquer fear or rationalize it away is not the same as addressing it. Neither are the practices of meditating or breathing into it then setting it aside. Ultimately, the fear will still be present in one way another. Kristen teaches turning to your fear, giving it attention, and then it will leave you alone. In other words, use fear as a means of motivation.
Why are some people motivated by fear while others are repressed by it? Were you taught as a child not to show fear? Were you taught there is nothing to be afraid of? Kristen talks about the many ways repressed fear shows up in our lives.
Dialoguing with Fear
Your relationship with fear is the most important relationship in your life. Tune in to learn how to dialog with your fear and the significant changes that can be made by starting the conversation.
– Hey welcome back to The Urban Monk. Dr. Pedram Shojai here in southern California, enjoying some time with the family, enjoying some time kind of decelerating, movie’s almost done, third book is done, so I’m starting to reap the harvest from a long year. And it’s been a good year, if you’re a skier, it’s been an amazing year, and I got up only twice this year because of all the eggs I’ve been sitting on trying to hatch, and I miss it, I miss it a lot, it’s my drug of choice, and my guest today was considered the best female for twelve years, best female in the world for twelve years professional extreme skier, Kristen Ulmer. She’s been retired for 15 years and she can probably still kick anyone’s ass, and lives in Salt Lake City so you know she’s not too far from it, and we’re gonna be talking about fear and the art of fear. She’s been facilitating a lot of talks on this subject, and for me, you know skiing is controlled falling, so you’re dealing with fear from jump, and understanding how to manage and contain that and be in your own element is a big deal, and it’s part of our Urban Monk shtick, so let’s get into it, hi welcome to the show.
– Thanks for having me on.
– Yeah, so, so we share a drug of choice, I love love love skiing, it’s one of my favorite things to do and you, sounds like you know, getting to where you were at, you were probably doing it from a very young age I would assume, how’d you get into it?
– I got into it because I could get out of school on Wednesdays early if I was in the ski program, ha ha. I didn’t really get addicted to skiing until I was a teenager, and then I would skip school during lunch break every day to go skiing at the local mountain, and then they, the new principle figured out about two months before my graduation and basically suspended me for a little bit of time and um, I didn’t think I was gonna be able to graduate, but I think they wanted to get rid of me so I graduated.
– [Pedram] They passed you through anyways, and then so the arc there is okay, so it bites and now your like super into skiing and you become a professional, like did you do, just give me a little bit about your career path there.
– I went from being a okay skier to being a world class skier in two different sports in about three years time. I was skiing in jeans until I was 20 years old and then within three years I was on the US ski team for moguls, and then I was considered the best woman big mountain extreme skier in the world and I never had any kind of coaching whatsoever except for a couple lessons in elementary school, I’m kind of an anomaly, I’m definitely the poster child for it’s all mental.
– Wow, so what happened, like what clicked if you could kinda go back to those like you know, jeans days, like how did that girl become this girl? Like what happened?
– Seems how this is about fear, why don’t I just focus on that and just say I had the right relationship with fear. I was addicted to fear, like I really enjoyed feeling it and people say, oh they’re adrenaline addicts, I actually am willing to admit that what that is, I was a fear addict.
– A fear addict,
– uh huh.
– Okay, so as you are facing fear, something happens inside of you that does what?
– I have an equation, fear + breathing = excitement. I don’t feel fear, I just feel excited, and in many ways I didn’t feel like I felt any fear, and I was called fearless during my ski career, but really all I felt was excitement and passion and just addiction and a desire to express myself, and you know you ask what makes a great athlete, well it’s the perfect storm of a lot of things, and your having the right relationship with fear is one of them.
– So you have an addiction to fear, which some would say is not the right relationship with fear, but for you it worked out, and so you have this addiction to fear and then you added breathing, is this conscience breathing or is this just something you figured out on your own?
– Well, we’re getting way ahead of ourselves ’cause remember when I became a professional skier I was in the early 20’s and I was kind of a moron, I didn’t know that any of this was going on, all I knew was that I loved skiing, I loved expressing myself, I loved the attention and I just found the right sport, the right way to live my life and I was getting a lot of attention for it and I just got better and better and better and I was the best in the world at my sport for 12 years, it was kind of a long reign of terror.
