The following is a sample from Day 2 of the Goodbye Butterflies 7-Day Stage Fright Solution online training course. Be sure to check out both the topic on this page, The Problem, and the one on the next, The Answer.

—Dr. Fish

Downward Arrow Exercise

The Downward Arrow exercise can reveal true threats lurking underneath the surface worries of stage fright and speech fright. While the surfaces worries can often seem trivial. The true threats and deep dangers related to them seldom are.

With the Downward Arrow, you start with a surface worry and then answer a series of “If that happened, then what?” questions to reveal the deep danger lurking below.


As an example, let’s consider a singer-songwriter I worked with whose stage fright centered around worry about his voice cracking. We’ll call him Ashton.

When I tried the downward arrow exercise with him, it went something like this:

  • “If your voice did crack, then what?”
    • “The audience wouldn’t take me seriously.”
  • “If that happened, then what?”
    • “They wouldn’t come back to hear me again.”
  • “If that happened, then what?”
    • “I’d have to give up trying to be a professional musician.”
  • “If that happened, then what?”
    • “I’d lose an identity that’s central to who I am.”

That’s Why

And that’s why Ashton got nervous. That was the true threat for him. It wasn’t really about his voice cracking. It was the deep danger of losing something important that was represented by his surface-level worry. So, his anxiety wasn’t trivial or silly at all. It was very real.

Your Turn

You can try the Downward Arrow technique yourself to reveal the true threat and deep danger lurking under a surface worry associated with your stage or speech fright.

All you need to do is think about a specific worry you had when your recently performed or spoke in public. (It;’s OK if it seems inconsequential or even silly.)

Enter that as your surface-level worry in Level I as the starting place to then answer a series of “If that happened, then what.” questions to drill down to the threat or danger that’s hidden beneath your surface worry.

[ninja_form id=14]