We tend to think of fear as something to avoid. Walking alone in a dark forest? No thank you. Riding shotgun in a race car going 250 km/hour? We'll leave that to the experts.
Yet, the thing about fear is that while it can be something designed to alert us to impending danger, it is also opportunistic. When humans confront something scary, is it often times also an opportunity for growth.
“The problem, as we all know too well, is that running away from the future doesn't make it go away. To combat this societal fear, Kecmanovic and her team have focused their work around a central question: How can people face their future in order to improve it?”
In her practice, Kecmanovic has introduce a type of therapy called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which helps patients become more comfortable with feelings, memories, thoughts, and physical sensations that previously made them queasy. Instead of eliminating difficult feelings, ACT therapy invites people to be open to unpleasant feelings and thoughts, learning how not to overreact or avoid them.
“We ask patients to be mindful of negative feelings," she explained. "How does it make them feel in their body? Is their stomach clenched, heart pounding or throat going dry?"
With Kecmanovic, patients learn to sit with these physical expressions of anxiety without placing judgment on them. The more patients sit with their anxiety, the more comfortable they become.
In the end, patients learn that embracing this initial anxiety is both safe and tolerable. For many, ACT is not just a psychological tool, but a badge of bravery to wear into their next adventure — and it's accessible to you, too.