Many of us, when we were children, we had a monster under the bed or in the closet and what is interesting about the monster under the bed (or the monster from the closet) is that although it is imaginary, it also paralyses and completely immobilizes us.
Fear which is probably the most powerful emotion, it immobilizes and paralyses us when we are adults. In a recent study I read, about emotions and how they developed, it clearly states that fear evolved as the first “real emotion” and it is probably the emotion that all others “evolved from”.
Fear is so influential because it takes us back to our older, primitive, reptilian brain. It gets us out of logic and consequential long-term thinking, it gets us out of positive emotion and love and really triggers the fight or flight emotion. Extreme fear or terror takes us completely offline and it essentially turns us into animals.
Before Conquering Fear we Need to Learn Why & How it is Caused in Our Lives
Now what is also interesting to know when conquering fear is that, if fear is felt consistently over time, it actually turns into anxiety. A little bit of fear going throughout your life turns into a low-level anxiety that just runs all the time in the background. Fear and anxiety when they affect your mind, they turn into worry. Worry is what happens when you are in a state of fear or anxiety but you’re still functioning.
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All of these emotions:
- are obviously stressful
- they create distress
- they suppress our immune systems
- they stop our bodies from repairing and building healthy cells.
They really can have a negative impact.
Gavin De Becker: The Gift Of Fear
Fear is a gift – Gavin De Becker
If we didn’t have this strong fear mechanism, we would not have survived in the environment that we evolved in. In these days it has become so powerful of a driving force in our lives that in the modern environment where we don’t need to feel as much fear as we do and we don’t need to pay attention to things that makes us feel fear, like the news and gossip and so forth, it is actually distracting and hurting us.
What is also interesting about fear, is that like most emotions it is triggered in most cases. It’s a powerful emotional response that gets triggered, that allows us to get a jump on danger. So instead of having to see a predator that is about to eat you, to realize that you have to run. Fear alerts you to a potential danger (heightens your attention, your adrenaline, your fight or flight systems) and it gets your ready to go.
When fear is triggered, a really miraculous set of changes happens in the body. This includes:
- the widening of your eyes and the pupils so you can see better
- the widening of your nostrils so you can smell better and inhale air better
- the elevation to your heart rate
- the preparation of your muscles to run
- all of your systems be put on red alert and primed to act
As I mentioned before, another kind of miraculous thing happens. The reptilian brain just takes over. When fear is triggered:
- we lose the ability to think about the future in an accurate way
- we lose the ability to think about possibilities in the future, in a logical way
- we decide and act instantly and unconsciously in a very short-term loss avoiding way
Conquering Fear – How Fear Can be Triggered
We have 2 ways that fear can be triggered:
- When we think about something and in our mind we realize that this is something that could cause us a problem, it would be dangerous or we look at a situation and we interpret it to realize that we are in danger and we need to get away.
- The other way is the neural back-alley. This is a direct connection to the fear button and when certain things happen in our lives, that we interpret them in certain ways. It pushes the alarm bell and we don’t get a chance to think about it. It pushes the alarm bell, we immediately go into fear, we can’t think strategically, we think short-term and we just act to avoid having the problem come-up.
The problem is, that we don’t live in danger anymore. We don’t live in a state of constant danger, where animals or an enemy could attack us and we would need to constantly be on the look-out. We just don’t live in that environment anymore but we are still completely designed for it. It seems that our fear likes to get triggered.
We come wired to feel a certain amount of fear and it’s almost like we’re going to feel it no matter what. News, TV shows, movies, video games etc. all of these trigger fear and we are fascinated by or even attracted to them because that is what we are wired to pay attention to. Here is more about the science of conquering your fears — and living a more courageous life by Carolyn Gregoire on Huffington Post
We need to realize that we don’t live in a real mortal danger anymore, that we live in relatively very safe environments. Even the most dangerous environments that many people live in, in the modern world, are not as dangerous as the environments that we lived in just thousands of years ago. This is evidenced by the great majority of children living to adulthood now, but oppositely most children did not make it to adulthood several generations before in the past.
We don’t have things to be afraid of the way that we used to, but we still feel fear as much as we used to and it is disproportionate. It also turns out that when you think the positive and negative emotions, the negative emotions like fear are twice as motivating as positive emotions like desire.
Fear is twice as motivating and this sets up whats called a cognitive or emotional bias inside of us. This biases are basically when we are programmed to respond to something in one way rather than the other. Because it was so dangerous to evolve in the environment that we evolved in, our fear was very strong because if we didn’t run when we heard the sound, we were eaten or we were killed or if we ate the thing that was poisonous, we died.
We developed a very powerful fear mechanism and this has gone and affected our minds, our cognitive biases. Now the challenge with this is that we can’t win by avoiding or moving away of something we don’t want. We can’t get rich by avoiding taking risk or loosing money.
