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  • Writer's pictureLucy Qian

Honor your soulful longing (2/2): quiet your fears

Updated: Apr 23, 2022

In my last blog post, “Honor your soulful longing (1/2): a beautiful moment to live in,” I describe two words of fear: “pachad” and “yirah,”as shared by Tara Mohr in her book “Playing Big.” Pachad is the fear of projected or imagined things. It’s like catastrophic thinking: “the plane is about to crash,” “no one will ever hire me,” … Yirah, however, stems from the fear of stepping into a bigger, exciting role, an unfamiliar new space or capacity, an opportunity to live to your full potential …

When first experiencing pachad and yirah, it can feel so fearful to be out of your comfort zone. Because of the similar emotional reaction, it can mislead you to believe that you are not ready for something bigger when you actually are (in yirah). However, if you examine the nature of both states, you will find that they are completely different.

Pachad, the irrational fear stemming from worries about future consequences, directs our attention to either an imaged future outcome or past unpleasant memory. When you are in pachad, your mind travels back and forth between past and future, preventing you from staying in the present, thus stopping you from seeing the reality. Just as writer and philosopher Robert Pirsig puts it, “the past exists only in our memories, the future only in our plans. The present is our only reality.” Physically, when we are in pachad, we sense contraction and tenseness.

In contrast to pachad, "yirah tends to be a response to what’s happening in the present," as shared by Tara. You don’t worry about how badly things can turn, nor be afraid that a past unpleasant memory will be repeated. It is puzzling at first but soon a tremendous energy that comes to your body when contemplating or imagining taking a step forward. Physically it brings more of a spacious, fluid feeling into the body.

By now you probably have a better understanding of what differentiates yirah from pachad. Knowing that pachad can stop us from playing bigger while yirah opens a door for us to step into a bigger space and capacity, you may wonder how you can manage pachad and yirah as they co-exist. As a life coach, I have the privilege of working with many individuals through this scenario. My years of coaching has taught me that unless we learn to quiet the pachad, we will find it hard to embrace the yirah.

How do you quiet pachad? There are three ways you can experiment.

1. Go to the specifics of your worries

Because pachad keeps us from staying in the present, we tend to not discern the specifics of what we are really experiencing. For many of us, we may not even be able to identify what we are feeling specifically, other than some vague emotional words “scared,” “insecure,” … The first step is to identify and name our feelings in the moment: “I’m feeling X right now.” You can speak loud to yourself, or write it down. If you cannot pick up a specific feeling word, use the feeling wheel below to help you.

Having clarity of what you’re feeling allows you to find out the thoughts that drives you to feel a particular way. For example, “I feel exposed because I’m afraid others will judge me if I do XYZ.” In a coaching conversation, a client shared her worries that if she started to share her insights on a professional social media, others would judge her. Her coach asked: “what do you think they will judge you around?” “I don’t know. They probably aren’t. Most people nowadays are too busy to even look at my posts,” said the client. Getting specific about the outcome you’re worried about will allow your mind of pachad to quiet down a bit so you may return to the present.

2. Examine the reality: what’s really true?

Getting to the specifics allows us to come back to the present, but it is just the first step. Our minds may quickly go back to the future or the past if they can’t see anything concrete that counters their suspicions. If you are analytical, this is the time to use this strength.

Look at what you fear and ask, “What is really true?” “How likely is it going to happen?” “What is happening now that is supporting what I fear might occur?” … when you start asking yourself these questions, your mind is pinned in the present. You start to see what is real and what is not. Often in coaching conversations, as my clients answer these questions, their shoulders drop, take a big sigh, and look a lot more relaxed. “I’m not going to lose that client if I didn’t reach my ideal in the coming presentation. Look we have built a good trust base in the past 12 months!” “What’s true is that I do not have control in how others will respond to my posts. They can say anything! But what I do have control over is that I know I want to be authentic in my posts and bring value to people who can appreciate them.”

3. Regain our power over self-criticisms

After we tap into our rational thinking and depict a clearer picture of our reality, our fear starts to dissipate. We are now at the edge of totally quieting pachad. When we are in pachad, often we can hear many different self-criticisms. They can keep us there. Many people cannot distinguish who they are from their self-criticisms. They take direction from those criticisms without noticing.

Back to my time in corporate HR jobs, I became more and more interested in becoming a full-time life coach, but for a long time I didn’t follow that thread. My inner critic reminded me of my mother. She has worked as a store manager in a local large drug store for most of her career. She always wanted to open a store of her own because she knew she had a good connection in the local community and she was an excellent salesperson. It’s a pity that she never formed enough courage to take a leap. Seeing her struggling in those years, I thought I was clear that I would never let fears take power over me and waste my authentic dream. But what I didn’t realize was that I was just using my mother’s story to dictate my choice of playing bigger. I was unconsciously taking direction from her story and believing that I wasn’t naturally fit working for myself.

When you are stuck with self-criticisms, ask yourself: “what is influencing me now?” “What has me allowing myself to take direction from those criticisms?”

In the personal story I shared, nothing was really influencing me to play it safe but myself, not even my mother. Later when I shared my inner critic with her, she smiled and said: “I’ve already moved through my own fears and moved on, why are you still subscribing to my story and let that limit your possibilities?” That to me was truly awakening!

How are you dealing with your own pachad? How are you honoring your soulful longing? If you want to step towards playing bigger, yet you find it hard to break through your fears, let’s have a conversation.

To learn more about the topic, read my previous post “Honor your soulful longing (1/2): a beautiful moment to live in.”

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Lucy Qian, Life Coach, PCC (ICF)


About Lucy Qian, International Life Coach

Lucy’s clients say that she has a superpower for helping them see clear direction and next steps, no matter how confused they are in the beginning. Through coaching with Lucy, they become clear about who they are and know what they really want.

Lucy is a certified coach in different settings: Professional Certified Coach (PCC) by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), Certified Laser-focused Life Coach by the Life Coaching Group, and Organizational Coach by the Institute of Executive Coaching and Leadership.

In her blog, A Journey to Clearness, Lucy shares life experiences and lessons from her practice as an international life coach.

Learn more about Lucy.

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