The new councilman (we’ll call him John) strutted around City Hall, ordered the janitor and cleaning lady to work faster, and shouted down anyone who dared to express an opinion different from his own. Rumors circulated that he abused his wife. Some people said that she had been hospitalized.

I had been the contract attorney for the City’s in rem tax foreclosures for years. As delinquent properties were foreclosed, resold, and returned to the tax rolls, the City’s coffers increased ten fold over what the City paid me.

As obnoxious as John was, I tried to be polite. After all, he was one of the councilmen who would vote on my contract. However, I received neither politeness nor respect in return. “Why do you care?” he demanded when I suggested a change in the direction of a City street that would ease the traffic flow. “It’s none of your business.”

During his campaign, John had asked me to place his campaign sign in the front yard of my home. I politely declined. I was a non-partisan City contractor. I would not have placed any candidate’s sign on my property. John took my “no” personally. As soon as he was elected, he began attacking both me and my contract.

He proclaimed that the City was paying me far too much money. John would show the City how to cut their budget. He pulled my contract off the Council Agenda three times, asserting he needed more information. The information had been previously supplied. He refused to return my phone calls. He demanded that I appear before Council to defend myself.

I was terrified. I knew how ugly this man could be and how he hated women. Women attorneys were even worse. I felt like an innocent victim being punished for a crime I did not commit.

Would I lose a contract that was a major source of income? Would I have to let my wonderful paralegals go because I could no longer pay their salaries? Would I lose my own home to foreclosure because I could no longer pay my mortgage?

I had a son to support and my own bills to pay. Moreover, I was doing an excellent job in an area of law where few attorneys had my expertise. It was an area of law that John did not understand, nor did he understand the financial ramifications of his actions for the City. However, his ignorance and arrogance had become an unpleasant fact of my life.

Sleepless night after sleepless night, I tossed and turned. What would John do and say at the Council meeting? Would I appear incompetent? Would I make a fool of myself? Would the other Councilmen agree with John? What defenses could I make? How should I prepare? I trembled as my “what ifs” continued to torment me.

Fortunately, I had had several years in NarAnon, a support group for families and friends of addicts. The more I thought about John, the more I realized his behavior was addictive - bullying, lying, belligerent, angry, manipulative. NarAnon had taught me I couldn’t fix the addict. I could only fix myself. I needed the help of a Power greater than myself. I had been taught to “Let go and let God.”

I didn’t much like the word “God.” It always made me think of an old man with a long white beard, sitting on a thundercloud with a lightening bolt in his hand, waiting to strike me dead if I didn’t do some unclear thing he wanted me to do. I had always considered myself an intellectual agnostic. I liked the words “Power greater than myself” better than the word “God.” At least, they were tolerable.

One morning, still trembling in terror, I sat myself down on my living room sofa, consciously brought my mind back to the present moment, and repeated over and over, “Let go and let God.” Suddenly, my trembling stopped. Here I was, safe and sound in my own living room. I could manage this present moment. I suddenly knew that I could manage each and every “future present moment,” one moment at a time. All I had to do was prepare thoroughly, “let go” and let a Power greater than myself support me.

On the day of the Council meeting, I sat in the front row with a big, fat file on my lap, glaring at John. He refused to look at me, his face muscles taut and his hands shaking. While he made a few half-hearted attempts at blustery remarks, the verbal gusts petered out as other councilmen jumped to my defense. John muttered under his breath, then reluctantly stopped talking altogether. When the vote was taken, my contract was unanimously renewed.

Struggling with fear and terror is never fun, but the challenge strengthens us, develops our courage, and allows us to step into our unique, personal power.

I have learned two important words over the years about releasing fear and stepping into my own power. Those words are awareness and choice.

Awareness has two aspects: awareness of my external world and awareness of my internal world.

Awareness of my external world is easy. It is what I have been taught all my life. Awareness of my internal world is harder. It is much easier to blame someone or something “out there” than to look inside myself and take responsibility.

While being aware of my external world may be easy, there are consciousness tools that make it easier. While I am noticing my external world and making discernments about it, it is vital that I detach emotionally from other peoples’ dramas. That includes the media, bullies, arrogant government officials, and “poor me” victims. It is also vital that I not judge people who are imprisoned by their own dramas. I am never right for others. I am always right for myself. I can never fix others. I can only fix myself. Fixing others is not my job. Fixing myself is. By fixing myself, I affect others in positive ways.

While being aware of my internal world may be harder, it is vital to transformation. Is my breath shallow? Is my heart pounding? Are my muscles tense? Am I trembling? While these may be things I don’t like to look at, I can’t release them if I don’t notice they are there.

Again, consciousness tools can help. Where is my mental focus? Is it in the future? Is it on what someone else may think, say or do?

If I’m feeling fear, I can be sure that I’ve allowed my mental focus to stray into the future or on to what someone else may do. By focusing on the future or on what someone else may do, I give my present personal power away.

By bringing my mental focus back to the present moment and focusing on my own next action step, fear disappears. In order to figure out that next action step, I have to ask myself the right questions: What do I think? What do I feel? What do I need? How can I get what I need without hurting others?

We always have choices. At minimum, we can choose to act or not act.

Here are consciousness choices I’ve found useful in releasing fear:

When my fear shows up, I welcome it into my life and give it a little love. It is a wonderful messenger, bringing me information I need to know. All I have to do is figure out the message.

I get clear on what I want, right now in this moment. The present moment is always manageable.

If I notice that my mental focus is in the future, I can keep it there in order to plan and organize, or, if I’m feeling fear, I can bring my mental focus back to the present moment.

I ask myself, “What is my next step?”

When I have time to think, my choices expand from two to three to ten. Which choice is best for both me and others? If the two seem to be in conflict, I figure out what choice is best for me and let the other person figure out what choice is best for him. This could include either working together or going separate ways. It could also include working together in some areas and not in others.

When I have time to mastermind with others, my choices expand from ten to twenty to 100 to infinity. No choice is right or wrong. Some simply lead to less painful and more joyful solutions than others.

© 2009 Janet Smith Warfield All rights reserved

Author's Bio: 

Janet Smith Warfield is a retired attorney, author, publisher, grandmother, mediator, and poet. She graduated from Swarthmore College and cum laude from Rutgers School of Law, Camden, practicing law for 22 years. Her book Shift: Change Your Words, Change Your World won the 2008 Next Generation Indie Book Award for Best New Age Non-Fiction. Her website,, won the 2008 Coalition of Visionary Resources Best Website Award. Janet currently lives in Boquete, Panama.