In the summer of 2015, I went to John Dawson’s public speaking workshop Taking Your Place in the World in Bristol. I was aware that speaking in front of an audience was a problem for me and perhaps obstructing progress in other areas. Speaking while sitting, in a group such as an NVC practice group, had never been a problem. As soon as I stood before an audience, fear and panic rose, my throat constricted and a thin voice poured out an incomprehensible stream of words.
John invited each of us to stand in front with the other participants acting as audience, sitting with blank faces. Three times I stood there, the fear, if anything, getting worse. I was shaking and getting out a few words to describe the experience. I think John may have been getting concerned about me. Towards the end of the second two-minute spell at the front, I half remembered the invitation to listen, not only to my inner critic, but also to my inner ally (an inner voice like a supportive, encouraging friend). If I gave words to the thoughts that arose from this idea, my ally might say something like “I see your belly full of fear and I love your fearless heart”. It’s a valuable lesson from Focusing that, when I’m afraid, it’s only part of me that’s afraid, there are other parts that aren’t.
Some way through my third spell in front of an audience, rooted to the spot and trembling with fear, I had one of those “ah ha!” moments. I realised I was waiting for someone to give me permission to be there. What would it be like to claim the space, to give myself permission? Without planning to, the deed was done. I took leadership of myself. Perhaps this is what NVC trainers mean when they talk about “being in our power”. As I claimed the space, I realised I wasn’t rooted to the spot and was able to move about the space as I spoke to different members of the audience.
Afterwards, I thought (and hoped) this was a breakthrough. And so it proved to be — after that, each time I took time in front of the audience, I was enjoying myself more and more. By the end I was loving it.
Even if life and career don’t involve public speaking, being fearful and unwilling to speak to an audience is likely to be holding us back. If you live in the UK, I recommend John highly (and don’t get paid for doing so).