Fear is a subject that needs no introduction, as we could all list our fears with consummate ease ! But fear does not have to be specific. Fear of the unknown, although illogical and pointless, features strongly in the human psyche.
We know that debilitating, stomach churning feeling, when we are visited by fear. We talk about being gripped by fear. Common headings under which fears arise include : financial security, career, health, concern for loved ones, and relationships. In view of it’s potentially paralyzing affect it is not a place where we want to stay.
Because fear is to be found behind every negative emotion we need a mental tool kit for processing it, so that we can move to a happier more empowering place.
So apart from those situations where fear arises to protect us from some immediate threat to our physical or mental wellbeing , when fear arises consider the following response :
1. Name the fear. If you are going to deal with a particular fear, you must first of all be aware of it’s presence. If you feel stuck and don’t know why, the chances are that you have an unacknowledged fear.
2. Embrace the fear, and allow it to be. This may seem counter intuitive, but pushing it away, denying it’s presence only turns it into a hidden enemy that influences your behavior and decision making in destructive ways. But more than that, sitting with the feeling will reveal hidden insights and will make you stronger, less fearful in time and more accepting of ‘fear itself’.
3. Keep your distance. In fully acknowledging the presence of a fear it is important to see yourself as different from it, to stay detached, so that you can be clear thinking in how you deal with it.
4. Reflect on the origins of the fear. By origins I don’t mean the immediate trigger event, which is usually obvious e.g. fear of poverty associated with a sudden job loss, but the conditioning from our formative years or life experience that causes this particular trigger button to be pressed. The point here is that your responses are more influenced by conditioning than you think. Knowing this positions you to choose a different response, one that will move you forward. Going back to the example, not everybody stays stuck in fear when confronted with job loss – some will look for opportunities in the ‘crisis’.
5. Make fear free decisions. Fear based decisions tend to be bad decisions. If you are in the grip of fear your perspective may be off balance and it is best to defer major decisions. Also, you will tend to attract what you focus on – so a focus on a particular fear can result in attracting the very thing you fear.
6. Take one day at a time. Staying focused in the present, your only point of power, is by far the best strategy for dealing with fear. Plan for the future but stay focused in the present, do what you can do and park the rest.
7. Be goal focused. If you feel fearful switch your focus to your goals. Dig deep for the courage to move yourself forward, even if the steps are small initially – the philosophy of ‘ feel the fear and do it anyway’. Focusing on the positive leaves no room for the negative.
8. Change your perspective, when confronted by fear. Reframe how you perceive the situation and look for possible opportunities.
9. Real world test. You know that most of what we worry about never happens or if it does it is never as bad as we anticipated. Even if your worst fears are realized you will find a way to deal with them, but that’s for later. It might help to reflect on what you could do in a worst case scenario – a useful tool for taking the power out of fears. Beware of any tendency you may have to feed the fear by constantly replaying it in your mind or dreaming up more downside scenarios.
10. Avoid promoters of fear, either because they are consumed by fear themselves or have a vested interest in promoting fear for their own selfish ends. On the contrary share your fears with those who can can help you objectively evaluate them.
It is normal to be visited by fear, but you don’t want to encourage the visitor to take up permanent residence !
Note : For extreme examples of where unchallenged/unexamined fear can lead to, all we have to do is look at what we put under the heading of ‘ mans inhumanity to man ‘. The perpetrators of inhumane acts and those who collaborate with them are often acting out their fears, typically flamed by leaders with self serving motivations. They externalize their insecurities onto the false safe ground of hatred of others, generating even more fear. Therefore, as a society we have a large legacy of fear of which we need to be aware.