– So you’re doing this, you’re good at it, you don’t know why and then you decode it later, to be able to translate it, ’cause now you teach about fear, and so you wrote a book about fear and so at what point did you kinda understand what was happening in the secret sauce inside your own head or emotions to make this transition?
– Well here’s where it gets interesting, because I felt fearless, I was voted by the outdoor industry to be the most fearless woman athlete in all sports disciplines, not just skiing, and I really felt fearless, but what happened is over time, things started to happen in my life that didn’t make any sense, like I had PTSD, which is a fear injury, ’cause I had a lot of friends die, I had a lot of near death experiences that sort of thing, I started to burn out, you know and here was this thing that I just loved to do, what the heck was that all about? And I started to hate skiing even, and hate is a very strong word and I mean, I would dread ski season when it would come around, and I had adrenal failure, I had completely flat cortisol levels, and so after 15 years in the business, I just really didn’t want to do it anymore, I was kinda traumatized by the whole experience, and I didn’t know what that was all about. This is where I started to realize that I was doing the same thing that everybody does about fear, you know the language that I was conquering it, I was overcoming it, I was pushing it out of my mind, I was rationalizing it away and I was really, really good at it, better than most, and that war against fear was being carried out in my unconscious mind, and it was messing up my life in ways that I couldn’t see, and usually somebody can get away with repressing fear like that for about ten years and then things go south, and they go south fast.
– So, what are the first telltale signs that this is happening in your unconscious mind and that there’s some battle that’s happening just below the radar of your awareness that’s starting to kinda reflect into your life?
– I just explained some of the ways in which repressed fear showed up in my life, and you know you think you’re fearless and you’re really not, I actually was motivated by fear quite a bit, but maybe we’ll get to that later, maybe we won’t but for other people, you know maybe, if you repress fear it’ll show up in one of two ways. Either it’ll show up as obvious, rampant, excessive fear, anxiety, stress, angst, nerves, whatever you want to call it, or it won’t be fear, it won’t show up as fear itself, it’ll show up in some kind of twisted, covert way like anger, or not getting along with your kids or insomnia or depression is a big one too. Whenever you’re declaring a war on a huge part of your life, you know fear of course being such a huge part of who you are, and that war’s being carried out in your unconscious mind, it’s gonna zap your resources, it’s gonna just mess up your life in ways that you can’t see, you know make no mistake, you haven’t gotten rid of fear, Elvis has not left the building, like it is still there, but now it’s operating covertly in weird ways.
– Yeah, it’s wearing a different mask, it’s playing a different role, and it’s rattling around somewhere.
– [Kristen] Ha ha yes.
– So okay, most people teach what to do about fear in what way, like so you know the conventional wisdom about like how to deal with fear is what?
– I find that there’s two approaches to what people teach about fear, and then I’m kind of a standalone. The first way is, like I said you know the language, they try to conquer, overcome it, let it go, rationalize it away is the big one right, like emotional intelligence is your ability to understand your emotions and not let them control your life. That is what most people teach, there are a few slightly more progressive teachers that say okay but, fear is natural you must allow yourself to feel it, but then they can’t help themselves, they then finish by saying okay, now that that’s clear, it’s false evidence appearing real, we gotta get rid of it right, take three deep breaths breathe out your fear, and so pretty much everyone on the planet teaches some form of dissociation or not dealing with fear or fighting or running away from the fear, where I do the exact opposite, which is say hey, turn to your fear, give it some attention, and then it’ll leave you alone, it’s kind of like a child that’s whining, like if you turn to your whining child, and give the child some attention, then the child will calm right down and go away, at least you hope so.
– [Pedram] Sure, right, right, it doesn’t work in my house but yes, I’ve heard that theory, ha ha. Okay, but so we’re talking about almost like a re parenting theory of emotions for fear, turning around, leaning into it and embracing it, and being like okay what is this, what do you want, and so as an extreme skier, you’re standing on a freaking cliff, and so there’s this kind of biological thing which is like, yo don’t jump down that, that’s dumb right, but that’s a real extreme example, right, which is like hey you might fall to your death, we have this you know with public speaking which is kind of you know the obvious one that everyone’s kind of you know, the number one fear, so what is your methodology, like how does, how does your system do this differently, let’s just say for public speaking, like I’m getting the pitter patters, and you know they’re calling my name now I’m starting to get clammy and oh shit, right.
