Rhonda Britten is an Emmy Award-winner, repeat Oprah guest, and founder of the Fearless Living Institute, an organization dedicated to giving anyone the tools they need to master their emotional fears. She is the author of four national bestsellers including Fearless Living which features her groundbreaking work called the Wheel Technology. During her three seasons on the hit daytime reality drama, Starting Over, Britten was named “America’s Favorite Life Coach” and was dubbed Starting Over’s “Most Valuable Player” by The New York Times. She is a globally recognized expert on the subject of fear and fearlessness.
In This Episode, You Will Learn:
- How your fears (whether you admit you have them or not) are holding you back.
- The one thing you need to overcome your fears.
- What it means to live fearlessly in your everyday life.
- Part 1: How to Gain Life Skills to Live Fearlessly
- Part 2: Overcoming Childhood Trauma to Live Fearlessly
Connect with Rhonda:
- Stretch, Risk, or Die! – free video course
- Fearless Living – bestselling book
- Master Coach Mindset Podcast
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Rhonda, thank you so much for taking some time to hang with us today. I really appreciate it.
Absolutely, my deep pleasure.
Yeah, so today we’re talking all about fear, which I know you like to talk about.
Oh, I do.
And I know there are a lot of people that I come into contact with that would say, “I’m not a fearful person. I don’t live in fear. I’m not paralyzed by fear.” I think we oftentimes think of somebody that’s huddled in a corner, maybe in a fetal position in full fear or something. What would you say to the person who would say, “I don’t have fears. Maybe I have fear of heights or spiders or snakes but I don’t have – I’m not a fearful person.”
I would say, “Congratulations,” first of all. “Congratulations. Wow, that’s amazing.” I would say two things, so I’m going to take it two different ways. First thing I would say is, “I never thought I was either,” because I was never a person that said, “I’m afraid.” I never said I was scared. I don’t remember a day in my life that I said – before I discovered fearless living – where I would say I’m afraid or I’m scared. So, I would say yeah, I totally get it. I’m just like you. I didn’t think I had any fears either. And then I would say, “And so, I’m just going to ask you a series of questions. Do you mind if I just check here to see if you have any fear?”
Oh, jeez. Okay, sure. Sure. Sure.
“Okay, so, do you ever procrastinate?”
“Do you have perfectionism, get overwhelmed, anxious?”
Right, and I can go on. “Overwhelmed?”
Oh, whoa. Yeah, definitely.
“Disappointed?” Right? Right?
So, I usually give people – it’s like a thirty, forty, question quiz depending on where I am.
It sounds like I got 100%. I got an A+.
Well, most people get at least 80%. And when I do it, I mean, there’s literally thirty to forty. I’d be happy to do it if you’d like, but it’s just like procrastination, perfectionism, overwhelmed, comparing, competing, etcetera. And 99% say, “Well, yeah. I do that.” I go, “Well, you don’t procrastinate unless there’s a fear underneath.”
You’re not a perfectionist unless there’s a fear underneath. You don’t get overwhelmed without a fear underneath. You don’t get anxious without a fear underneath. You don’t compete without a fear underneath. You don’t compare without a fear underneath. You don’t judge without a fear underneath. So, all the behaviors that we are not proud of, things that we go, “I’ve got to change that about myself. I hate that I’m so comparing. I just hate it.” Or, “I just hate when I judge others.” We all want to become more evolved and loving and inclusive, and the fact is, is that what we blame ourselves for and beat ourselves up for, are really the symptoms of a deeper fear.
So, people go to perfectionism class or they go to procrastination class or they go to overwhelm class and they’re really just moving the chairs on the Titanic. Because fear doesn’t care how it stops you. It doesn’t care how it stops you. It doesn’t care. It doesn’t care if you procrastinate or you’re a perfectionist. I doesn’t care. So, go fix one and you and both know that we’re old enough to know that if you solve one problem, it seems another problem pops up. Is that not true? Right?
So, these are all just symptoms of fear and most people when they come to me, just like you said David, “Well, I don’t have a lot of fear,” and I go, “That’s fantastic. Awesome! Are you living the life that is meant is for you? Are you living the life your soul intention? Are you living it fully and completely as best you can be to human be?” And usually they’re like, “Well, you know. I don’t know.” Right? And so, people – again, I never walked around saying I’m afraid, but when I started recognizing that all my quote unquote “problems” that I thought were wrong with me…
That I would beat myself up about or put myself down about, were really just symptoms of fear and I was just changing the chairs on the Titanic instead of actually dealing with the source, and that became my life’s mission; is to understand how fear actually plays out in the human reality.
