Facing your fears can be a liberating experience, no really, it can! Fear comes into our lives in many different guises, it’s the natural instinct we are all born with and is primarily designed for survival. This physical and emotional response is to a perceived immediate threat or pain.
Anxiety, which we shouldn’t confuse with fear, is usually a physical and emotional reaction to something perceived as an impending future event.
As helpful as fear can be in certain situations it can also hold us back from exploring and manifesting our destiny. Just let me take a little time explaining what I mean when I use the word destiny, I don’t mean I feel we all have a plan mapped out for us somewhere in the sky, and if we don’t follow that plan our lives become misshapen, meaningless and chaotic.
Destiny in my eyes is constantly evolving; we may have a certain ‘destiny’ mapped out for ourselves one day, and through our own actions change that destiny the next day, dependent on our evolving view and experience of life, destiny is fluid.
Fear for some people, can become a crippling and immobilising ailment that affects all aspects of their lives. For others it can be a little less intense but still have a profound effect on decisions they make in life. Here is a common summary of perceived fears that some of us face on a daily basis. The list is obviously not exhaustive.
Fear of rejection
Fear of commitment
Fear of dentists
Fear of needles
Fear of being alone
Fear of changeFear of flying
Fear of public speaking
Fear of heights
Fear of intimacy
Fear of death
Fear of failure
Fear has influenced my decision making many times in the past, from simple things like not getting up on stage to dance whilst on holiday, for fear of looking stupid or feeling embarrassed. To not speaking out at my place of work, for fear of losing my employment, when I know that morally I should have done so.
Fear is in the mind
I worked in the addiction field for many years, and I can quite confidently say, that a major factor for people with addiction who wished to stop habitually using their drug of choice, was fear. Be it fear of the impending withdrawal symptoms from their opiate dependency, to fear of how their lives would unfold after successfully quitting the one thing that had been their crutch for years.
I had a client who talked about their fear of withdrawal symptoms and going ‘cold turkey’ with such emotion and fearfulness, stating they would do just about anything to avoid entering into this state. After spending a long time discussing this fear it turned out that they had never actually experienced withdrawal symptoms from their opiate dependence first hand.
It was the thought alone, and not the personal experience that was driving their fear. They had been told by their peers how debilitating and painful opiate withdrawal could be, and had built up a picture in their own mind and attached fear to it. This shows that the mind is a powerful player in the fear game.
Physical and emotional reactions
The most common physical reactions to fear include:
Rapid heart rate
Increased blood pressure
Tightening of muscles
Sharpened or redirected senses
Dilation of the pupils (to let in more light)
Emotional reactions to fear are somewhat more personal and everyone reacts differently. Although the physical reactions are pretty much the same for everyone. So why does one person react to fear in a seemingly positive way, for example a base jumper (a person who jumps off tall buildings or structures with a parachute on their back), thriving on their fear inducing situation, while others have a negative reaction to the fear of heights.
Mindset would seem to be the differentiating factor that separates our personal emotional reactions. So how can we change our own mindset regarding fear and alleviate and reduce the negative emotional response?
On the whole negative emotional reactions to fear are learnt behaviour, which means they can be ‘unlearnt’
Positive Benefits of Facing Fear
We could try looking at the positive benefits that may occur should we face our fears. How freeing would it feel to jump out of an aeroplane attached to a parachute if we were afraid of heights?
This is of course the more extreme end of the fear scale, but on the same note, how would it feel to get up in front of a small crowd of people if you had a fear of public speaking? I know from my own practice that conquering a fear that previously made me feel agitated and sick just thinking about it, is a liberating experience.
I remember when going on training courses with many people I had never met before, I used to dislike and feel anxious about the inevitable round of introductions prior to the course starting.
It wasn’t that I had a problem with introducing myself, I have always been fairly confident, but waiting for my turn in this introduction round robin for some reason brought anxiety and stress to my life. I got over this by being the first one to speak up when asked if we could all introduce ourselves. Making this small but important change to the group dynamic alleviated the negative feelings I was experiencing.
Small steps are the key to facing your fears. Gradual and safe exposure is a good way to unlearn your fears. For example, with a fear of public speaking try standing up in front of a couple of people who you trust and know well.
Then move onto making a short speech at a family event, when there are more people around but still safe in the knowledge that you know many of them well. Most fear is rooted in unfamiliarity so making your fear more familiar and becoming more confident as a result can be a method that works for you.
Identifying your fears
Obviously identifying your fears are the first step in altering your emotional reaction to them, and until you have done this you cannot move onto discovering the motivation behind them.
Discussing your fears
Discuss your fears with someone you trust to get an outsider’s perspective on the situation, this can sometimes help by highlighting vital aspects that you may have missed.
Facing your fears
Be kind to yourself and don’t beat yourself up, feel safe in the knowledge that you are not alone in your fears, everyone has them! And I mean everyone, it’s just how people deal with their emotional responses that make the difference, so feel good about the fact you are addressing your fears.
Make a plan
Make a plan about how you will deal with your situation; play out rehearsals in your mind if need be, and have a backup plan.
While contemplating facing your fears try to think of it not so much as “What have I got to lose”? Think of it more along the lines of “What I have I got to win”? Facing your fears can be daunting, it can be scary, but on the flip side it can be exciting, it can bring its own rewards, it can be freeing and it can shape you into a new and more fearless YOU!