How I handled the Terror of Performance Anxiety.

In 1998 I gave a workshop at an international level for the very first time.  I was both excited and nervous about taking my workshops to a new level.

The morning of the day I was to give my workshop I woke up in a state of absolute terror.   I knew why I was terrified.  I knew that I was far more anxious than called for.  I knew that I was competent and capable enough to give the workshop I was about to do.  But knowing that did not make the terror I was experiencing in that moment go away.

I knew I could stop the feeling of terror if I got up out of bed and started doing something to occupy my mind  (i.e. shift from my right brain to my left brain.)  But I also knew that the terror would not go away, it would just go under ground and keep affecting my behavior in ways that I could not control.  I didn’t want that.

Because of my training, experience and knowledge of psychotherapy I knew if I stayed with the terror and breathed through it that my brain would process it.

So I lie there in bed and felt it.  There are no words to describe how horrible this level of terror is.  The only way I can describe it is that I felt white cold waves of horrible sensations course through my body from head to toe.  The terror came in waves.  I breathed through each wave as it came.  It was very difficult to stay with it.

I did this for two hours. In the right brain, time is experienced differently than in the left brain.  It didn’t seem like 2 hours.  At 7:00 am I had to get ready for the workshop that was at 9:00 am.

I did my workshop and it went well.  I had a few problems with one participant, but over all, it went well.   After the conference was over I got positive feedback from the workshop survey sheets.

Since that time I’ve presented workshops in Canada, Europe, Australia and the USA without any fear.  The amount of anxiety I feel is normal and appropriate to the nature of the event.  In fact, I experience it as excitement as well as anxiety. I believe that excitement and anxiety are flip sides of the same coin. I really enjoy teaching what I know to others.

No one wants to feel difficult feelings.  But facing them, rather than avoiding them, is productive. Once the difficult emotions are felt and processed you are free to live your life as you want.  It is no longer there to determine your behaviors and rule your life.

If you are afraid of abandonment and you access the feelings/sensations and process them, the feelings of abandonment will no longer feel overwhelming, they will be manageable. Then if and when you experience them again you know you can successfully survive them. You don’t have to avoid them. That means you can enter into and enjoy a relationship and it is more likely to last because you handle yourself well.

That goes for any feeling (in a relationship or in other areas of your life) terror, rejection, disappointment, loneliness, humiliation, exposed, hopelessness, shame, failure, losing oneself, out of controlled and others.

Breathe and be yourself,

Dr. Bea

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