Overcoming Nervousness

Meeting a woman for the first time (or even the fifth time) can precipitate a crisis of nerves. It is an all too familiar feeling, that hard knot in the stomach, the tightening behind the jaw, the sweating, turning red, stammering, and being at a total loss for words. You panic, freeze up, and it is a major relief to escape from the situation. Another opportunity blown.

Beneath nervousness lurks shattering fear, the stuff of childhood nightmares. Admit the fear. Confront it. You fear making a fool of yourself. You fear messing things up. You fear rejection. You fear ridicule. You fear mocking laughter. You fear what fear itself is doing to you, breaking down your resolve and triggering the reflex to run and hide. Yet, you can grit your teeth and fight back. Know you can be afraid, and still do what needs to be done.

"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."
"Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear"
from Frank Herbert's "DUNE"

Learn to control the physiological manifestations of nervousness. Breathing is the key. In the midst of an attack of nerves, you are taking frequent shallow breaths, hyperventilating, superoxygenating your blood, overloading your system with adrenaline. Discipline your breathing. Inhale deeply, but only at the rate of once per six seconds (this is the rhythm of the pounding surf). Hold breath, count cadence, 1---2---3---4---5---6, breathe, hold, 1---2, exhale. The rhythm becomes automatic, no longer requiring your conscious attention. Now, silently, within yourself, chant a favorite poem, or an appropriate mantra, "I-shall-endure, I-shall-endure...". Your pulse rate slows, the tension drains from you, and the perspiration dries as calm returns.

Wall yourself off from the woman across from you. Need, desperation, and loneliness have plunged you into a state of hyperacute emotional sensitivity. It is as though your feelings were an open wound, and a single touch means agony. Weakness! Vulnerability! Visualize a shield, construct an invisible barrier in your mind between the two of you. You are, as yet, strangers to one another, all possibilities unrealized, and you cannot, will not impinge upon each other, neither physically nor yet in the realm of feelings. You are only just "establishing diplomatic relations". It is a small, safe beginning.

In time, you will learn to harness the motive force, the raw power, the explosive energy that fuels your mind and body's reaction to challenge. Fear can mobilize, rather than paralyze. Think of it as a resource, a reservoir of energy. Harness it. Use it. Learn to fly with it.

Life only demands from you the strength you possess.
Only one feat is possible -- not to have run away.

Dag Hammarskjold