– Right, and your body doesn’t know the difference between standing on the edge of a cliff or about to give a speech right, you know we have this amygdala, this lizard brain like, oh my gosh it feels like a near death experience, I’m getting up in front of all these people. And so I used to do it wrong, you know let’s just be clear about that, and I have spent the last 15 years healing my relationship with fear, and then of course writing this book, working with clients to help them heal their relationship with fear, and what I do now, ’cause the first speech I ever gave, I froze up there, you know I was there to speak about being fearless and I thought, well I’ll just speak from the heart, like clearly I know something about fear, and I got up there and I’m like, I have no idea what I feel about fear, but what I do now is that, in advance of the speech, I’ll use fear as a way to get my butt off the couch, like you’ve got to prepare for this, like fear is just this discomfort, like compelling you to move and go and do some work and go and be prepared and so leading up to the speech, that’s how fear can be of use, and then when you’re about to give a speech, I always like to be just a little bit under prepared so that I have just a little bit of fear in my system so that when I actually give the speech I’m more sharp, more focused, I’m more in the present moment, I’m more alive. I would say that probably four percent fear, like if this is your comfort zone, you know just kind of a little bit out of your comfort zone, that’s when you’re gonna find an optimal flow state, for giving a great speech, or being a great athlete for that matter.
– Four percent, that’s the number?
– [Kristen] Uh huh.
– So some people lose it obviously, they clam up, they have almost like a panic attack, and they start to really, you know, they start to breathe it away, all the stuff you know, tapping whatever the hell they’re trying to do to make it go away. You know what I’m hearing here, is you know this started when you agreed to the speech, several months ago, and so now maybe it’s a lack of preparedness, maybe it’s this maybe it’s that, so there’s this whole arc of kind of filling in that space before the fear seizes you, so that fear number can hang out around four percent. You don’t just do this for tomorrow’s speech, you prepare for it, you get ready, am I hearing that right, like you want to really build out your ability to perform and deliver and use that fear to drive your excellence?
– In a perfect world. But I would say that 99.99% of all of us do not deal with fear when they’re giving a speech in that way. Most people, everybody for that matter, have been so programmed to just block it out that you know, let’s dissect what a panic attack is, you know whether it’s in a speech or just people that are having panic attacks, well it’s undealt with fear kind of building up in your system, like filling up a balloon until eventually it just explodes in your system all at once. So whenever you’re not dealing with your fear, you’re going to then start to feel panic, anxiety, like people that feel kind of excessive low grade, or even high grade sense of anxiety or stress in their lives all the time, you know what do they do? Well, they take the three deep breaths, they meditate, they you know do the tapping, they buy little gizmos and take courses on how to block the fear out, well it gives you temporary relief, like it can help you get through a moment, but you have just kind of started a madness practice of okay, where did that fear go, it didn’t go out into the atmosphere you know, it just got shoved down into your body and stored in your system, and now it’s like operating from the basement in a covert way just like, like imagine if you abused your child and locked your child in the basement, you know it’s down there screaming, yelling, you know, banging chains, just setting the house on fire in order to get out any time your guard is dropped. And I’ll tell you what, when you’re about to go give a speech, your guard is dropped, or you know it’ll come out when you’re trying to sleep at night, you know or the night before the speech, it’s, you really really don’t want to repress fear and it just drives me crazy that everybody teaches tips on how to do that.
– Yeah, well you know sedatives in general aren’t ultimately transformative
– ha ha, yes. You can always medicate the fear away, and put it like ten feet below cement underneath the basement.
– Right, right, but the skeletons are still down there and they will be found, yeah and that’s really kind of humanity 101 and that’s where we’re at, right we’re in this infantile stage of you know repressions of emotions, any emotion and fear being the most primal one, one would argue, right. So you had this one relationship with fear where you loved fear and you fed off fear and it fueled your, you know your crazy escapades, what do you like about fear now, like the new, this new retired less likely to jump off a cliff person, how do you use fear in your life?
