#314 Got a Fear?

Name It to Tame It Harry Potter Style

In our last +1, we had fun with Harry Potter getting our RIDDIKULUS!” on to deal with our shape-shifting fears that show up in the form of boggarts.

Continuing our wizard theme, let’s look at another way J.K. Rowling tells us to deal with our fear.

Remember how everyone refers to Voldemort as “You-Know-Who” or “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named”?

And, do you remember who DIDN’T hesitate to call Voldemort by his real name?

The most powerful wizard of them all: Dumbledore.

Here’s a great scene from the first book:

“‘Sir?’ said Harry. ‘I’ve been thinking . . . Sir — even if the Stone’s gone. Vol-, I mean, You- Know-Who —’

‘Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.’”

So… Why must we “Always use the proper name for things”?

Because “Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”

That’s some solid wisdom echoed across all kinds of domains.

I’m immediately reminded of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s epic line from his first inauguration where he told us: “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is… fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

(btw: Get some goosebumps watching/listening to a 30-second clip of FDR giving that speech here.)

Then I think of the scientific wisdom on the power of properly labeling our emotions. Something amazing happens when we cultivate the presence and self-mastery to step back from the looping rumination and label our emotional state: “Fear.” Or, “Anxiety.” Or, “Self-doubt.” Or, “Anger.” Or, “Insert-Your-Negative-Emotional-State-Here.”

You know what happens?

In Your Brain at Work we talked about the fact that simply labeling an emotion (not going on an extended archeological dig to try to uncover the ultimate root of your emotion!), moves you from your limbic system to your prefrontal cortex — which, especially when dealing with hot emotions, tends to be a very good thing.

As Dan Siegel says, we want to “Name It to Tame It.”

Try it! Don’t avoid the emotional pain you may feel today. Name it. Tame it.

And, finally, I’m reminded of James Stockdale. In our +1 on The Stockdale Paradox we talk about the importance of simultaneously holding an unbreakable faith in our ultimate success AND a willingness to confront the brutal facts of reality.

In other words, we need to name our fears.

So… Today’s +1.

Do you have any “You-Know-Who” things that need to be named in your life? Let’s embrace reality. Name it. Tame it.

The only reason you’d want to ignore any given reality is because you might have the mistaken belief that you can’t handle it.


Have intense trust (aka confidence!) that you’ve got what it takes to meet any and all challenges life throws at you.

Because, YOU DO.

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