Fear is one of the most powerful and unpleasant emotions caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm. Like any other emotion, it affects us mentally as well as physically. How to manage and diminish the fear in our life?
One of the most valuable lessons to diminish fear is embodied in the phrase SAY YES TO YOUR UNIVERSE. These words were casually uttered by Janet Zuckerman to someone who was complaining bitterly about a particular circumstance in his life. Susan Jeffers, an American psychologist & the author of ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’ asked Janet exactly what she meant by that phrase. She replied, “It’s simple. Whatever happens to you in life, just nod your head up and down, instead of shaking it side to side. Just say yes instead of no.” This is a powerful phrase and by incorporating it into your life, you will get magical results.
The term “universe” refers to the life plan which seems to take over despite what we have in mind. This “force” seemingly operating on its own, often interferes with our picture of how we would like things to be. It refers to a certain flow in our lives and the lives of others over which we have little or no control. So often when we are all set to move in a specific direction, an unexpected event changes everything. Those unexpected events or even the possibility of the unexpected sets us up for a great deal of fear. We anticipate the worst.
IN SAYING “YES” LIES THE ANTIDOTE TO OUR FEAR.
Say Yes Means
The phrase “say yes” means “to agree to” those things which life brings us. Saying yes means letting go of resistance and letting in the possibilities that our universe offers in new ways of seeing the world. It means to relax bodily and calmly survey the situation, thereby reducing upset and anxiety. Aside from the emotional benefits, the physical benefits are enormous.
Conversely, saying no means being a victim. “How could this happen to me!” Saying no means to block, to fight, to resist opportunities for growth and challenge. Saying no creates tension, exhaustion, wasted expenditure of energy, emotional upheaval—or, worse, it creates apathy. “I can’t cope. I can’t go on. There is no hope.”
The truth of the matter is that saying yes is our only hope. Not only is saying yes our antidote to dealing with day-to-day disappointments, rejections, and missed opportunities (the flu, a leaking roof, a traffic jam, a flat tire, and so on), it is the miracle tool for dealing with our deepest, darkest fears.
Story of Charles
This real story about Charles confirmed the power of saying yes to the universe. Charles grew up in poverty in a New York slum area. His “tough guy” image served him well until he was severely handicapped by a gunshot wound incurred in a street fight. His spine was shattered, and he was paralyzed from the waist down.
When Susan met Charles, he had just completed training in a rehabilitation center and was looking for a job at The Floating Hospital. Charles wanted an opportunity to teach children how to avoid getting into trouble the way he had. He became part of Susan’s team and an inspiration to everyone around him.
One day Susan walked into one of her classrooms and found Charles sitting with a group of children surrounding him. He was answering all the burning questions that young people have when they look at a handicapped person. “What does it feel like not to be able to walk?” “What should I say to someone in a wheelchair?” “How do you go to the bathroom?” At one point, Charles asked the group what they thought a handicapped person wanted most. One little boy quickly answered, “Friends!” “Right!” answered Charles and all the children spontaneously jumped up and hugged him, shouting, “I’ll be your friend!” I don’t know who got more out of the session— Charles, the children, or me.
Susan had many opportunities to talk with Charles. He told her that in the early days of his disability he had lost all hope, all will. As he described it, “It wasn’t easy for a macho kid to lose his ability to walk, let alone to lose all control of his bladder and bowels.” He was referred to an excellent rehabilitation center but refused to be helped. The center was about to send him home to make way for someone who was willing to take responsibility for his own life. That was the turning point. Charles knew that if he was sent home, he would have no chance at all. This was his moment to say yes or no to his universe. He is thankful he chose to say yes.
Once that choice was made, his progress was remarkable. Opportunities opened up to him that he’d never thought about before. He decided that his life could have a purpose: to help others in their struggle, whatever that struggle might be. He would be a model, saying, “If I could do it, so can you.” Charles admitted that, strangely, he was grateful now for his handicap, because it made him aware of how much he had to contribute to the world. Before the accident, Charles had been blind to the fact that his life had meaning. Now he believes he was more handicapped before the accident; only since then has he derived satisfaction from living.
The Pain of Yes / No
When Susan presented the concept of SAY YES TO YOUR UNIVERSE in fear class, one of her students asked an interesting question: “If you always say yes to your universe, wouldn’t you be able to avoid feeling any pain?” She thought about it for a moment and told him no. You can’t avoid pain, but you can say yes to the pain, understanding that it is a part of life. Then, you do not feel yourself a victim. You know that you can handle the pain, as well as the situation causing the pain. You do not feel it is hopeless. At that point, her student shouted, “I get it! You mean there is the pain of yes versus the pain of no.” That was exactly the meaning of this concept.
As the class looked at it further, they were able to find examples of when they had said yes to pain in their lives without realizing what they were doing. Nadine remembered one day the previous week when she had thought about her mother, who had recently died. Suddenly she was struck by the pain of loss. She sat down and cried, thinking how strangely sweet it felt to remember the good times she had shared with her mother. And as she cried, she felt the urge to say “thanks” over and over again.