– Well, imagine Bambi. You know Bambi’s, I kind of look at animals for great inspirations, and of course we’re a lot more complicated than animals, we have these incredibly big brains, maybe I’ll get to that later, but Bambi is eating grass in a field somewhere, and all of a sudden oh my gosh, there’s some rustling in the bushes and lizard brains sends a shot of fear to the body, and all of a sudden Bambi comes alive with fear, like Bambi + fear = better hearing, better eyesight, she’s scanning the bushes, and oh my gosh there’s a lion, right, so she takes off running and she runs faster than she ever has, because Bambi + fear = super Bambi right? And then, of course Bambi survives in my story and then she’s back eating grass in a field somewhere, and it’s like, ten minutes later she doesn’t have PTSD, she doesn’t have to go see a shrink, she doesn’t have to do tapping, you know she’s not paranoid that oh my gosh is there going to be another tiger, why does this always happen to me, it’s like she’s just fine again, and so that’s kind of what I’m going for with fear in my life, and because I’ve never had a relationship with fear like this before, it’s definitely a work in progress, you know using it to help me come alive and I talked earlier about how fear was a motivator in skiing, like I was entirely motivated during my ski career of fear of failure, fear of being invisible, fear of not being loved, and I’ll tell you what, you jump off a 70 foot cliff and people love you and you are no longer invisible, and I didn’t realize that the incredible resource that fear is as a motivator, like I understand Bill Gates is entirely motivated by fear of failure, and look what he’s accomplished in his life, where other people are crippled by fear of failure, like what’s the difference? Well, the difference is the relationship that you have with fear, are you using it as a tool for motivation, creativity and aliveness? Or are you repressing it and is it becoming then your repressor, or are you controlling it and therefore it’s now controlling you?
– It’s interesting is you look at basic polarity and you can either move towards something or repel it and move away and you know we’ve created this island around fear and kind of moved further and further away. And so what you talk about in your book is kind of the correct language, the ability to kind of re assimilate our relationship with it so some of the terms you use, becoming intimate with fear, being curious about fear, doing a dance with fear, making friends with fear, that is not part of the kind of traditional lexicon of conquering, overcoming, confronting, it’s very you know, it’s very overwhelming, it’s kinda like what the, early Aryan tribes did to the female worshiping tribes when they took over right, they just annihilated and said our way or the highway, like this emotion has to get out of the way, I’ve got a plan, I’ve got an agenda, and it’s exactly how our ecology has run, there’s so many things that parallel how our world works and how we deal with emotions and fear being one of the most powerful emotions we have, so you used to tap into it in one way, there’s actually a piece to this with Bambi, that happens kind of physiologically which is interesting, once Bambi knows she’s safe, there’s this physiological tremor where they, like the animal shakes and shakes and all of the adrenaline and the cortisol just kinda releases and then they just like, usually take a dump and go back to eating grass, right?
– Ha ha ha, right!
– And then they’re chilling again, right and so for us that, that just kind of reverbs in our body and we just hold onto it and it becomes part of our personality and we’re just an anxious person, ’cause we never get that opportunity to release it, so what are good ways in your opinion, to not just embrace the fear but feel it and lean into it and just kind of go through the whole wave, like ride that whole wave to shore, so that you don’t have those unresolved emotions kinda haunting you.
– So commenting on Bambi shaking it off, like I’ve seen that in ducks a lot, that’s why I laughed, well shoot there’s so many things I could say right now, let’s just first of all identify the problem and then I’ll offer the solution, so I gave the analogy of fear being like a child, so imagine that you have a house full of children, and in zen tradition we have like 10,000 different states of being, fear being just one of them, but of course it gets a lot of play because people just don’t know what to do with it, so picture this, there’s two different ways to live your life, and the first way is what most people teach about fear, so 10,000 children, half your children you’ve named let’s say happiness, joy, forgiveness, gratitude, love, and then the other half of your children you’ve named fear, anger, sadness, despair, misery. Despite your best intentions, would you be able to treat all your children the same way?
– The semantics have doomed it.
– No right, exactly, and because we’re so judgemental, and animals are not so judgemental, they don’t have those big brains you know compartmentalizing things as good or bad, they just are, so what we tend to do is we tend to love and nurture and show off to the world these children over here, and what do we do with these children over here?
