Fear is a cruel tyrant and we all know it. It debilitates us and immobilizes us, by restricting our possible responses to life and thus severely limiting it.
It effectively sabotages us from succeeding in reaching a goal or achieving happiness and peace of mind.
Fear can make us reject an opportunity to make a public speech, hold us from applying for that perfect job, keep us back from making that fantastic trip or keep us awake at night worrying what might happen to our loved ones when they are out of our sight. The examples are endless and I don’t need to illustrate further – I’m sure you get the gist of it.
Some people live in constant fear; some others face fear from time to time when it creeps out from some hidden corner and surfaces to haunt their days and nights.
The fact is that fear is a form of feedback about potential or real danger in our environment. Physically it is associated with a part of our brain called the ‘amygdala’ situated at the tip of the temporal lobe.
It is the part of our brain responsible for the flight, fight or freeze response to dangerous situations. No doubt, such instinctive responses were greatly helpful to the survival of our ancestors in the past. Yet as societies grew increasingly more complex and human lifestyles changed radically, this primordial survival instinct started sometimes coming at odds with everyday life situations that do not require such drastic responses.
The effect of that was an embedded sense of fear that manifests itself in many forms such as anxiety, worry, lack of sleep, nervousness and uneasiness, etc.
There are several types of fears we all face in modern life scenarios:
There is fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of loneliness, fear of mediocrity, fear of change and the unknown, fear of getting old, fear of something bad happening, fear of embarrassment, etc. The list is very long.
How do we overcome these fears if at all possible? How can we control them or stir them away? How can we turn fear into love and happiness?
1. Awareness: The biggest and most effective step to overcome fear is being aware of it. First, you have to identify it, recognize it in any situation, name it and spot it out from other emotions. If you can’t identify it, it will pass by unnoticed and play its game without rules. Secondly be aware of subtle inner feelings that give rise to, or accompany, fear. These could be bodily feelings in the chest, throat or abdomen. They can also be non-bodily feelings such as feeling stuck or imprisoned and limiting and self-defeating thoughts.
2. Calm down: The second step that comes after being aware that you are in a state of fear is calming yourself down. Ideally it is someone else that should calm us down since the other person would normally be in a less subjective and emotional state. In the absence of another person we have to remind ourselves to calm down. This is crucial. By being aware that you are in an irrational state of fear, you can observe yourself. The observer in you is important for it helps you observe things more objectively, without judgment, from an almost ‘third-person’ point of view. If we lose that self-awareness, we practically lose everything including our sanity.
3. Burst the irrational bubble – ask analytical and rational questions: The third step to get out of the subjective and irrational state of fear is by asking ourselves rational questions. This is like someone snapping the finger in our face, trying to wake us up from a state of trance. “How real is this fear?”, “How can it help me?”, “Is it justified or is it blown out of proportion?”
4. Meditate regularly: The reason why me and other people writing about personal development, make very frequent reference to meditation (and awareness and mindfulness) is because it is such a fundamental key to mental health, balance and overall well being. It is never enough to stress its importance. Meditating regularly helps us keep in balance, in perspective and in a calm state of mind, hence in the best possible gear to overcome, or better, prevent fear.
5. Stop feeding fear with your energy – break the habit cycle: Fear does not survive on its own – it needs you – specifically it needs your negative energy to grow. By implementing the previous four steps, you are breaking the cycle that forms chronic fear and anxiety. Being aware, calming down, being analytical and meditating regularly together help you form the opposite habit – that of living fearlessly.