Recently, I had a dream in which a ferocious tiger was chasing me inside a room. He could knock me over with a mere sideways glance.
I couldn’t get away from him to get out the door. He was big, scary, and I feared he would hurt me. People were outside waiting on me. Yet even if I could get out the door, the tiger could escape too!
I had a growing sense of panic and began to awaken. However, I knew I had to stay in that dream and face the tiger.
Thus with eyes still closed, not moving a muscle, I harnessed self-compassion and began to get curious. After a much closer look at that tiger, I knew exactly what had to be done. With a courageous presence, I shook hands with the tiger!
It was only then I noticed that this tiger had no claws! In fact, he was only a big adolescent cub with a ferociously playful and creative energy!
Later, reflecting on the dream, I realized: The tiger is part of me! If I don’t embrace him and let him out the door with me, then how can I show up with my full energetic, playful and creative self?
The story in your head can be full of symbolic lions, tigers, and bears that easily set off the body’s alarm signals. Your story gets in the way of effective relationships in leadership and in life.
Pema Chodron encourages us to get curious about our fear. Kristen Neff shows us how to use self-compassion to support ourselves through difficult moments. Brene Brown tells us to stay in the arena despite our vulnerability. Reid Wilson implores us to take this even further by inviting our irrational anxiety so that we can desensitize our body’s alarm systems through prolonged exposure.
Transform fear and thus re-write your fear story. Consider, at least, shaking hands with your tiger with self-compassion, curiosity, and courageous presence. You may be surprised as to what will unfold next.