“Fear is real. Fear is success enemy #1. Fear stops people from capitalizing on opportunity; Fear wears down physical vitality. Fear actually makes people sick, causes organic difficulties, shortens life; fear closes your mouth when you want to speak.” Dr. David Schwartz, The Magic of Thinking Big
This is part 1 of the 2-part series on fear.
Are you allowing fear to stop you from going for your dreams and desires?
Perhaps you have a low-grade fear or worry of something going wrong or losing something.
Do you allow fear to dictate your thoughts, feelings and actions?
Would you like to get beyond fear or transcend it but you are not sure how?
Here is a 10-step process that might be useful to get beyond fear:
1. Awareness of Fear and Fearful Situations
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” ― Marie Curie
The first step in your journey through and beyond fear is to become aware of the role of fear in your life. How big is the role of fear in your life? Is it occasional or is it a constant factor as you go through your day?
Does fear show up during certain activities or during certain times of the day? Shine the light of awareness on how fear is showing up in your life and when.
You may attempt to brush off the fears that you have but they seem to persist and affect you in inopportune ways and moments. Unknowingly, you might be resisting the fear and giving it wings and more energy.
The old saying of “what you resist, persists” is very true in the case of your fears. The more you resist the fear, the more it shows up in your life. Instead of resisting fear, acknowledge the presence of fear in your life. Instead of fighting with fear, openly allow yourself to feel and be all right with the fact that you are afraid.
Allow yourself to be the witness in your life by observing the fears that you have from a third party perspective. One way to disconnect with the daily grind and just be a witness is through stillness and meditation. Fear often manifests as thoughts gone out of control and stillness and observation are a great way to shine the light of awareness on fearful thoughts.
“If a fear cannot be articulated, it can’t be conquered.” ― Stephen King
Keep an eye out for your thoughts and label them as fear based or fearful. Labeling your thoughts as fearful or otherwise brings out the auto-thought patterns in plain view of your conscious awareness.
Become aware of the role of fears in your life.
Instead of resisting and fighting fear, acknowledge its presence and label the thoughts and situations as being fearful for you.
2. Is Fear Stopping You From Taking the Big Leap? What are the Types of Fear?
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ -Marianne Williamson
Ask yourself if you are automatically allowing fear to make decisions for you and keeping you stuck in a life of mediocrity. Would you have a much higher quality of life if you were able to move beyond the control and drama created by fear and fearful situations in your life?
Two basic types of fear are Rational and Irrational. Fears that are reasonable and might have a chance of happening are rational fears such as “what if no one buys my e-book.” Fears that have a very little chance of happening or you have no control over such as “what if a meteorite comes and strikes me?” are irrational fears.
There can be many other types of fear:
Fear of failure
Fear of success
Fear of speaking
Fear of not being able to make a living
Fear of rejection
Fear of losing everything
Fear of people and public places
Assess if your fears are blocking your progress and preventing you from taking the big leap or living the life of your dreams.
Are your fears rational or are they irrational and identify the types of fears that you have.
3. Scratching Below the Surface: What is the Basis of Fear?
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” ― Nelson Mandela
If you look beneath the fear, you may collide with uncertainty or other issues that do not appear at the surface.
For example, when you are uncertain of how something works or what next step to take, it may manifest as fear and hesitation. Novelty and breaking the status quo and doing something that you have never done before can also trigger a fear reaction.
The lizard brain theory of fear says that fear is an emotional response, a fight or flight type response that is generated by the tiny amigdala that sits at the root of the brain.
According to Seth Godin:
“The lizard is a physical part of your brain, the pre-historic lump near the brain stem that is responsible for fear and rage and reproductive drive. Why did the chicken cross the road? Because her lizard brain told her to.”
He also explains about the lizard brain:
“Or as Steven Pressfield describes it, the resistance. The resistance is the voice in the back of our head telling us to back off, be careful, go slow, compromise. The resistance is writer’s block and putting jitters and every project that ever shipped late because people couldn’t stay on the same page long enough to get something out the door.The resistance grows in strength as we get closer to shipping, as we get closer to an insight, as we get closer to the truth of what we really want. That’s because the lizard hates change and achievement and risk.”
I think that Godin’s advise to quieting the lizard brain and to ignore it is very important to keep our irrational fears in check.
In the past, during our development, the panic and fear response of flight and the stress chemicals that were released as a result had an important role of protecting us from pre-historic hostilities.
However, most of those fears have gone away in the modern time but the response still remains locked up in our brains awaiting something novel to trigger it and kick into overdrive.
Fear may also be synthesized by a lack of confidence or by having unrealistic expectations. Often assumptions and limiting beliefs and false ideas about someone or something can manifest themselves as fear.
You may be building a big mental picture in your mind of something unpleasant or someone you are unsure about and soon it turns or snowballs into a huge thought monster in your head. Fear is sustained and supported by the mental chatter that goes on automatically in your head. The moment you question the validity of the thinking, you may be able to put the brakes on the process.
The snowball effect of fear, worry, assumptions and unrealistic ideas runs on the engine of perceived truths and not what might be the reality of the matter.
Dr. David Schwartz says:
“It is clear that any negative thought, if fertilized with repeated recall, can develop into a real mind monster, breaking down confidence and paving the way to serious psychological difficulties.”
