A Quick Fix for Conquering Your Fear

A surprising cure for that fear that plagues you.

Posted Nov 05, 2017

In The Dance of Fear, I tell the story of Frank, a man who came to see me wanting to get over his “fear of rejection.” 

Frank had been unable to ask a woman out since his divorce.  He was a former therapy client who now lived in Oklahoma, and he was back in Kansas for a two-day seminar. He wanted a quick fix.

 “The real problem,” I told him, “is that you don’t have enough experience with rejection.” To solve his problem, Frank needed to accumulate rejections. His assignment, if he chose to accept it, was to rack up an impressive amount of rejections in one day.

I gave Frank specific instructions on how to proceed.  He was to station himself at the foot of the elevator at a large Barnes & Nobles. As women came down the escalator, he was to repeat his lines: Hi. My name is Frank. I hope you don’t think I’m rude, but I’m wondering if you would like to have coffee with me.  He was not to veer from this script and he was to keep careful track of the number of rejections he accumulated until he achieved the required number.

Without more details, I risk sounding like I lack therapeutic judgement, or perhaps like I was taking drugs. I will tell you, however, that Frank was entirely cured by his one day experience in Rejection Boot Camp. Here are four pointers from his story.

*ACTION IS POWERFUL: Sometimes you can move past a fear quickly, if you are willing to act. When you avoid what you fear, your anxieties are apt to worsen over time.

*SUCCEED BY FAILING. If you fear rejection you may, indeed, need to accumulate more experience getting snubbed. This applies not just to asking someone for a date, but also making sales calls, trying to get an article published, or approaching new people at a party.

* RISK FEELING RIDICULOUS. Most people feel deeply ashamed at the very idea of appearing foolish, and shy away from taking healthy risks in order to avoid that possibility. Frank learned that feeling ridiculous—over and over—was tedious and uncomfortable, but not the primal threat to his dignity that he had imagined.

*INVITE FEAR IN. When you anticipate a guest coming to visit, you are more prepared for whatever happens. Almost all treatments and strategies that help people with fear, involve inviting fear in.

MOTIVATION MATTERS. If you’re not at least a 6 or 7 on that 1-to-10 motivation scale, you may need to be in more pain about the status quo before you are willing to act. At the very least, you need to deeply feel the negative consequences of not acting.

Rejection is awful.  We might all wish to don armor (or at least a wet suit) to protect us from the feelings of shame, self-loathing, depression, anxiety, and rage that rejection can evoke. None of us is immune to the pain of rejection.  But sometimes the fastess way to get over our fear of rejection—or whatever it is we are afraid of—is to get behind the wheel and accumulate more of what we’re afraid of.

The only sure way to avoid rejection is to sit mute in a corner and take no risks.  If we choose to live courageously, we will experience rejection—and survive to show up for more.  If we know one thing for sure about fear, it's this:  Avoidance makes fear grow.