Fears Sequence

The purpose of the sequence is:

  • To help clients clarify what they’re afraid of, from various angles.

  • To help them gain new perspectives about the impact of their fears on their well-being, especially over time.

  • For the client to be heard and receive empathic responses.

 

The Fears Sequence is organized around seven questions and one two-part visualization:

Q1: Is it ok to talk to the part of you who’s scared?

  • This is an important part of the process. The idea is that there’s one part of us who’s responsible to activate and maintain fears; not the whole of us is afraid. Therefore, we want to focus on being in connection with that part, and this throughout the sequence.

Q2: Your main concerns are ____ ?

  • At this point, we reflect some of the fears we heard so far, talking to the scared part.
  • The client is likely to agree with what we reflect and then add more elements; we then reflect also these new elements, until we have a sense that the main fears have been heard; this might take a few rounds.

Q3: What might happen if <fears> were true?

  • One the main principles about working with fears is that facing our fears is likely to reduce their strength.  This is the idea of this question.  It is, of course, uncomfortable for the client, but most of the time liberating, and we are there to hold them with care, and provide empathic presence and responses.

Q4: What would that mean about you? How might you be judged by others, or by yourself?

  • This question is aiming at exploring the specific fears related to judgments that might come from others and from ourselves if what we’re afraid of were to happen.  Again, this is often uncomfortable, but liberating.

Q5: What’s the downside of having these concerns?

  • This question marks a new section in the process.  Before, it was about understanding, clarifying the fears and empathizing with them, engaging with the scared part.  Now with this question, we’re asking the scared part to look at the whole, not just at itself.  The idea is that the scared part has a job to do: keep the client scared.  That part is dedicated to doing that job as well as they can, without paying attention to the full situation.  We’re now asking that part to stretch and take a look at what could be the downside for the whole client to have the current level of fears.
  • As usual, we engage with empathic responses.

Visualization Part 1: I’d like you to put a very large screen in front of you. On this screen, I’d like you to play out what happens in two years (or any length of time that makes sense) if you keep having the same level of fears. So, press play, see what happens in 2 years (or same length of time named previously), and tell me what you discover.

  • This part is a continuation of Q5; it’s designed to clarify the cost for the client to hold over time the level of fear that they are currently holding.

Visualization Part 2: Now, next to that screen, would you place another screen just as big and put a version of ______________ (client) where the scared part has been able to let go of some of the fears, and has been willing to try out new things. Press play, see what happens in two years, and let me know.

  • With this section of the visualization, we show the difference to the scared part between the two different futures that are possible; one future with the current level of fear, another one with a drop in the level of fears.

Q6: As you see this second version, has it been worth a little bit of the risk taken along the way?

  • This is when we’re asking the scared part to let go, to drop the fears level. Typically, clients will agree that it’s worth the risk.  There are some situations when clients will say no; it’s pretty rare but it can happen.  If that happens, it’s fine, just empathize with them.

Q7: What would need to happen for you to feel safer in relation to this?

  • To wrap up the process, we invite the client, talking to the whole client at this point, to reflect on what could bring more safety to the situation.  This is fundamental to EC; a lot of what stops us to do what we want is a perceived lack of safety. With this question, we help the client realize that there are (often) ways to feel safer, and this is likely to shift how they approach the situation.

Important language

For this sequence, I suggest to keep very close to the proposed language for the questions, while it makes sense for you to use a language you’d be comfortable with for the visualizations.

When to use this sequence

This is a sequence to use at any point when the client expresses being afraid of something important.  You also want to assess if you have enough time; this process can easily take 30 minutes or more.

Example 

COACH - So you’re afraid of buying the house that you have an interest for?

CLIENT - Yes

COACH - Is it ok to talk to the part of you who’s scared?

CLIENT - Yes

COACH - Your main concerns are that it might turn out to be an unsuccessful investment and that people in your family would judge you for that?

CLIENT - Yes

COACH - What might happen if the investment doesn’t turn well and people in your family judge you for that?

CLIENT - I could lose a lot of money, which would mean that I would need to work more.  I would also feel embarrassed and shameful with my family.

COACH - I hear you, you’d lose quite a bit of money, might have to work more, and feel shame with your family

CLIENT - Yes

COACH - What would that mean about you?

CLIENT - I would have a sense of not being good enough, being bad.

COACH - I hear you, you’d have a sense of not being good enough, that’s something’s wrong with you.

CLIENT - Yes

COACH - What’s the downside of having these concerns?

CLIENT - It’s heavy, I can’t move, It’s like I’m hooked to a ball with a chain.      

COACH - Wow, yes, heavy… you can’t move, hard to go anywhere.

CLIENT - Yes

COACH - I’d like you to put a very large screen in front of you. On this screen, I’d like you to play out what happens in two years (or any length of time that makes sense) if you keep having the same level of fears. So, press play, see what happens in 2 years (or same length of time named previously), and tell me what you discover.

CLIENT - I see that I do a lot of the same things that I do now, feels powerless, low energy.

COACH - ok, same things, not much power, low energy,

CLIENT - Yes

COACH - Now, next to that screen, would you place another screen just as big and put a version of ______________ (client) where the scared part has been able to let go of some of the fears, and has been willing to try out new things. Press play, see what happens in two years, and let me know.

CLIENT - I see myself doing more, there’s more going on, I build workouts in my routine, I’m having interactions with new people, I find a way to work around my job’s schedule.

COACH - So, more is happening, and you can combine that with work.

CLIENT - Yes

COACH (optional question) - In which version of the movie does it look like that you have a richer experience of life?

CLIENT - The second one.

COACH - As you see this second version, has it been worth a little bit of the risk taken along the way?

CLIENT – Yes.

COACH - What would need to happen for you to feel safer in relation to buying the house?

CLIENT - I’d feel safer if I get much more information about how to invest well in real estate, and calculate exactly how much I would have available after paying the mortgage.   

COACH - That makes sense.  Are you willing to set aside some time for that whis week.

CLIENT - Yes.

COACH - How do you feel at the end of our time?

CLIENT - Excited, I can see that I can be safe and do more of what I want to do.