Dr. Schwartz tells the story of a psychologist friend who would show a picture of a large oil painting with the sun low in the backdrop of a jagged coastline. The painting could be interpreted as a sunrise or as a sunset.
One of his patients who he showed the painting to responded that she saw an impending terrible thunderstorm. She was very used to look at the negative in every situation and suffered from depression.
After several months of having her see the joy and pleasure in her past instead of total disappointment, she began to improve from her mindset of drawing only negative thoughts. She was then given an assignment of writing down three reasons that she was going to be happy every day and showed a great improvement and became much happier and well adjusted.
Dr. Schwartz says:
“You take a big step forward towards conquering fear when you refuse to remember negative, self deprecating thoughts.”
Understand what lies beneath your fears: indecision, lack of confidence or trust issues.
Learn to quiet the lizard brain or the resistance that it brings up.
Become aware of the snowball effect of thoughts and emotions and realize that fear gets compounded and larger when you feed it with more negative and fearful thoughts.
4. What Sustains Fear in the Present? Recognize the Cues or triggers and Submodalities that Sustain Fear
“Your fear is 100% dependent on you for its survival.” ― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free
I learnt from Dr. Richard Bandler, The co-inventor of NLP or Neuro Linguistic Programming, that whenever we are in a state of fear, there is a certain set of feelings, thoughts and actions that are going on that set the stage for the fear to be maintained.
Dr. Bandler from the book, Get the Life You Want:
“We defined thinking in several different ways: thinking in pictures, thinking in words, and thinking in feelings, tastes, and smells. Since then, I’ve taken it a step further by breaking each of those systems down into their various components and qualities. The qualities of images, sounds, and feelings are known as submodalities.”
The set of structures that keep fear alive and kick it into high gear are a certain set of submodalities. For example, you may be thinking of a certain thing and looking in a certain direction and have some physical sensations in your body that are the triggers for the fear and maintain the fear. What does fear feel like in your body and your mind?
Dr. Bandler explains that feelings start somewhere in the body and are always moving in some direction and usually cannot stay still. He explains that fear manifests itself as a feeling or a knot in our gut that might be energy rotating forward or backwards or clockwise or anti-clockwise in our body. By moving the energy faster or slowing it down or by reversing it, or even becoming aware of the submodalities that maintain fear, we may be able to better manage our energy and our feelings.
Habit research from MIT that has shown that habits can be broken up into a trigger or cue, an action and a reward. Another way to understand the fear cycle is to identify the trigger or cue for a fear and actions that feed the fear and the potential reward or the feeling of relief when you allow fear to make you feel safe.
Often a thought or an object like a white board marker or turning the computer on before a public presentation might be the trigger or cue for the fear. The actions you take such as thinking all the worst-case scenarios and rituals that you do may be sustaining the fear.
The reward is what you think might keep you safe from the fear or failure. By altering the cue or understanding the trigger and choosing to respond differently and tying a better outcome or motivation as a reward will help in thwarting the automatic cycle of fear.
Understand the sub modalities and structures that fear might be based on.
Understand the trigger, actions and rewards that may be keeping the fears alive and kicking.
“Mastering others is strength. Mastering oneself makes you fearless.” ― Lao Tzu
5. Get the Proper Perspective of Fear and Fearful Situations and People
“There are two kinds of fears: rational and irrational- or in simpler terms, fears that make sense and fears that don’t.” ― Lemony Snicket
There will always be some fear. It is not realistic to imagine that you can eliminate all fears to be successful or to move forward.
It is more important to place the fear in the right perspective. When we build up the fears in your mind and blow it out of proportions, it appears insurmountable. When you look at fear more realistically, you can construct a different story with it.
“I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” ― Mark Twain
I agree with Twain’s assessment since most of the fears that we build up or imagine seldom happen in our lives. Realizing that the reality factor of the unfounded fears is very low, you can begin to relax into the idea that they will probably never come to pass.
Twain also said:
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.”
When we assume that fear has to be gone, we are playing against an unrealistic expectation that may never be fulfilled.
Fear is often not reality based and hence the popular acronym, Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real.
Here is a formula for fear:
Past false evidence + Future catastrophic thinking +Inaction in the current moment +Snowball effect of thoughts and feelings= FEAR
Fear remains masked and hidden from plain sight creating an aura of mystery and inapproachability.
“Voldemort is playing a very clever game. Declaring himself might have provoked open rebellion. Remaining masked has created confusion, uncertainty, and fear.” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
When you bring it in the open and shine awareness on it and take actions regardless of the fear, it becomes less of an issue.
We need to remember that there will always be fear but do not let the fear from stopping you from moving ahead and becoming successful.
Also, assess the cost of fear and not going through with your dreams or not managing fear in your life:
What is the cost of fear?
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt
Finally to keep fears in perspective, rationalize the fears and see the other end of the spectrum. Reverse the fear scenario completely and ask what of something great will happen or the best-case scenario versus the worst-case scenario.
Place fears in their proper perspective.
Understand that there will always be some fear. The question to ask: Are you allowing fear to stop you from moving ahead?
Now over to you! Please let me know in the comments below about the various techniques that you have used to manage your fears. Stay tuned for the second part of this post that will be published soon!