There’s this interesting thing that happens to a lot of people when they start a creative project or embark on any type of positive life change. Maybe you can relate? It goes something like this: you get an idea. The idea excites you. You get ready to breathe some life into this idea and then… fears come swooping in like an angry swarm of bees. The exact fears look different depending on you and your situation, but they’re commonly things like:
I’m not good enough to do this.
This has already been done.
I don’t know where to start.
I’m going to fuck this up.
And on, and on, and on. I’ve been in this swarm of fears enough times (and worked with enough clients navigating these types of fears) that I’ve established pretty effective counterarguments against them. But your fears don’t always respond to counterarguments. Sometimes your fear doesn’t want to be reasoned with – it just wants to be heard and released. Hence, the importance of Fear Dumping.
The Fear Dump (let’s skip the bathroom jokes) is an exercise that I first came across in The Artist’s Way.The purpose of the Fear Dump is to first identify your fears, then surrender them. I suggest doing a fear dump right when you begin any project, but it can also be useful to do at any point fears threaten to stifle your progress. Once you have dumped your fears, you’ll feel energetically lighter and ready to move forward.
To begin, you’ll be doing some writing using either a word document or a notebook. Write FEAR DUMP across the top of the page, and then list every fear that is coming up for you. Remember that the idea here isn’t to “overcome” these fears, just to describe them. This simple act of diving into your fears, bringing them out of your head and onto the paper, can work wonders. As I mentioned earlier, sometimes your fears just want to be acknowledged. Writing them down is a form of acknowledgement.
Now that you’ve written out your fears, you are ready to symbolically surrender them. If it works with your belief system, you might set the intention to surrender your fears to the Universe or to a deity. The idea here is that you no longer need to be energetically responsible for tending to those fears. You are turning them over to a higher power. You are releasing. You are surrendering.
There is no right or wrong way to engage in this symbolic surrender, so do so in whatever way speaks to you. I have tried three different methods, and found all of them to be useful. The first and simplest method is to add a written affirmation of surrender at the bottom of your fear dump, such as: I release acknowledge these fears and release them to the Universe. I am no longer energetically bound by these fears as they are surrendered to the cosmos. It is also helpful to recite your affirmation out loud once you have written it down.
The second method is to create what Julia Cameron calls a “God Jar.” If the word god doesn’t resonate with you, you could interchange it with whatever framework speaks to you. Find a mason jar or other container. Label it “God Jar.” Then return to your written fears, cutting the paper up so that each fear is on one slip. Put each slip into the jar, and let this be a symbolic representation of turning your fears over to God. A bonus of creating a God Jar to is that you can keep it somewhere handy and surrender any new fears that crop up in the future.
The third method I’ve used is good old fashioned fire. Take your list of fears and burn it. Set the intention that as you burn this list, you are surrendering these fears back to the primal forces of the universe.
Keep in mind that Fear Dumping can be really liberating, but it doesn’t always eradicate your fears right away. Any creative person will tell you that fear is a constant companion. It’s not realistic to try to be fearless. Instead, your energy is better spent on acknowledging fear and affirming that you will not be its prisoner. Remember that you don’t work for fear – fear works for you. And since you are the boss, you can choose to surrender fear as often as necessary.