Now what would you say are the most common fears that you deal with as you’re working with clients?
Well, I have something that I created called the “Wheel of Fear” and everybody has a unique Wheel of Fear, and there’s four components of the Wheel of Fear, so everybody’s fear is a little bit different, has a little different taste because our fear was developed by the time we were five years old. So, a lot of people have the fear of failure, the fear of success – these are I want to say the fear responses. People come to me and go, “Yeah, well I have a fear of failure. I have a fear of success. I have a fear of rejection.” Most everybody will admit that one, “Oh, yeah. I hate being rejected,” and I say, “Of course, who does?” Nobody likes being rejected. So, those are the fears that people admit but really deeper fears are the fear of loss, the fear of incompetence, the fear of being unlovable, the fear of being a disappointment. So, there’s deeper fears that are underneath the fears that people will readily admit like fear of failure, fear of success and fear of rejection.
Fear of rejection’s way easier to say than fear of being unloved or unlovable. Like that feels so intimate.
But see, you’re getting to the point, David. Right? So, fear of rejection is not really addressing the core issue, right? It’s not really what’s’ happening. It’s again just a symptom. So, yeah, fear of rejection, we all can be like, “Oh, yeah, who likes to be rejected?” And sales people can be like, “Oh, God, rejection. You have to go through a hundred rejections before you get the sale.” And so, we’re trained – we’re trying to be trained that like, “Oh, you should be okay with rejection. You should be okay with rejection,” and on some level, yes, we all need to be quote unquote “okay” with quote unquote “rejection”, because it’s actually not real.
But unlovable like you’re saying, David, is way like, “What?!” But that rejection is really just again, a symptom of a deeper fear that we’re unlovable, incompetent. That we are, for a general conversation, that we’re not good enough.
Yeah, it seems like all of those fears come back to the root of, “There’s something wrong with me.”
That’s right. That’s right. And there is nothing wrong with you and that is my life’s mission. You just hit my life’s mission. My life’s mission, if I could say one thing to people and have them really get it in their heart and know it like the back of their hand would be, there’s nothing wrong with you. It’s just fear. And I spent most of my life beating myself up and trying to -, “I shouldn’t judge. I shouldn’t do this. I shouldn’t do that. I shouldn’t do that. What’s my problem? Why can’t I be -? Why? Why? Why? What’s my problem? I’m so – ugh.” And again, not that I don’t want to refine those things and I don’t want to grow as a human being, but I just spent so much time and thought I had so many problems and so many character flaws or so many limitations or so many weaknesses or whatever you want to call it, and I think that’s how people walk around. They actually think there’s something wrong with them because they procrastinate. They think there’s something wrong with them because they don’t like to be rejected.
Yeah, part of what’s – it’s just part of the life, part of fear, part of the experience.
Part of the experience and you can move beyond it. That’s my – whole work is fearless living; to move people from fear to freedom. And people just stay on the surface and deal with again, the chairs on the Titanic rather than dealing with what’s really going on.
And once you deal with that – I don’t want to say “deal”, it’s not the correct word because it’s not dealing with it, it’s embracing it. And when you embrace it and understand it, then I have something called the Wheel of Freedom that helps you access all those parts of yourself that you’ve hidden, denied, ignored, pretended weren’t there, afraid that were there, right?
You know, obviously all the conversations that I have with women on our podcast flow through my life experiences, the questions and everything. And so, one of the things you may or may not know about me is that I was a pastor – a Christian pastor for ten years.
And so, one of the things that really – that I’ve unpacked over the last eleven years of not being in full-time ministry, is that so much of the Christian spirituality and church is rooted in, “There’s something wrong with you.”
“You are a sinner and you are in need of God’s grace and Jesus died on a cross,” and all this stuff. And so, the thing that I’m challenged with by that is so many churches, even if it’s subtle, continue to tell you every Sunday, even through the songs, that there’s something wrong with you.
And so, I really just don’t resonate with that anymore and not that I don’t have faith, I do. I would still consider myself a follower of Jesus, and yet, what you talk about in that there’s this freedom of saying, “There’s nothing wrong with you. You are beautiful. You are wonderfully made. Yes, we all have challenges. Yes, we’re all growing.” But I’m finding that that message is so much more liberating for me.
Right? For the people that I coach, for my kids.
