It was in the late eighties, and I was sitting at my CEO’s desk in the office of my company Klassik in Iceland overlooking the beautiful Reykjavik Bay. By then I had been an entrepreneur for well over a decade. Like most entrepreneurs, I had worked long and hard to build my successful business in the beauty and fashion industry. Hard work is a highly valued virtue in my Icelandic Protestant culture, so I was always on the go, go, go, always focusing on producing, producing, producing. I had become a slave to my work. I had become a workaholic, acting out recognisable fear patterns without realizing it.
When Fear Patterns Show Up
On that particular day, I remember sitting very still while looking out the window toward the Atlantic Ocean and reflecting deeply on what had recently been revealed to me about myself. I had been identified as having the fear patterns of Impatience and Martyrdom, both symptoms of workaholism. “What on Earth does that mean, and how did I become like this?” I thought. “I have never noticed this!” Later I found out that that is typical. We are the last ones to become aware of our own blind spots that get activated by stress and throw us into fight-or-flight mode. However, the people around us are usually pretty clear on how this shows up.
As I sat there, I was horrified by this discovery. Also, I realized I didn’t want to be a slave to an unconscious behaviour that was neither productive, flattering, nor kind to my well-being or my environment! I made a conscious choice there and then and committed to taking this beast by the horns, now that it had been named.
I set out to tame it. But little did I know what I was taking on. Impatience and Martyrdom work as a pair and surely are beastly, as are all the other fear patterns.
Turn Fear Patterns Into Personal Power
My mentor, Dr Jose Stevens, referred to these patterns as the 7 Universal Obstacles or “dragons” in his book, Transforming Your Dragons: How to Turn Fear Patterns Into Personal Power. He is not referring to the Chinese dragons that traditionally symbolize potent and auspicious powers, but rather the fierce and combative dragons sitting in front of our own personal, transformational treasure chests spewing fire and defending the gems and riches at all cost.
This was a defining moment in my life, and it set me on the path of healing and wholeness which has become a continuous journey and practice. Discovering my fear patterns literally changed my life, as my commitment to tame and even erase them brought me to America to study with Dr Stevens in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and I become a Certified Trainer in dragon slaying.
The Self-Awareness Toolbox
And here I am, all these years later. My Impatience and martyrdom obstacles still show up. The difference is that now my well-developed self-awareness kicks in and sends me a signal to line up my energy. It impels me to take action to de-fuse and diffuse the unconscious behaviour before I get myself into trouble. I use tricks, tools, and tips from my self-awareness toolbox that help me to ground. Those tools get me back into a calmer and more balanced state of being. From that place, I can consciously choose my response to the situation versus reacting blindly out of fear and inner terror.
Ego Behaviour as Fear Patterns
Our ego behaviour as fear patterns affects all of us in all aspects of our personal and professional lives. Workplaces are filled with fear-based ego behaviour. This behaviour actively diminishes productivity, kills creativity, damages relationships undermines performance, and weakens joy and well-being. In their book, Egonomics: What Makes Ego Our Greatest Asset (or Most Expensive Liability) by David Marcum and Steven Smith, they refer to research claiming that half of business leaders say that ego ( negative fear pattern behaviour), costs companies between 6-15% of their annual revenues. The majority say it negatively impacts performance on a daily or even hourly basis. We have all heard of bosses who are steeped in sabotaging ego behaviour. We have all heard the quote, “People don’t leave jobs, they leave bad bosses.”
Eradicating Fear Patterns
Apart from improving workplace cultures and leadership skills, working toward eradicating fear patterns, in general, is vitally important during these times of great challenge in which we live. The world greatly needs all our voices to share our many perspectives and worldviews. It is imperative that we are not blocked by our fear patterns, but rather that we act from courage and our fullest conscious expression as we take a stand for what we believe in and offer our unique gifts and talents to the world.
But here comes the tricky part. As fear patterns are mostly unconscious behaviour and habits, we are often not aware of them. We are mostly oblivious to how they can play havoc in our lives, the lives of others, and in our workplaces, through harmful and destructive behaviour. Being in the throes of an egoic fear attack saps us of our full energy and personal power, and can prevent us from making a difference through our voices and actions. That is why it is vitally important to be able to recognize, name, tame, and even erase these fear patterns and move through these Obstacles.
The Fear Patterns
By now I trust you are curious enough to want to discover the other fear patterns and start pondering which ones are your biggest adversaries. As I mentioned before, there are 7 fear patterns and most work in pairs:
- Self-Destruction and Greed
- Self-Deprecation and Arrogance
- Martyrdom and Impatience
We usually create a special relationship with one of the obstacles of a pair, as I did with Impatience, and that one becomes our primary obstacle. Our secondary obstacle is usually the other side of the pair. We carry all of them within us, but usually strongly favour acting out our top two favourites, while there are individuals who express even more of them.
Each of the fear patterns or obstacles has its own list of characteristic behaviours. Using my primary fear patterns of Impatience as an example, here are a few ways you can spot people with Impatience:
Typical Impatience behaviour
- Busy stressed out, and always in a hurry
- Restless, irritable, inattentive, distracted
- Intolerant toward others who move, think, and talk more slowly than they do
- Jamming too much into their calendar
- Constantly in future planning and fantasy
- “Not here,” lacking presence
How To Erase Impatient Behaviour
- Slow down and cut your To-Do list in half
- Keep unscheduled space in your calendar
- Waste time every day
- Cultivate being present in every moment
- Practice mindfulness and learn to enjoy silence and solitude
- Learn to follow music, rhythm, and a slower pace
- Enjoy the simple pleasures like smelling the roses
Again, each of the fear patterns or obstacles has its own unique set of practices that will help with the taming and even erasing of that particular fear pattern.
When working one-on-one with leaders, a primary thing we map out are the fear patterns that the leader engages in habitually. How they show up and what might be their negative impact, as well as the wake they unconsciously leave behind, and what can be done about it.
Be The Change
Gandhi’s quote, “Be the Change You Want To See in the World” has been my lightning rod in my own life and when guiding others.
The fear patterns are definitely one of the main areas that need our constant attention and diligent care if we want to tap into the creativity and innovation needed to get us onto a sustainable path globally and elevate humanity. And especially at this time in the history of the US, there is plenty of fear-based, negative ego behaviour on display on a daily basis.
We can’t control other people’s behaviour, but we can muster up the courage to take responsibility for our own. That is a smart thing — and the most powerful thing — to do. That is what wise and conscious leaders do. I believe the world would then be an astonishingly better place. Where respecting and honouring each other would be at the forefront of our chosen values. Where mass uplift and improvement would be felt around the world.
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Rúna Bouius is a former CEO and entrepreneur from Iceland and the founder of the True Power Institute. As a keynote speaker, bestselling author, mentor, and advisor to visionary leaders and progressive entrepreneurs, she is on the vanguard of the new-business-paradigm thinking, creating better workplaces, and developing the emerging leaders. Rúna is a co-author of the bestselling book, “The Successful Mind,” a contributing author to several other books and publishing platforms, and sits on advisory boards. She is a co-founder of several social-impact platforms, including the Conscious Capitalism LA Chapter and Coventina Foundation. She specializes in helping CEOs, and C-Suite leaders accelerate their journey towards greater consciousness and TRUE Power.