– Hide in the closet, ha ha.
– Right, I say put ’em in the basement, like duct tape over their mouths, put ’em in the basement, lock the door throw away the key, and then we nurture these, we have a gratitude practice, a forgiveness practice, all that and look at how lovely of a person I am, and then all these are down in the basement and every time they kinda rear their ugly heads we learn coping mechanisms on how to deal with them, medicate them away, drink another glass of alcohol, whatever. So, what’s happening in the basement? They’re burning the house down, I mean how would you feel if you were a child that had been put in the basement with no food, no water, no love, no sunshine, no toilet no toilet paper, like what would you do?
– I’d show up and fuck you up next time you were trying to give a speech.
– Right, ha ha, exactly, and so what my book seeks to do is the second possible way of living your life, is taking these children out of the basement and keep in mind fear is kind of the ring leader of all, like let’s say you put jealousy in the basement, and you’ve put unworthiness in the basement, it’s like fear is kind of the ring leader to all of them, like anger in the basement, you know 95% of what we know as modern anger is just repressed fear coming out, so what we do what I teach is taking these children out of the basement and seeing all that life has to offer us, the wisdom of all of these voices as well, and the creativity there and the aliveness that’s found and live your life from what I call whole mind potential, that includes fear, and so how do you do that though, especially if you’ve spent your whole life just squashing anything negative, you know that’s kind of the question. In the book of course I have a whole series of chapters about that, like the whole second half of the book is about that, but basically it starts with first of all, just identifying or seeing what your relationship with fear is, and so maybe we can do that right now, like tell me, what do you think your relationship with fear is with fear based on everything I’ve described?
– I have a similar history as your own, my last name Shojai actually translates into brave one, and you know I’ve got a lot of scar tissue to show for it, like you know, I’ve jumped off many a things, and I’ve been into martial arts
– you’re my kind of person.
– Yeah yeah, we share a similar kind of crazy, right, and so that’s what fueled me for a long time, right and so then you start to go, wow my hip hurts, wow this thing isn’t getting better, so you get into that, and so for me it really became about that, but it also became about being okay with letting go of the storefront of the person who had systematically repressed the other, the basement if you will in your language, for all those years right, and so you know I’ve had decades of Buddhist and Daoist training and I’ve gotten myself into lots of situations where I’ve been you know, put in my place by people who are like, yo that’s ego, yo that’s fear, we’re facing it now, and it’s still there, I’m still, I’m driven by the fear of failure, and I have to catch myself, you know I’ve got a lot of that Bill Gates thing going on.
– Ha ha, well it can be very useful. So it sounds to me like you are similar to me and that you have a paradox going, it’s like you have on the one hand you enjoy feeling fear, you like taking risks you like stepping out of your comfort zone, you know fear of failure drives you, like maybe you have a healthy relationship with your fear of failure, so that’s the one, that’s on the one hand, but on the other hand, you also, you didn’t talk about this so much, but I can see just how much you’re in your head around fear, like just talking about it, you know when I start talking about fear, people immediately want to know, well what do you mean by fear? You know people think of fears, or they think of it as being some sort of story or programming in their head. Fear is really simple, like you look at a kitten you smile, right that’s joy, you walk to the edge of a cliff, or you get in front of a group of people, you’re gonna give a speech, and you feel fear right, it’s just a sensation of discomfort in your body, but then we start talking about it and thinking about it, so like I asked a question, what is your relationship with fear and we start to talk, it’s like imagine if I was a shrink and you would talk about your relationship with fear for an hour, like would that ever really resolve anything, would that ever really give you the opportunity to just feel the fear in your body? Probably not, so what I had in my ski career, is that I both loved it and hated it to an extreme at the same time, and when you make your life all about one thing, then you can both love and hate it at the same time. Like if you make your life all about your marriage, like you can both love and hate your husband at the same time, your job, your child, everything. So, what you have then is a paradox, so on the one hand you have some healthy relationship kind of motives and operandi with fear, but on the other hand is there room for improvement is my next question?
– 100%, 100% right.
