Brett Leboff on how to channel your fear
Author of ‘Staying Sane In The Music Game’ encourages us to avoid negative thoughts and focus on our next creation
Our brains are built in such a way that we are much better at seeing the negative than the positive. Dating back thousands of years, we would have had to live and survive in the wild. Our ability to detect danger would have been the difference between life and death, much more so than nowadays. We have, therefore, grown and developed the ability to spot danger and act on it. This can be seen in our fight or flight response. In this modern age, we do not use that brain function as much now, but it still exists and is a strong mechanism. If we are not using it for survival – and as creative beings – it is not a huge leap to realise that we are probably using that part of the brain, which would normally spot danger, to surmise that we may be in danger, or even create scenarios that may happen in the future that could be dangerous. Can you see how easy it would be to fabricate a dangerous future, full of fantasy and endless possibility, where we are completely doomed and life is not worth living?
It would be the most sensible option to start culling those thoughts. If you catch yourself starting to paint pictures of a future where all is apocalyptic, then I invite you to stop those thoughts and take action to distract the brain using techniques such as checking in with your breathing,
When that negative voice appears and you are taken aback by it, you are stewing in it, you need to take your focus away from it. This can be as easy as going to chop a salad, playing some chords or using the Zone Technique. Whatever it is you choose to do, you must put your eyes on it, fully focus and fully digest every tiny moment, putting all your focus on ‘the other’. Isn’t it remarkable that in any situation, if you choose to put your focus on the other and take the focus off of yourself, the mind will shut the hell up!
THE ZONE TECHNIQUE
- Sit comfortably close your eyes
- Concentrate on one thing only – observe breath or visualise/observe an area of the body
- Do not try and change it, just observe it without doing anything
- Check that your breathing is regular and deep
- Continue this for 10-20 mins
So your negativity comes from protection. Once you are not in danger of death – being attacked by a ferocious animal, in danger of getting mugged or being fought – there is no point wasting your brainpower on worrying about what might happen. The energy you are devoting to fantasising about the future, you could be using for your next great creation.
I was in bed this morning and my alarm went off, and the first thing I thought of was whether a load of invoices that I sent out had been paid. I was starting to worry about what would happen if no one had paid them. Before I went through 30 minutes of fantasising about how my rent would be late, that I wouldn’t have petrol for the car to get to important meetings and a get to a gig, I stopped myself. I meditated, had a coffee and then opened my computer. One of the invoices had been paid and there were messages telling me when I could expect more payments. I saved myself half an hour of worry and a painful waking up, and I could then spend time thinking about future ideas for an artist with whom I am working.
You are an artist putting yourself on the line. You are a risk-taker; you create best when you live on the edge. You do not need to create that edge by worrying about all the things that may happen, but probably won’t. The paradox we live with is that fear is there to stop us getting into danger, although we should not buy into it. But, it can be useful and help us to be productive. There is a very thin line between being engulfed by fear, which will create inertia, using the fear to spot actual, real-life danger and then using the fear to make us productive. Understanding the root of the fear is the trick. Therefore, don’t let fear stop you in your tracks, use the fear to create better, more authentic creations.
That’s why I am insisting that you have a spiritual practice. The fear may get you to meditate, after which you are calmer and your mind is clearer to create. Or the fear may make you more productive, because you worry that you don’t have as much time as you thought before you run out of money and have to get another job. Whatever fear you are experiencing, try and use it rather than be swallowed by it. Fear has a very important function and that is to motivate us to push forward in our lives, creations and to stop us stagnating. But, if you buy into it and believe your fears, it can also cause inertia and that is not the point of the fear. Fear is to be used as a tool to grow and progress. In this new way of looking at it, fear is a great thing to have, it is your ally; the fear keeps us humble and stops complacency. Fear can help to get you off your behind and get going!
As an artist, you should be captivated with exploring the unknown. The bravest artists are the ones who are prepared to explore the unknown without fear. This is truly freeing and the idea that a human can be truly vulnerable, fight their fear and jump headfirst into the unknown is what audiences and supporters of your art get excited about. You should be saying the unsayable, exploring the unknowable and delivering your findings through your instrument, voice and creations back to your fans and potential fans. That is your job; that is the excitement of being an artist.