Conquering Fear – Making Friends With Fear & Few Perspectives to Set The Pace
This might sound a little far-fetched, that you could actually cause your fear to come true, but there really does seem to be something to the idea that our lives turn into the images and the pictures we make or what we focus on.
So, if we fear something we need to realize that focusing on it is just going to probably bring more of it into our lives. The answer to conquering fear is not to try to move away from it but to pay attention to what we are afraid off. It’s learning to manage our fear and work with our fear, to make friends with it. To see it as the gift that it is and then eventually add more and more of the positive emotions that we want.
Different Perspectives to Conquering Fear
Gerry Spence: How to Argue & Win Every Time
My fear affirms that I’m alive. Never I’m more aware I’m alive than when I feel fear – Gerry Spence
Another one is that fear is something that all of us experience through our lives. It is just that some people act when they are feeling fear and some don’t and this is known as courage. What we really mean as courage in most cases is that we would have been too afraid to act if we were feeling the same fear but someone else felt that fear and acted anyway.
There is a study that says that 90% — 95% of things that people fear happening, never come true. Our fear mechanisms about things that we don’t want to have them happen are usually correct 1/10 or 1/20 times. Here is how to master the art of fear for a life of possibility by Akshay Nanavati on TinyBuddha.com
Action Steps to Conquering Fear
What are some actions steps we can take to conquering fear, to make friends with fear and live an integrated life with less fear in order for when fear comes up to actually use it.
STOP looking and listening to the general news. STOP looking at what the world is saying.
Most of us don’t interact with people who kill us, steal from us, rape us or harm us on a day-to-day basis. Most of us if we run into that kind of thing, it’s very rare, but if we watch or listen the general news it is happening constantly and it’s always happening to the wrong person, triggering all of our strongest fears and other negative emotions.
I’m not saying put your head in the sand and don’t look what is going on out in the real world, but for example if in your life someone is murdered every 50 years in average. It’s probably wise to watch the news and read about murder about once every 50 years, because there is almost nothing of value in the general news.
There are specific news of course, if you are looking for media outlets like for example you are watching the stock market and you want information about this or reading a respectful journalist because it is a topic you need to know about. Well that’s fine, but even most of that stuff is a complete waste of time as well in my opinion, so you might want to just stop that.
Build the optimal cortical pause
This is practicing the little pause that happens between cause and effect. It turns out that when something happens and it triggers fear or any emotion for that matter, there is a little gap in between the trigger and the actual emotion. What we can do is we can practice imagining our fear triggered, the thing that we afraid and then relaxing and just pausing for an extra second to allow the wave to wash over us.
Practicing that little pause and extending it over time is very powerful when it comes to conquering fear. You can actually get to the point that almost anything can happen around you and it doesn’t trigger a strong negative emotion or strong fear. Actually in the most situations you are going to find yourself in, in life, if there is an emergency for example you are driving and the steering or the brakes go out on your car or someone breaks into your house.
I mean when something really dangerous occurs, if you can manage your fear a little better, if you can pause a little more, you are going to be able to do something that’s a lot more logical. You are probably going to wind-up better of because in this modern environment over-responding and over-reacting usually makes it worse.
Face your worst fear
We can actually ask, what if the worst possible scenario happens? This is very counterintuitive because for most of us what we do is, we think about the bad thing happening — get very afraid and then try to find out something to do to prevent it.
The counterintuitive thing is to ask, ok what if it happens? Then what? What if something happens and I wind-up broke and I have to move back with my mum? I know I’ve worried about this thing for many years in my life…before finding this solution
What if I get killed? What if I actually die? What if someone close to me is harmed?
These are all obviously the worst possible situations, BUT if you face it, if you stair-it down and ask — then what? What will happen? Then you walk-through what you will do and you start conquering fear. If in-fact this event that you afraid happens, you accept it and work your way through it, something magical happens because you realize that you are going to be OK!
The situation is going to work itself out, people deal with this all over the world every day, we’ve gotten through it for our entire existence as a species and I will make it. Much worse things can happen and I’m going to be OK!
Once you faced it, then a little, kind of mastery comes-over it and you start to realize that this fear is motivating you — you are conquering fear. It’s keeping you alert and if the thing I fear happens it’s going to be OK but I’m no longer going to be driven and controlled by my fear. Here is how to overcome the fear: 7 lessons from the greatest of all time by Phil Drolet on thefeelgoodlifestyle.com
Conquering Fear, Anxiety & Worry – Closing Thoughts
Fear, anxiety & worry control the lives of so many people and it really is a tragedy when that happens because when we are under the influence of fear, we can’t think very clearly, we can’t make decisions, take actions. When we have a constant low-level anxiety it is very toxin on our system and we worry about things not only do we often make them happen actually but we lose those processing cycles of our mind when we could have been learning, we could have been creating value, we could have been innovating.
It is very expensive to get caught-up in these cycles and we don’t live in an environment anymore that we have all these things to fear. We need much less of it to survive now and managing it, making friends with it, experiencing it, learning to conquering fear when we need to is very valuable.