– It’s always there, and so you know for me it’s the same thing that I have had with countless people that I’ve worked with over the years, which is when the hell do you have time to pull over to go down into that basement and deal with all of that energy that’s there and so it’s like the truck is going, and we’re on a course, and that stuff, like you know we’ll deal with that next year and so, and next year you’re just hauling more, you’ve put more in the basement and it’s more challenging and so. For me I like to pull over once or twice a year, take about a week and just get into emoting and being in that space, it’s not necessarily convenient but it’s good work.
– People won’t usually start a fear practice until they’re in crisis, and you know like imagine you’ve been pumping away on a hand cart down one track your whole life, one train track and all of a sudden you have a monster wipeout, and all of a sudden it’s a huge opportunity and you look up and you’re like okay, am I gonna get back on this same track, ’cause is it heading where I want it to go? You know maybe not, and there’s so many different options and so we never want to let a good crisis go to waste, but like the worst thing that can happen to somebody is that they’re life is doing just fine, and it’s very rare that people will do what you say which is you know, just take a week off to just kind of reboot and look at their shadow, unless they’re in a crisis. I’m jealous of my friends that go through divorces or injuries, like oh my gosh what a good learning opportunity right? So.
– But isn’t that why most people end up creating drama is because there’s so much wound right under the surface that they need to kind of scratch a little just to kinda like allow that healing to happen, and it’s not good for the kids, it’s not good for the world, it’s just because we don’t allow for it, it comes out in crisis, which sucks.
– So when you are looking for crisis, or when, like a smoker’s looking for a cigarette, that is fear in the basement that you’re not dealing with that is desperately trying to get your attention saying hey, pay attention to me. And so it’s really important that you, your relationship with fear is the most important relationship of your life, much more important than your relationship with your wife, children, boss you know, you name it, parents. Because it’s the relationship that you have with yourself and if you have kind of a block it out, hating relationship, hatred relationship with yourself, then it’s gonna affect your self esteem, I mean let’s do a little exercise.
– [Pedram] Sure.
– Why don’t you talk to me like I’m an individual in your life, you know an employee, a child, maybe a colleague, spouse, whatever, and I’m your fear. Like, and start your sentences with you, like, what that looks like is ugh, you’re so annoying right? Like you just wake me up in the middle of the night, and you won’t shut up, like what the hell’s that all about, like just talk to me and just, you know spend like 30 seconds.
– You simply won’t let it go will you, I do all these things and I push harder and harder, and then you’re just on my heels all day, every day, following me with this thing, and every time I want a stiff upper lip, I realize that you kinda step up and you get more kind of naggy at me and so I understand, we need to slow down, we need to deal with this but the show must go on. You are freaking annoying, and you’re always there right and so that’s the one dialogue, the other dialogue is ooh, you’re calling me. Ooh you’re calling me, right? Okay, what is this, I understand you’re telling me now that it’s time to pull over and look at something, so what is this, what am I missing here? And that dialogue is the kind of the wisdom dialogue that’s there when I’m paying attention to it kind of thing.
– Which most people don’t have, they only have the first part, and they may go so far as to say, you are ruining my life, and so it’s great that you have both, but you know, imagine if you talked to your wife that first way, like you’re so annoying, like you’re always around nagging me, like especially when I’m trying to work or when I’m trying to do something to expand who I am, like
– [Pedram] You’re in my way.
– Yeah, it’s like what kind of relationship would you have with her? And so if, and if fear then reacts by having low self esteem about itself, it’s like oh, I have no right to be here, it affects your self esteem. ’cause whatever fear feels from the basement, like if fear feels sad or rejected or has a self esteem problem, or feels angry or like resentful, seeking vicious revenge, that’s gonna be how you feel, that’s gonna show up in your life, in some pretty wacky ways. That’s why I say your relationship with fear is the most important relationship of your life, and so when I offer the solution, it’s like let’s try to get this to be the most healthy relationship possible. So what would that look like, like how could you treat fear differently?
– Simply understanding that it’s a child of yours, I would say is the first thing right, so you know do any children deserve to be in the basement, and the answer is obviously no. So then it’s about reconciliation, you know what is it, what are you trying to tell me, I understand that you are, you are a big part of me, you are my child, you’re a part of me, how can we start this conversation to make amends, please tell me what you’re feeling?