Yes, sure. And that we do have this feeling of, “We’re not enough. We have these problems.” But that message of, “You are loved. You are enough. You are okay. We’re growing. We’re changing,” I’ve got to tell you, Rhonda, that stands in direct opposition to everything that I have been taught as part of that faith. Yeah, I mean, do you find that? I don’t know – do you find that faith is a challenge for people that you coach? Or is that not? I don’t know.
Well, I was going to be minister when I was younger. And I actually was in ministerial school, then fearless living came through me. Because I do believe this is a gift from God. I don’t believe that I created this all by myself. I believe that God was answering a deep cry in my heart, right? And I remember the day that I really got it and I was sitting there with one of my clients. I was working with somebody. I wasn’t a coach yet, I was in public relations and I had a client who was a trainer and actually one of the first coaches ever in the world. And he and I are sitting in his office working through some issue and I had what could be called a mystical experience or who knows what you want to call it. But I call it a mystical experience. And basically, to the right of me, right up here, the world opened up – Heaven opened up and a book came out and went like this <ringing sounds> and then shut and went away. And I was like, “What the hell just happened? What the heck just happened? Oh, my gosh. What just happened?”
And what happened is that I was literally downloaded the answer to every question I’d ever asked, and inside that message was inherently, “Oh, Rhonda, I’m giving this to you but you now have to go teach it.” And I was like, “Uh, no. I’m not worthy of this. I can’t do this,” and it took me many months to embrace what was gifted to me. And you know, obviously God keeps working through me and helping me refine the message, etcetera. But I like you, was only – I always had to fix myself, right?
Now this is where I go with God and I do sermons and I love talking about God and fear. The thing is, is that I think that there’s a disconnect for most people, just like you’re talking about. But the disconnect, when even when you’re talking about, “You’re loved. You’re whole. You’re good enough,” all those things. The disconnect is that you still need skills.
Sure, sure. Sure.
Yeah, but most people don’t get that. So, most people walk around, are told that they’re loving, “You’re loved and you’re good and you’re perfect as you are.” And then they don’t actually understand why they’re still having problems or why still things isn’t quite working. Because they’re not going to get the skills they need. So, it’s not that you’re a sinner and don’t get skills. And that you’re loved. You need skills.
So, to become in this world – to show up as God intended, i.e. more loving, more expansive, more inclusive. That just doesn’t happen because you want to be more loving, you actually have to be refined. You’re just like a diamond. That has to be chipped away. And you also have to be added to in the sense of skills. So, I think one of the big things that I find when I go into spiritual homes, i.e. churches, etcetera, is that there’s not enough skill building.
Right? So, people are walking around – I don’t care which church you go to. I don’t care if you go to a new age church that talks about your loving. Or I don’t talk about – or the church that you’re saying, like you’re a sinner. I’ve been to both. I go to both. I get the message of both. But they’re not really – and that I think – one of the benefits. Like actually Joel Osteen, I always say is a little bit more of a coach than a minister. Because he actually will say things. But we all need skills.
And just telling you to be nicer to people isn’t actually a skill. It’s a concept. But I spend most of my time, David, when I coach, doing role plays with people. “How do I tell that to my mother?” “How do I say that to my boss?” “How do I -?” I can tell you all day long to go and be nice. I can tell you all day long to go be loving, but unless you work through that and understand what that really looks like and sounds like…
You are most likely never going to do it in the way that you cry for and you’re still going to beat yourself up because you’re like, “I know I should be more loving. I know I should be more loving.” Right? “I really tried.”
I have a client who’s trying to be more loving. And she has conflict with her mother. And she doesn’t know – I had to teach her, train her and support her in understanding how to hold herself solid in the face of her mother, and be loving at the same time. I don’t think people – people don’t know that. People don’t talk about it. People don’t teach it. I mean, I do, but…
Okay, so this is amazing. So, my wife is a kindergarten teacher. She has embraced a way of doing things called “conscious discipline”…
Ah, I love that.
And it’s a certain way of molding and shaping and helping kids. And so, so much of elementary school teachers have a treasure box. If you perform a certain way, then you get to go visit the treasure box, which is a bunch of dollar store crap. And so, she is just going through – she just finished summer school. She had a student in her class that’s very challenged and the parents are saying, “You can’t go to this movie if you don’t have a good day.” Right? So, it’s all punitive. And my wife, she deconstructs this stuff at home, processing it and she said, “They don’t understand that it’s not about punishment or reward, it’s about the fact that he’s missing skills.”
That’s right. He’s missing skills.