She was aware, in the middle of her pain, that life hands you a lot of good-byes—but that’s just the way life is. Yet she saw the difference between handling the death of a loved one as a catastrophe (saying no) and keeping in mind how blessed she was to have had that person in her life (saying yes). It is seeing death as part of living—a natural process—as opposed to seeing it as a horrible deprivation and unjust phenomenon.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF PAIN IS VERY IMPORTANT; DENIAL IS DEADLY.”
Positive Action or Giving Up
Saying yes means positive action; saying no means giving up. We can say no to the situation as it is, but yes to the possibility of the growth it offers. If you believe that a situation in your life is hopeless, you simply sit back and let yourself be destroyed. Yes means channeling resources to find constructive, healthy ways to deal with adverse situations. It means acting out of strength, not weakness. It means having the flexibility necessary to survey many options and choose ones that enhance growth. And it does not mean being destroyed; it means becoming alive to possibility.
Whereas the concept of saying yes to your universe is fairly easy to grasp, learning to say yes requires a great deal of awareness. We seem to have an automatic impulse that pushes the no button. It is not so easy to understand how to say yes when a child is gravely ill, when you become physically disabled, when you lose your job, or when your spouse dies.
THE WORLD IS FILLED WITH PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN HANDED THE “WORST” LIFE HAS TO OFFER . . .AND THEY HAVE COME OUT WINNERS!
Five Steps to Follow
We all are winners when we say yes, and it is worth every effort to learn how. The following steps will help:
Step#1. Create awareness that you are saying no (an automatic response). It helps to surround yourself with reminders. Put signs on your desk, on your night table, on your mirrors, in your daily calendar, or wherever you’ll see them. You can use these signs as SAY YES TO YOUR UNIVERSE or I AM FINDING VALUE IN EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS TO ME; LET GO or my favorite IF LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS, MAKE LEMONADE. You can create your own sayings that work best for you. The object is to stay conscious. We are asleep on this issue and need to be constantly reminded.
Step#2. Once consciousness is there, actually nod your head up and down, and say yes. There is something about physically affirming an idea that helps to create acceptance. Try nodding your head right now. You’ll notice that you feel something positive about the feeling of physically nodding in agreement. It gives you the sense that everything will be all right—because you are going to make it all right.
Step#3. Using the same principle, physically relax your body, starting from the top of your head and going to the tip of your toes. Notice where you are tense and focus on letting the tension go. Again the body can take the lead in setting up positive feelings.
Step#4. Look for ways to create value from any experience. Ask yourself these questions: What can I learn from the experience? How can I use this experience to a positive advantage? How can I learn to better myself as a result of this experience? Simply having the intent to create something positive automatically ensures that something positive will happen. Have faith to get a positive response from your subconscious mind, which is having infinite intelligence.
Step#5. Be patient with yourself. DON’T SAY NO TO YOUR DIFFICULTY IN SAYING YES. This is one of those concepts that seems easy but requires diligence to put into practice. It is easy to feel frustrated when gloom and doom overtake you. Just keep noticing this. Trust that you’ll eventually get bored being depressed or upset and that you’ll then find a way out of the quicksand. Most of us do anyway. Saying yes helps you find your way much faster, thus vastly improving the quality of your life.
Just Practice It
This one additional tip may be helpful. Start practicing on trivial events in your life. Although they may have nothing to do with fear, they will give you practice with the process. For example, as you sit in your car fuming because of a traffic jam, a sign on the dashboard that reads SAY YES TO YOUR UNIVERSE may remind you that you are saying no (fuming). Once you can create this awareness, you can nod your head, relax your body, and begin to use the experience to some advantage. You can use such time to listen to some of the great “inspirational” audios that are available or an audiobook you have no time to read. So sit back and enjoy the experience.
Life offers many opportunities to practice saying yes to your universe. The baby spills milk all over the floor; your secretary loses the letter you dictated; the cleaner ruins your suit—get the picture? Every time you find yourself resisting what’s happening at the present moment, recall the phrase SAY YES TO YOUR UNIVERSE. You will watch your life become more and more pleasurable. Relationships with the whole world will improve dramatically.
Once you master the concept on a day-to-day level, you will be prepared to handle the more serious issues that confront you. You will notice that your level of fear slowly starts to drop as it is replaced by a greater sense of trust in your ability to handle your world. As you start to see the possibilities in the impossible, you will begin to see that the world works “perfectly.” You can find reason and purpose in everything—if you open your mind to it.
The only time you will fear anything is when you say no and resist the universe. You may have heard the expression “Go with the flow.” This means consciously accepting what is happening in your life. The key to life is not to figure out what you can get from the flow, but, rather, to figure out how to get into the flow. In this way—and only in this way – it is impossible to lose. (Excerpt from one of my favorites ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’ by Susan Jeffers).