– Perfect, and that’s what we do, and that’s how we start to learn how to feel our fear rather than think about it or trying to rationalize it away. And here’s an interesting point, if you have a long term history of putting fear in the basement, especially ’cause the way our parents raise us, when you first say at age three or whatever, mom I’m afraid. What does mom typically say?
– Don’t worry honey, don’t worry honey everything’s gonna be okay, nurturing.
– Right, yeah there’s nothing to be afraid of, and that’s when the madness begins because you’re taught, I call it fear shaming, that you know this is just made up, it’s not real, it’s something to be embarrassed about, we need to push it away, and whatever age you start repressing fear or putting it in the basement, that’s the level to which fear has developed as an individual, like if you repress fear at age three it’s still operating and acting in your life at a three year old level, same with anger you know if you start, like mom says we don’t do that, anger is not allowed, you know your anger stops developing at age three and it now comes out in kind of a crazy, immature way. But if you take fear out of the basement and you make friends with it, you know changing your language like you just did around how you deal with fear is one of the most important things you can do to having a healthy relationship with it, like I’m okay with fear, I’m not trying to conquer it, I’m not trying to overcome it, I’m trying to feel it, I’m trying to be intimate with it, I’m trying to use it as a tool and creativity resource to help me come alive, a motivator, all of that like invite fear into your life like that as a welcomed, honored part of your life, then things change and they change really fast.
– So let me ask you this, because you deal with normal people out in the real world, is I feel like a lot of people will go to like a weekend retreat, or a week long let’s go kumbaya somewhere, and like let out the dirty laundry, and have an experience around something like this, but I feel like the other 99% are like, I can’t touch that pressure release valve ’cause Medusa’s gonna come out, right and they don’t know how to interface with this type of work without feeling like it’s going to destroy their store front and like derail their life and make it downright impossible to function, there’s that fear of there’s just too much down there, I don’t even know where to start. What do you say to someone like that?
– What I do when I work with people that of course can’t come out in the book, but I do a pretty good job of addressing it, is I’m not, what I’m doing right now with you is not what I do, I don’t just kind of talk to people about their fear, and give them this experience, I’m a facilitator I don’t actually give anybody advice, I just facilitate them into coming up with their own realizations. ’cause everybody has a completely different relationship with fear, you know 7.5 billion people on the planet, 7.5 different relationships, and so I will ask to speak to their voice of fear in the basement, and I’ll say how’s it going, and fear will speak and say, well, it’s not going well, she wants nothing to do with me you know, she being in this case Kristen, right, she’s been putting me down here for a while, I’m really upset, I’m starting to get really anxious and like I’ve got to get my message out, I will not be denied, I need to get out, and so I’ll just work with people and everybody’s so different and even if we take fear 1% out of the basement for somebody, and give them just a little crack at the top of the basement, the door some fresh air and some sunshine coming in, that can be just a radically life changing experience for fear and thus for the individual that I’m working with, and sometimes that’s all it takes, just even to see that oh my gosh duh, I’ve been repressing fear for the last 30 years and that’s why I am so anxious and it’s dead end road for me to take these deep breaths and use the tapping and meditate it away and all that, that what I really need to do is do that exact opposite, instead of trying to find ways to distract myself from it, find ways to turn towards it, and even if you give fear just a little bit of attention or energy, that relationship starts to heal very quickly, just like any relationship would, like if you say to your child, like oh my gosh, I’ve been such a jerk, I don’t know what I was thinking, you know, can I make it up to you like, can you see that things change in that relationship and they change fast.
– Quickly, especially with a child who has been repressed and not getting that for a while, one warm hug will melt a glacier, right like it’s, it doesn’t take much.
– Oh yes, oh yeah oh I love it.
– I love this, we’re running out of time and I could go on this subject for a long, long time. The book is called The Art of Fear by Kristen Ulmer, very, very interesting subject matter, you know you’ve obviously run the miles and kind of been there yourself and come back, or skied the miles and come back to have a really sane, sensible approach to this, and I really do feel like you’re onto something that is, you know it’s happening all the way, reflected up to global politics, is this repression of who we are, this repression of our fear is now turning into global racism, it’s turning into an arms race, if you take this and kind of extrapolate how far this has gone into what we’re doing and what we’re talking about as a society, it really can go back down to that basement, and go ahead.
