It’s so primal. It always seems so hard to overcome.
It can be crippling, paralyzing. Especially when it comes to situations where we “shouldn’t be afraid”, yet we are.
And you can be so panic stricken sometimes, that you feel like you’re going to die.
For some it’s speaking in front of a group of 200 people.
For others, it’s shutting down when that attractive person comes around and you can’t be yourself, can hardly speak.
Or accepting that job promotion because it’ll bring extra money, but also extra responsibility that you don’t think you can handle.
Incessant thoughts like “I’m not good enough” arise, or “I just can’t do this there’s no way.”
You see, fear itself isn’t bad, it is a warning sign in some cases.
Like when a car is coming at you, and fear propels you into action. This type of fear, is a rational fear. This is a good thing.
But you see, most fears that we struggle with aren’t rational fears at all. They are irrational fears. They are self-limiting.
So why do we even have irrational fears?
Fears of this sort usually come down to having some sort of highly emotional or traumatic experience (or set of experiences) in a given situation, which puts the fear in place deep into our emotional brain (amygdala).
Then in order to avoid the fear, we avoid our fear by generating self-created defense thought patterns and behaviors. It can happen in an instant, or it can happen due to several events that occur.
Often our most irrational fears form in childhood, only to continue to be reinforced throughout adolescence and into adulthood.
During this time our belief systems take hold, and though the fear response is mainly stored in the amygdala or the “emotional brain”, the cerebral cortex holds the “reasons why” we are afraid, and keeps the story of fear in check.
So how do we overcome these fears? Is there an easy way or will it always be difficult?
Well like I’ve said in the title of this article, it isn’t about the fear itself.
It’s about the story we’ve created around the fear, and lack of action towards what we want, instead of away from what we don’t.
In fact, I’d say it’s about having “excess fear” instead of fear at all.
Let me give you an example.
I’m a performer – a singer/songwriter – it’s a serious hobby of mine. I understand that one of the most crippling fears, is the fear of public speaking.
In fact, many people rank it over dying as number 1! Seems crazy, but fear isn’t always rational. But I’ve never really been afraid of public speaking.
Do I have some fear and nervousness, sure I do! But it never has stopped me really.
In fact, it’s as if part of the preparation of getting on stage is that fear and nervousness.
So clearly I have some fear, but I don’t have excess fear which stops me from acting.
Do you know what Navy SEALs trainees have to do, in order to graduate to become a full-fledged SEAL?
They have to overcome the completely natural, supposedly hard-wired FEAR OF DROWNING. That’s right.
They have to stay in a pool for 20 minutes with a tank of air, without surfacing while SEAL instructor takes away their air regulator, hold the trainees down, and tie the SCUBA air tubes in knots.
This goes on for 20 minutes, and the trainee CANNOT surface. If they surface they fail the test. Most don’t pass the first time, and most have to take it 3 times before they can do.
Many drop out, but some are able to overcome this completely rational fear.
I seriously ask you to refute that you cannot overcome an irrational fear after reading the above.
There’s no reason you can’t figure out how to gain self confidence in any area of life, if these guys can overcome the completely rational fear of drowning..
The primary problem with overcoming fear is actually lack of action, whether in physical form or in thought form.
So now that’s in place, what do we do to overcome an irrational fear? Hold ourselves underwater for 20 minutes? Well it doesn’t quite work that way.
Here’s what you can do:
This is the tried and true old method.
If you can just embrace the fear, not fight it and act in spite of it, you’ll find out just how not bad the fear really is.
It’s being paralyzed by the fear, usually due to resistance to it that keeps you stuck doing, or not doing, the same thing over and over again.
2) Reprogram The Beliefs In Your Brain
Because experiences occurred that programmed your brain into having irrational fears, that same mechanism, what we now know as Neuroplasticity, can also be used to deprogram the fear, and put a new pattern in place.
I also have used a technique that I call “fear flushing” which involves a form of visualization to remove excess fear, on the spot, so you can move into new action.
3) Challenge The Negative Thoughts
This comes from cognitive behavioral therapy, and it’s called thought challenging.
Whenever you catch yourself caught up in fear, which often could be some form of anxiety or depression, you intervene into the stream of negative thoughts that are occurring.
You do this by making a statement to yourself like “STOP! These negative thoughts aren’t helping me at all, and actually generating the condition I’m in.
So I let them go, and learn to think differently.” Of course, you have to BE AWARE to begin with that you are having these thoughts, and that these thoughts are not the truth, just beliefs, and bad ones at that. Which brings us to…
4) Meditation Practice
Actually in order to challenge negative thoughts, or reprogram your brain, you’ve got to be aware of the thoughts that are creating the fear.
Some say you can learn to stop thinking with meditation, but my experience is that you learn to let the thoughts go, because you can’t shut off your mind, because it’s designed to think.
What you need to do is change your relationship with your mind and thoughts and this is where meditation practice comes in.
Meditation is the best way I’ve ever encountered to increase self-awareness. Being aware is always the starting point.
So there you have it, some great ideas to put into practice so you overcome any fear. You could design your life in a completely different way now. Get going, time’s a wasting.