Commitment, Acceptance, and Autopilot

  • Do you “blackout” and can’t remember what you said while speaking?
  • How do you put the “blackout” feeling into perspective?

You need to accept your anxiety about public speaking.” When I first began my journey with overcoming stage fright, this was the advice I was given. I simply did not understand. I had been fighting and avoiding it for nearly 20 years!

Acceptance is one of the first steps to looking at anxiety in a new way at the workshop. It is learning to “coexist” with fear and strengthening your ability to bear the discomfort while reducing your emotional response to physical sensations of anxiety. In essence, it is learning that anxiety is more about the “fear of the fear” rather than the fear of public speaking or performing.

The April workshop group was yet another remarkable group! They were committed to attending the workshop at all costs: one traveling from Spain, another having a very delayed flight the night before and not using it as a reason to turn around and go back home.

The group was open to applying their new tools: accepting that they may experience distracting anxiety and that they could still function at a high level (autopilot).

Instead of their usual inner struggle of trying to fight against the fear, they began to think along the lines of, “I can be anxious and still speak clearly”.

They embraced the ability to trust their minds while feeling anxious. I told them that previous group members consistently reported a feeling of a “blackout” when they couldn’t recall what they said while speaking. They insisted that they must have sounded “incoherent, rambling, inarticulate”, and many other self-doubts.

The turning point came when it was explained how capable the brain is while experiencing high levels of anxiety, which makes for an analogy of the brain going on “autopilot”. One member started to use the expression “cruise control” to convey the concept as well.

The bottom line is that they learned that they could trust their minds to go on autopilot, that their mind can take over and handle any situation…that they could trust in themselves.