– One of the ways that repressed fear shows up is blame, like I’m not willing to deal with my fear so I’m just going to project it on you until we’re like monkeys throwing our poop at each other, and if, I mean imagine if we all dealt with our fear, how much this world would change.
– Yeah, yeah amen, well then and that’s the healing we need to do, right, if you say it’s our core relationship and I tend to agree with you, and you’re kind of first order relationship that you have to heal, you know, I mean there’s religious doctrines that are love and fear and even Star Wars is talking about fear and love and all these things, but it’s because it’s primal and it’s the most personal thing that we have and yet we don’t, I mean I didn’t learn this in grade school, you didn’t learn it while you were jumping off cliffs, you had to come back around to it, so I’d like my three year old and my 19 month old to know it now.
– Oh yes, the best thing you can do for your child is, when they say I feel afraid, say well the world is a scary place, now isn’t it? And nothing more, and do we have one minute left?
– [Pedram] Yeah, yeah we can do it, go for it.
– So, chaos theory, you know there’s a lot of different versions of this, but here’s my version, like imagine a big chalkboard with a huge mathematical equation on it and at the lower right hand corner equals you, like this is your make up in your unconscious world, and I talked about taking fear even 1% out of the basement, and let’s say you change a number in this giant mathematical equation making up you from a zero to a one, like I’m 1% more willing to feel my fear, can you see that that has a huge effect on who you are as a person, even 1% changes everything, or you change like, okay I no longer see fear as a negative, I see it as a positive, so changes a negative to a plus sign, I mean it changes everything so dramatically, so chaos theory shows us that small changes result in big changes in who you are and the life that you live.
– Well, it’s also if you’ve been locked into a hut for a cold, wet, rainy winter, and then you get a beautiful sunny day, even five minutes out there is like life transforming, I mean it is not much, it is not much to swing on that hinge to start to feel the breath of fresh air from like the repression, all the energy that goes in to you know bolstering this person you need to be, to hide your fear, it’s exhausting.
– I have had clients, just come through the other side of maybe a lifelong depression in just a few hours from this work, it’s really profound, the results that this offers you in your life is, it’s just shocking and it’s so obvious and so easy and it’s so much work to repress fear, and it’s work to take it out of the basement and find a way to invite it into your life in an honored way, but it’s a lot easier, a lot easier and the results that you get are profound.
– Amen, yeah. And this is true medicine right, is digging deep and getting into the core of who we are. Man, well I’m so happy you turned that corner, I mean it’s cool to watch people jump off cliffs, but that’s not reality either right, you know that’s not, you know that career is exhausting, and so you know thankfully you came out of that, with it looks like your body’s intact, right.
– [Kristen] Yeah, ha ha.
– Yeah, I’m sure you’ve had a few
– I had to, I’m lucky to be alive actually, extreme skiing is a very dangerous sport, and a lot of my friends didn’t make it out and ugh, yeah.
– Yeah, well and you’re doing some really meaningful work now and transforming lives, so thank you for that.
– [Kristen] Thank you.
– Again, the book is called The Art of Fear, Kristen Ulmer I always want to make sure I get people’s last names right, Kristen Ulmer, available everywhere books are available and this is the beginning of a conversation, not the end, I’d like for you to start doing this work and report back and we’ll get Kristen back on at some point and let’s keep this conversation going to see what fear, the looking at fear will unlock in your life and what this’ll do to transform the people in your world and all the people, like you know there’s a ripple effect, right for me to hold onto my fear instills this generational crap into my children as well right, and so it’s my responsibility to make the buck stop here, which means I gotta heal and so, and we all have to do that, so.
– And if you don’t have peace with fear, you don’t have peace with yourself, and I’ll tell you what global peace is the furthest thing from your mind in a moment like that.
– Mmm, mmm, amen. Kristen thank you so much, I hope to see you around more often, I love this, we’re gonna go skiing next year, let me know
– Yes, let me know what you think, and if you want to see me and Kristen go out there and have me get my ass kicked by her, throw on some GoPro’s and just go out there and have some fun, no one’s jumping off cliffs, we’re just gonna go have a fun ski day.
– And we’ll take it from there, you’ll have to wait ’til next season, I will see you next time.