He’s literally missing skills, yeah.
That’s right. That’s right.
He doesn’t know to regulate his emotions.
He doesn’t know how to regulate his body.
And he doesn’t know how to process.
And so, when they hear – the parents hear “counselling”, they think, “Oh, he’s going to have to lay on a couch and deconstruct his five years of life,” but she’s saying, “No, no, no, counselling at that age is literally role play, teaching the child how to interact with his or her peers.”
“How to have a conversation.”
Yeah, so I love what you’re saying. That it’s like, “Okay, you’ve got to be told that you’re loving. You are complete. You are whole. You are beautiful. But at the same time, you’re growing, you’re changing, you need skills.”
Well, how do you express beauty? How do you express love? How do you do that? I remember my niece, she was – he had a – I think her son at the time maybe was three or four, maybe five, really little. And he was holding something really precious. He picked something up on the shelf and she says, “Don’t drop it.” And I said, “How does somebody not drop something? How does somebody not drop something?”
So, you’re not teaching him how to hold it. I said, “Sweetheart, so you need to say, ‘Hold it gently’.” “Hold it with two hands.” You need to tell people how to do something, but instead we go, “Don’t drop it!”
Yeah, the only thing I hear is, “Drop it.”
Exactly, and that’s what our conscious hears too, right? That’s how our brain works. But the point is, what we’re doing in our telling people not to do something, rather than telling them what to do. And so, I spend 99% of my time talking to people about what to do. I don’t talk about what not to do. I never tell somebody not to do something. That’s a waste of time. Instead you want to tell them what to do, so they start doing that replacement. So, they start understanding, “Oh, in this situation, I want to move that glass object from here to here.” It’s not, “Don’t drop it!”
It’s more like, “Okay, hold it with two hands.” “Does it need bubble wrap?” There’s a lot of things to think about in order to get that object safely from the table to the couch. But because – just like your wife is experiencing in kindergarten, parents have never learned it.
So, then they just demand good behavior, right? But they don’t understand that to get somebody from here, like you’re saying, you have to teach them how to regulate their emotions, you have to learn how to speak up, you have to let them understand who they are and what they’re feeling and their feelings are okay.
But most parents don’t have that skill, so your mother is a – excuse me, your wife is working with the mothers of the children and the fathers of the children, right? Or the caretakers of the children, and I’m working with the parents.
Yeah, right. Right, right, right. That’s so good. Okay, so back to fear. When I’m having – whether it’s perfectionism or procrastination or comparison or all of these things that are rooted in, “I’m not enough. I’m feeling less than. Maybe you won’t love me,” or whatever, how does that fear work inside of our brain? Help me understand how that is bouncing around inside of there.
Well, let’s just say a couple of things about how the brain works. Number one, fear – actually let’s just say that fear and the brain and our whole body system – our neurobiology wants to keep us safe. So, that’s the first and foremost thing. We are meant to survive. Now this is how the brain works. The brain doesn’t know the difference between an emotional fear or a physical fear.
It doesn’t know the difference. So, we all can relate to, “Oh, I’m afraid of heights,” and we all get that’s a survival mechanism. We can logically all get that, right? “Oh, that’s scary. That’s a survival mechanism. I don’t want to fall. Okay, got it.” But that same thing in the brain is actually happening on an emotional level. The brain doesn’t know the difference. So, if you haven’t dated for twenty years, if you have weight that you haven’t let go of or released for five, if you have never asked for a raise before, if you’ve never changed jobs before, if you’ve never moved. Anything that’s new or different, that is literally to the brain and body, depending on your abilities, like being on a high building and jumping off.
So, again, people don’t equate them the same. They think, “Oh, well -.” I’ve very rarely come across somebody who was like, “Well, I’m afraid of spiders.” We’ll admit our phobias, i.e. in the heights and spiders and snakes, but what people don’t get is that emotions are the exact same thing. Our risk taking is the exact same thing. That’s how our brain works. So, we are literally meant to survive. We are literally meant to stay safe. So, our body and brain will invent anything it needs to, to get us to stay stuck, safe and small, because that’s the only way it can guarantee our safety. So, another way to think of it is, I have survived this long, right? I have survived this long, so clearly what I’ve done in the past has worked to keep me in survival. Not happy. Not joyous. Fear doesn’t care about those things, that’s not what it’s about. It only cares about survival.
So, you can talk to most people our age, David, and they’re like, “I keep doing the same thing. I keep doing the same thing,” because fears like, “Yes! And you survived. That’s awesome! Look, we did it!”
