As I walked into the personal growth workshop, the facilitators asked me what I hoped to gain from the weekend. I knew that answer. I desperately wanted to release my fear.

I was afraid of what other people might think, what other people might do, conflict, losing relationships, being different, making a fool of myself. I had been betrayed many times. I was afraid to trust. Most of all, I was afraid of my fear.

As the workshop began, the facilitators asked us to make four commitments: don't chew gum, don't interrupt, be on time, and do whatever we were told.

I had no problem with the first three requests. I never chewed gum, I didn't often speak in front of strangers, and being punctual mattered.

However, I had a problem with the last request-doing whatever we were told. History had taught me that humans had ordered other humans to rape, pillage, steal, and kill.

I was conflicted. I didn't want to agree. On the other hand, I wanted to learn how to release my fear, and I was afraid of being different and losing the workshop I had paid to attend. Reluctantly, I said yes.

Things I Have Feared

  • What other people may think

  • What other people may do

  • Trusting other people

  • Trusting a power greater than myself

  • Conflict

  • What might happen in the future

  • Not being perfect (inadequacy)

  • Losing relationships

  • Losing money

  • Losing possessions

  • Being different

  • Being alone

  • Being overly dependent on others

  • The void (losing all familiar bearings)

  • The unknown (what we don't understand)

  • Bullies

  • Making a fool of myself

  • Spending my last days in a nursing home

  • Heights

  • Physical death

  • Living fully

  • Taking risks

  • Non-action (sitting still and doing nothing)

  • Success (fully using my unique skills and powers)

  • Fear

My decision nagged me all week as I waited for the second workshop to begin. I knew the facilitators would demand the same four commitments. Was I going to cave in again and agree? I decided I was not. I was terrified.

Sleepless night after sleepless night, I tossed and turned. What would the facilitators say? How would the other participants act? How should I prepare? My what-ifs continued to torment me.

Fortunately, I had had several years in NarAnon, a support group for families and friends of addicts. NarAnon had taught me I couldn't fix anyone else. I could only fix myself. NarAnon taught that I needed the help of a Power greater than myself. It suggested "Let go and let God."

I didn't much like that word "God." It always made me think of an old man with a long white beard, sitting on a thundercloud with a lightening bolt in his hand, waiting to strike me dead if I didn't do some unclear thing he wanted me to do. I had always considered myself an intellectual agnostic.

I did like the words "Power greater than myself" better than the word "God." However, I had to deal with my terror somehow, I couldn't do it by myself, and I didn't have time to engage in the niceties of semantics.

Tears streaming down my face, I threw myself to my knees on the living room floor and pleaded, "God help me!"

Suddenly, a magnificent calm flooded my body. Together, I knew we could handle it.

The second workshop began. Again, the facilitators asked us to make the four commitments. I refused to agree to do whatever I was told.

The room turned surly. The facilitators said the workshop could not continue until every one agreed. Ultimately, they walked out, leaving me alone with a furious group of participants.

Bill had taken time off from work to attend the workshop. Jane was paying for a babysitter so that she could attend. Raymond slammed his fist on the table. Mary screamed in my face. John called me an uncooperative bitch. I felt nothing but compassion and love.

The facilitators returned and asked me to leave the workshop. It no longer mattered. I was elated. I had received exactly what I had wanted-release of my fear.

The workshop experience taught me some valuable consciousness lessons. What happened during this experience that helped me transform terror to power?

First, I noticed both my external and internal worlds. Externally, I was dealing with facilitators who demanded I adhere to their rules. I was also dealing with other participants who would become angry if I refused to agree. Internally, I couldn't sleep, my muscles were taut, and my body was trembling. But simply being aware of my external and internal worlds wasn't enough. I had to make a conscious choice to detach emotionally from the facilitators' control issues and the participants' anger and not allow myself to get sucked into their issues. I had my own terror to deal with and that was enough. By making a conscious choice to ask a "Higher Power" for help, I brought my mind back to the present moment and to what I needed to fix in myself. I simply chose to trust a Power greater than myself to help me through, not other imperfect human beings.

At first, I was focused on my external world and what others might do sometime in the future. By focusing on others and the future, I was giving my own present personal power away. As soon as I brought my mind back to the present moment and started focusing on what I could do here and now, I took my own personal power back. By taking my own personal power back and choosing to ask for help from a Power greater than myself, my fear disappeared.

In order to figure out my next action step, I had to ask myself the right questions: What do I think? What do I feel? What do I need? How can I get what I need without hurting others?

In the workshop situation, I was conflicted. I was thinking about the future and what the facilitators and other participants might do. I was feeling afraid. I needed help in releasing my fear, but didn't want to ask for it, particularly from "God." Yet, when I finally asked for help, I immediately got what I needed-and without hurting others.

Benefits of Releasing Fear

  1. Freedom to live from my own inner voice.

  2. Passion for using my uniqueness to make a difference

  3. Living full out

  4. Ability to bring about win/win solutions

  5. Power to help others by helping myself

  6. Integrity. (Courage to speak my truth)

  7. Creativity

  8. Inner peace in the midst of external turmoil

  9. Awareness and creative problem-solving

  10. Mastermind ability

  11. Synchronicities. The support of the entire universe. It is there to help me if I allow it.

Interestingly, by saying no, I also helped the other participants. They had been focused on what I was saying and doing. They were afraid they would lose valuable time and money. Some exploded in rage. All were trying to control and manipulate me. A friend later told me that they spent the weekend looking at their conduct toward me.

About the Author:

Janet Smith Warfield is a retired attorney, author, publisher, grandmother, mediator, and poet. She graduated from Swarthmore College and cum laude from Rutgers School of Law, Camden, practicing law in the State of New Jersey for 22 years. Her book Shift: Change Your Words, Change Your World won the 2008 Next Generation Indie Book Award for Best New Age Non-Fiction. Her website,, won the 2008 Coalition of Visionary Resources Best Website Award. Janet currently lives in Boquete, Panama.

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