What do you fear? For a lot of people, when confronted with this question, it’s easy to call upon a set of perfunctory responses: fear of dying, fear of being alone, fear of heights, fear of losing loved ones too soon. Most of us are so accustomed to this inquiry that we have a standard list of fears at the ready. With plenty of practice answering this “big picture” question, however, have you ever stopped to question the authenticity of your response?
Many years ago, I attended an intensive self-improvement program. While the program only lasted a duration of four days, I left each day feeling emotionally exhausted, but in the best way. Throughout the program, we would participate in a series of activities, requiring us to push our emotional boundaries, access our vulnerabilities, and open up to self-discovery. One of my favorite activities of the program was actually one of the simplest: a partner exercise designed to expose our most visceral fears. Unlike most Q and A sessions, this practice requires participants to say the first thoughts that surface, often revealing fears beyond the standard responses.
To give this exercise a try, enlist the help of someone you trust. You’ll want this person to be someone with whom you can be completely honest and vulnerable. Ideally, you should ask a boyfriend or girlfriend, sister or brother, best friend, or even a parent you’re close to!
1. Sit facing your partner in a room without distractions. Make sure your eyes are level and that you are able to maintain eye contact throughout the exercise.
2. Designate an “A” partner and a “B” partner. A will ask the question and B will answer.
3. To begin, set a timer for 5 minutes. A will ask B the question “What do you fear?” over and over again until the timer goes off. At first, B will be quick to respond–this is often when all of our surface fears are revealed. As the 5 minutes continues, however, B may struggle to answer, but it is important to continue, as this is the critical point at which underlying fears are be revealed. Some answers might not make sense or even contradict themselves, but it is important that you say the first thoughts that come to mind without any internal filtering.
4. Once the timer goes off, reset it and switch, making “B” the person that asks the questions and “A” the one who answers.
When I first tried the exercise, some of my answers included “failing my parents,” “connection,” and “gaining weight.” As an individual driven by curiosity, I loved this process of self-discovery and introspection. But beyond that, it was a great bonding experience for me; staring into another’s eyes, revealing my soul–so much of which I had unconsciously suppressed–was a tremendous practice in vulnerability and connection (which I discovered was a fear of mine!). With support from someone you love, you might discover that identifying your fears can be a driving force in achieving your dreams. I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes: “Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.”
What are some of your greatest fears?
Also see: The Beauty of Living Life in the Gray
Photo: Nemeth Szilvia