So, again, fear’s job is not to make you happy, joyful, peaceful, graceful, easy. It’s to help you survive. So, that’s one thing about the brain. The other thing. I was just going to say another thing about the brain is what they’re discovering which is really cool, is that they’re starting to discover that fears are handed down through our DNA.
Yeah, tell me about – I don’t like this. I hate this.
Yes, but this is the thing, you can transcend them. Just because you have a fear that’s been handed down to your DNA, I like to think of it this way; I’ve had fear handed down through my DNA and I am choosing to be the place that it transforms, so that my cells and my DNA shift, right? We are knowing it through epigenetics, right? That word that I can’t pronounce right now. We know that we can change our DNA. We’re highly aware of that now, right? Like every piece of our DNA has six, eight, ten ways that it can transform – that it can show up. So, through our choices, our DNA will show up a certain way. So, just because your fears are handed down through your DNA, does not mean you’re a victim of them. Does not mean you’re a victim of it at all. It’s like, “Oh, okay. I’ve been handed down intimacy issues. Got it. I can look at my history. I can look at my grandma. I can look at my grandpa. I can look at my mother. I can look at my father. I can look at the people that I know are alive in my lifetime. I can go, ‘Makes sense. Makes sense’.” And then people think – they walk around thinking, “I’m not going to be like my mom. I’m not going to be like my dad,” and then they don’t go learn skills and they just try to again, push against it, rather than learn a new way of being. Which by the way, is going to wake them up and make them become more of who they’re meant to be. But that takes effort, right? It takes a willingness. It takes a surrender. It takes all those wonderful qualities of release and letting go and claiming. So, yeah, the brain is in complete alignment with, one, to keep us safe. That’s it’s number one thing. So, if anybody – I always say this, if anybody ever says to you, “You’re never going to fear – work with me and you’ll never fell fear again,” I always say, “When’s the lobotomy? Because that’s not even how we’re wired. That’s not the point.” It’s not about, “I want to get fearless so I never feel fear again,” that’s not the point. The point to get fearless is to start understanding how you work. How do you process your fear? How do you work when you’re feeling fear of rejection, fear of success, fear of failure, fear of incompetence? All those fears come up, what do you think? What do you feel? What do you do? And how can you transform them? And where’s your access point out? Because your access point, David, may be different than my access point. So, that’s the whole point a Wheel of Fear and a Wheel of Freedom. I’m going to show you how you work when you’re triggered. I’m also going to show you how to move out of it, so you can move out of it.
Nice. Nice. Some of listeners will know that I’m – eleven years ago I had kind of a meltdown myself and I had a brain scan through the Amen Clinic.
Oh, yeah. Yes.
And they do a measure of the activity level of your brain. And the two areas – three areas of my brain that they pointed out; one was my basal ganglia was at a plus four. They have a plus four to minus four system; plus four being like super overactive, off the chart. My cingulate was at a plus two and my prefrontal cortex was at a negative two.
So, yeah, I’m in good shape. I’m like, “Okay.”
Not in good shape.
Yeah, they said, “So, when somebody brings you negative information, you probably either want to really amp up or run away; fight or flight, because I’m at a negative four. And I can point to multiple times when I’ve had negative information, I will literally have a jolt of energy flow through my body that’s not a positive jolt. It’s not a like, “Ooh, that felt good.” It is an adrenaline jolt that I didn’t ask for, right? It just “bam” shows up. And obviously that’s a triggering experience and I’ve had to learn how to process those things.
And how to deal with that.
And how to love it.
Well, it provides energy. You know what I mean?
It definitely – because I’m an action taker. So, it motivates me to take action in ways, but you do have to learn many skills. So, one of the things that I want to hear about…
Can I just jump in? Sorry…
Yeah. Yeah, of course.
I just want to say one thing about what you just said and then I’ll definitely want to hear the next thing you’re saying. Is that – my company’s called Fearless Living Institute; FLY – the acronym FLY. And how I really use the acronym FLY – Fearless Living Institute, is frequency, length and intensity. And when you start understanding how you process, the frequency in which you get triggered will decrease. The length it lasts will shorten. And the intensity will minimize.
So, it’s not about, “Oh, my God. I’m never going to get triggered again.” It’s more like, “Oh, I’m getting triggered. Oh, and I know now what to do about it.” So, it’s not about never happening, but it’s about becoming aware of how you work. And then the key is knowing what to do when you are triggered.