Coincidentally, just after I published the previous article Swimming Past Your Perceived Limits, I happen to listen to a particular podcast called Habits, Mindfulness, Addiction from Michael Gervais’s Finding Mastery podcast series.
On this episode page the guest is described this way…
Dr. Judson Brewer is a thought leader in the field of habit change and the “science of self-mastery”, having combined nearly 20 years of experience with mindfulness training with his scientific research therein. He is the Director of Research at the Center for Mindfulness and associate professor in Medicine and Psychiatry at UMass Medical School. He is also adjunct faculty at Yale University, and a research affiliate at MIT.
He’s at ground-zero when it comes to using science to explain how mindfulness is working
And, the host, Michael Gervais PhD is described this way on his site…
As a high performance psychologist he works in the trenches of high-stakes environments, where there is no luxury for mistakes, hesitation, or failure to respond.
While Dr. Gervais’ roster includes an MVP from every major sport, internationally acclaimed artists and musicians and Fortune 25 CEO’s, he is also the Co-Founder of Winforever, whose mission is to help people become the best they can be.
He recognizes that all of us are required to perform daily. We all navigate our own high-stakes environments and can benefit just as much with the right mindset training.
I was listening along and right at about Minute 30 they start talking about dealing with fear and it tied in perfectly to the strategy I was recommending in the previous post – overcome fear with curiosity.
Let me share my transcript of some key statements, but then I recommend listening to the podcast because they start unpacking so much more with training awareness and how they go about retraining responses to things like fear.
This starts at about minute 33:50, and all bold formatting emphasis is mine to highlight key points…
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MG: When people constrict around the though of being scared in the future, how do you help them? Is this where mindfulness comes in for you?
JB: It is, exactly. And paradoxically, I would start with saying, ‘Let’s dive into it.” So, our reaction, the way our brains are set up, is that when something is unpleasant is to try to make it go away as quickly as possible. So, you’re talking about fight-or-flight. So when something is uncomfortable we tend to flee.
Well, what if we instead just totally get curious about what that sensation of fear feels like in the moment so that we can learn to see what is exactly driving us.
MG: And do you take them through a worst-case scenario? “OK. Stay with that. Now, what is next? What would happen next?” Do you walk them all the way in an elevator down into a worst-case and feel that?
JB: It depends on the person. I would say making sure we stay very close to the actual experience of fear itself, rather… and then use that elevator down cognitively or even from a thinking perspective to help bring up the memory and that felt-sensation. But the critical piece here is the experiential component rather than the mental or the thinking component.
MG: And, are you using flooding or systematic desensitization as a model here? Or are you using something else?
JB: I think mindfulness is very much related to these things, where there is an essential element of paying attention. But the piece that is… the key here is the attitude ‘No quality of the mind’. So that is really what we are trying to foster, is this equanimity. And equanimity is fostered through curiosity. So, if we can stay curious about what is happening, that curiosity flips the valence from that contracted, unpleasant feeling of fear, for example, to a more expanded, even if it is expanding and not fully expanded, but and expanding quality where we are naturally drawn in more, out of curiosity. “Oh, what does fear actually feel like right now?” So, if you and I explored that together – how do we know what it feels like? – well, we have to dive in.
MG: So, curiosity is your entry point into increasing the responses neurochemically, or physiologically decreasing the contraction responses that people have.
MG: So curiosity is like your key way in. And so as soon as they’re feeling a flood of neurochemicals or physiology that is constricting them in some kind of way, and impacting their psychology (psychology being a fancy word for their thinking), that you’re saying ‘Hey, stay curious now! What is this like?” And that curiosity is almost like the antidote.
JB: Yep. It takes us by the hand and pulls us in as we’re trying to flee the scene.
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