Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Gauging the "Fear Gauge"

A few months ago, I popped open the Wall Street Journal and came across an article entitled "Is 'Fear Gauge' Inaptly Named?" (18 March 2010). I'm not an economist and I don't follow stocks and bonds BUT I was struck that a gauge by this name actually existed in the world. (For those of you out there that follow the markets, the article argued that while "the stock market's fear gauge hit its lowest point in nearly two years, but that doesn't necessarily mean investors have ditched their concerns about unemployment, government debt, home foreclosures and everything else that could move the market.")

From what I could gather, the "Fear Gauge" (AKA as the Chicago Board Option Exchange Volatility Index) shows the market's expectation of a 30-day volatility. The volatility is meant to be forward learning and is calculated from both calls and puts; it is a widely used measure of market risk.

I'm not really sure what that all means but I was happy to learn about this term and wondered if it couldn't be applied to the way we live our own lives. I think that sometimes when we gaze past the present and future cast, we invite fear to tag along because we start "what-ifing" out the wazoo and worry ourselves silly about the unknown. And, if we're frightened or if we're vibrating at a low frequency when we set out to do this, we only cast a shadow on everything that has yet to come.

I don't know about you but that doesn't sound like a good use of energy. How to get around this? First, you must get yourself into a good feeling place where you can actually smile at fear and blow it out of your space. I know! Easier said than done. But what is fear anyway? I think there are a few types (and certainly this should not be read as a final treatise on fear!):

1. You sense immediate danger. Your flight or fight response has kicked in; you are not sure you're going to survive what finds you next.

2. Ego trappings and illusions. You feel fear because you are choosing to believe something or someone other than your own internal guidance system.

3. You are disempowered. You sense that your life is out of control and you no longer believe you have control over your life.

4. Fill in the blank! Lots of reasons one feels fear. What's your reason? Is it that you're not understanding something? Is it that you're afraid you're about to lose something or someone precious to you?

My point is that by allowing fear to roam freely in your life, you can actually work against owning the life which was meant just for you. Bad fear! BAD! In other words, fear is the bully on the playground whose mere presence has you running for the bathroom!

But at some point, fear needs to be confronted and transformed. Let's take an example of what this might look like.

Let's say that you've realized your job is not for you -- it's Azkaban on crack. There are Dementors everywhere and many of your colleagues either have a poopy diaper or look *really* glazed over. You're feeling miserable and recognize the need for change but what to do and how to break on through to greener pastures?

All shades of trickiness, right? And this is just the right environment to welcome in fear because you begin to lose confidence in yourself and in your own abilities. You think, "Hm. The economy is pretty bad right now. I hear people/companies aren't hiring. My parents would kill me if I changed gigs. How would I pay my bills? What would people think? Have I failed? What's wrong with me?" Ad infinitum. Ad nauseum.

And, yet, through all of this, there is a little voice inside you saying: "Wait! Stop! I have guidance for you! This is really good info. You want to hear this! Do I need a microphone? Can you hear me? Hello? Is anybody there?" But the fear and the anxiety and the self-doubt have worked up such a cacophony of dismal doomsdayness that you drown out the voice that always knows what to do and where to direct you.

Don't get me wrong. This stuff ain't easy. It's tough and takes a lot of patience and courage BUT it can be done. You just have to slow down, take a deep breath and go within. You can do this through prayer, meditation, dance, undertaking some sort of rote activity...anything that shuts off the left side of your brain. You can ask for guidance in your dreams. You can write down a question with your dominant hand and write the response with your less dominant hand and see what you get. There are a ton of possibilities. You can adopt a mantra and repeat it over and over again. Whatever you do, just be patient with the process and trust yourself to know what's right for you and how to get on with it. Be gentle with yourself but shake the fears away. Amazing magic will happen! Promise.


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Eric said...

Interesting post. Here's a a little more food for thought along those same lines. The culture of pain http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0520082761/alamutcom

Eric K