How To Use Storytelling To Overcome Fear

I’ll admit it: I’m new to the idea of storytelling.

Yep, I was told stories a lot as a kid… but I was never EVER the storyteller.

Recently though, I’ve come to learn we’re all storytellers. They might just be the ones we tell ourselves in our heads, but that inner monologue is there.

How To Use Storytelling To Overcome Fear (trust me - it can be done!) This post + FREE workbook walk your thought the process.

Now, I keep making connections between real life and the stories we tell ourselves.

The final shove to write this came from Daniel Gilbert, author of February’s choice in the League of Creative Introverts book club.

In Stumbling on Happiness (er – more scientific than the name suggests), Gilbert emphasises the fact that our emotions are incredibly malleable.

Basically, everything we feel, even what we perceive, is relative.

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That sounds kind of obvious now that I write it, but it’s quite surprising when you see the specific examples.

Example: Most people think they will regret doing something stupid more than regret not doing it.

Makes sense… Until you look at the fact that 90% of people in all walks of life seem to regret NOT having done things much more.

One of the most common regrets are not going to college, and l myself always rant about the ‘waste of +3 years and £30k’ it was.

But would I take back those 3 years? Hell no!

How To Use Storytelling To Overcome Fear (trust me - it can be done!) This post + FREE workbook walk your thought the process.

Anyway, what I learned from Gilbert is that we can do all the predicting we like: but we are usually quite wrong. This is what he calls ‘affective forecasting.’

Fear is especially shapeshifting, as it’s part of our biology to overdramatise feelings of fear, based on past experiences, in order to protect ourselves.

But, public speaking is not the same as entering the territory of a hungry tiger.

If we can tell ourselves a different story about this future event that seems so terrifying… may be we can reduce our present fear.

 

How do we use storytelling to overcome fear?

Like I mentioned: I’m not a natural storyteller. I struggle when it comes to the whole start-middle-end bit, preferring to give a blurb or foreword.

But Isabelle Rizo’s 5-Day Storytelling Challenge gave me the groundwork to start forming my story, so I’ll do my best to describe how I use storytelling to overcome fear.

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Download Your FREE Rewrite Your Scary Story Workbook!
Step 1: Identify WHY the fear exists

A great place to start is the past. This is usually where our current fears stem from, even if we aren’t initially aware of it.

What past experience are you basing your current fear forecast on?

That time you wet your pants in the school play?
That time you forgot your lyrics on stage ?
That time you dropped an f-bomb in a job interview*?

Or may be it’s a new experience – and that’s what scares you.

Fear of the unknown is one of our oldest, most core fears.

In either case, all we can do is to write a new story.

Step 2: Write your SFD

If you’re familiar with Anne Lamott (or Brené Brown for that matter) you’ll probably know what I mean by SFD.

SFD = Shitty First Draft.

It’s best described by Lamott herself, in this passage from Bird by Bird:

I’d start writing without reining myself in. It was almost just typing, just making my fingers move. And the writing would be terrible…

The next day, I’d sit down, go through it all with a colored pen, take out everything I possibly could, find a new lead somewhere on the second page, figure out a kicky place to end it, and then write a second draft. It always turned out fine, sometimes even funny and weird and helpful.

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something – anything – down on paper.

That’s exactly what our fear forecast is: we write down what story we’re currently telling ourselves, no matter how batshit bonkers it sounds.

Get it out.

How To Use Storytelling To Overcome Fear (trust me - it can be done!) This post + FREE workbook walk your thought the process.

Step 3: Rewrite your story

Now we have a page in front of us, filled with the ‘scary’ thing that hasn’t happened. Whilst we can’t control how it pans out, we can control how we feel about it.

It’s time to rewrite your story: and turn it into one where everything works out, and you don’t feel as awful as you originally wrote.

It might even be a happy story.

I know that’s easier said than done – trying to imagine ourselves as calm and collected while we’re feeling scared and stressed is like ‘imagining the taste of a marshmallow whilst chewing liver’ (again, a Gilbert quip) but I find this fact helpful:

A big fear for many soon-to be brides and grooms is to be stood up at the altar, but those who have had it happen say it was the best thing that happened to them.

So, if getting jilted is more painful in prospect than in retrospect, it can be true for your future ‘scary thing’ too.

Physically writing down how we want our future to pan out is (in my own experience as many others) incredibly useful.

Whether or not you buy into the idea of manifesting, just the process of envisioning a better outcome will help relieve your current fear.

How To Use Storytelling To Overcome Fear (trust me - it can be done!) This post + FREE workbook walk your thought the process.

What do we do the fear is NOW?

Like: you’re in the dentists chair right now?

Well… that’s really unlikely because what dentist would allow you to be reading a blog whilst in the chair?

But I have a tactic anyway, because l over prepare.

Remind yourself: this is all part of your story.

Your’e just experiencing the cliff-hanger. The page turning moment. The shut-the-book and sleep with the lights on moment.

There will be a next chapter.

And erm… even if there isn’t… you can bet it will make it a juicy ending.

How To Use Storytelling To Overcome Fear (trust me - it can be done!) This post + FREE workbook walk your thought the process.

Download Your FREE Rewrite Your Scary Story Workbook!

The happy ending

You are in charge of your story.

You can use fear as a prompt: but ultimately, you are the one who acts the story out.

Use storytelling to accept the past, make the most of the present, and plan your future.

When fear rises, you can choose to make it part of your story, or leave it in your SFD.

* This is the one that’s happened to me. TWICE.


Do you tell yourself stories that never turn out quite as bad as you imagined?

Tell me in the comments below!