You know that awful feeling of fear when it’s in your mind, but you also feel it in your gut too. That’s because it’s a natural thing, an instinct programmed into humans to help protect us from danger. This means overcoming fear, although possible, might not always be easy.
Everyone feels fear at some point because it has a purpose, it helps to keep us safe, but at the same time, it can prevent us from doing things we’d like to do. It’s as if it’s controlling us and our actions. Now that’s the kind of fear that you should probably try to overcome.
There’s a difference between the instinct of fear and fear that controls us through our thoughts of what might happen if a particular outcome occurs. If fear is to help us, it should cause us to take some action and not to cause us to freeze or run away.
How Fear Works
When fear is present as a result of an imminent danger it causes both metabolic and organ changes to us. The “fight or flight” mode often kicks in, causing us to either decide to fight the threat or run away from it. This happens with animals too.
In this type of situation, the changes which occur in the body can provide extra strength as adrenalin production increases, as does the breathing and heart rate. While these functions do occur, a study titled The Biology of Fear by Ralph Adolphs of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena found that there is no consensus in the scientific study of fear.
He argued that it is difficult to compare fear in human beings and animals because we don’t really know if animals feel fear. He said that the core components of fear still need to be identified and that it should be recognised as something functional.
Perhaps more interestingly, Francis S. Lee, Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Medicine studied why some people hold onto their fears and others let them go. He found that as we grow, the brain goes through waves of growth and then rearrangement and growth again.
An adolescent under stress or who experiences trauma may remember it more than an adult or child – with heightened plasticity. They learn fear and won’t be able to forget it. This means that in most cases fear is learned while young and is then often carried through life.
The Francis S. Lee study mentioned above is relatively in line with the understanding of how our subconscious works as taught by Law of Attraction practitioners and teachers of using mind powers, such as John Kehoe.
When we have no life experience and are presented with something new, we usually accept it. This is because we have no knowledge of it and aren’t equipped with counter arguments. It then becomes a belief which is then expressed throughout our daily lives, even if the belief has nothing to do with the current situation.
The belief, or in this case fear, becomes deep rooted and a part of who we are. Understanding how the mind (conscious and subconscious) works is the first step to making a change. It’s important to know that there’s no reason why our past should influence our future.
What has been learned can be unlearned. I was extremely fearful of going to the dentist and avoided it for many years. I knew the fear came from my childhood experience of a dentist who would have been better being a torturer rather than someone who’s job was to look after his patient’s teeth!
Eventually I had to visit a dentist when I needed a filling and the pain was so bad it overrode my fear. Luckily, I found one who took time to understand and calm my fears. His approach completely changed me and now going for my six-monthly check-up is no problem. The fear in my head felt real, but really, it was false!
Steps to Overcoming Fear Now
When you feel fear, whether it’s through instinct or from what you’ve learnt, there are a few things you can do to lessen the anxiety very quickly:
1. Stop What You’re doing
If you can change your scenery, go for a walk or withdraw from a situation, it will give you space to allow you to calm down. Any distraction, physical or mental, will help to shift your thoughts. When you’re not thinking about a fear it should be lessened for the time being.
Easier said than done, but it’s a great antidote. As I mentioned above, fear causes changes in the body, such as increased heart-rate, sweating and irregular breathing. These are built-in protectors, but they can cause panic, so by relaxing you’re able to ease these symptoms.
3. Know Yourself
Find out what makes you fearful. When you feel it, write down what triggered it, how it made you feel and if you can, try to understand why. The “why” is important because it usually points to the route to overcoming fear.
4. Face the Fear
Again, this is easier said than done. Most times the fear in the mind turns out to be a lot worse than the reality of facing it. I’ve previously recommended Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers, which explains how you’re going to feel fear because we all do and when you expect it and accept it, then it becomes easier to face and go through it.
Steps to Erase a Fear
The steps above will help to quell the feeling of fear whenever it occurs, but they won’t erase it from your mind. This means every time you’re faced with a similar situation, that old fear will raise its ugly head, so let’s look at ways to help get rid of it completely.
1. Acknowledge the Fear
Fear is a real thing, you feel it, so you can’t just ignore it hoping it will go away. It won’t! When you acknowledge it’s there, you’re not accepting it, you’re admitting it exists but that it’s not a part of you. It might be attached to you at the moment, but it is something separate. Imagine you’re releasing it, letting it go because it doesn’t belong to you.
2. What’s Fearful isn’t the Problem
Whatever it is that causes you to feel fear, is not the real problem, it’s your reaction that creates it. Try to study it as an onlooker, rather than someone who is affected by it. That might sound a little weird, but it’s a way to disassociate from it, yet get to understand it. As you become more familiar with it, the effects can weaken.
3. Work Out Limiting Beliefs
This is similar to the “know yourself” step above. You should work out why you are fearful of something. Spend some time alone contemplating it. Search deep into your past to understand where the fear originated. When you do this, it’s easier to see how a fear planted in the past, probably has no relevance today. While it might have been relevant many years ago, it isn’t now – keep a focus on that reality.
4. Don’t Reinforce Fear
When you say out loud that you’re fearful of something, or even just think it, you’re telling yourself it’s true. Remember, you become what you think about. If you tell yourself that something frightens you, then your subconscious will accept it as so and you’ll continue to get frightened. Find an affirmation to repeat that will re-educate your subconscious. For example, if you fear flying, try something like: “I feel comfortable and relaxed when I fly.”
5. Don’t Beat Yourself Up
It will take time to overcome a fear that’s been ingrained into your mind over a long period. If you’re struggling to beat it, give yourself some slack because it might take somewhere between 30 and 90 days, or even longer, to see any results. Be patient!
Eliminating Fear is Possible
One thing to watch out for is the fear of fear because that’s when you really allow your mind to control you, rather than you control it. Fear is one thing but fearing fear can be debilitating.
Getting to know what’s the cause of your fears, is the first step because you then have something to work on. Affirmations and visualisations can be very helpful as they help to retrain the subconscious mind and change outdated beliefs.
Neither affirmations or visualisations are magic wands that will “hey presto” your fears away. What they will help to do, is to slowly start to cause a shift.
A shift of what’s at the core of the problem is what you’re working at, but you need to spend time working with them every day. It’s the repetition of affirmations and visualisations that eventually create changes within the subconscious.
Built-in fear from our natural instincts are there for a reason. They are there to protect you, so don’t confuse them with those learned from unrelated incidents from the past.
Fear which is more extreme or even obsessive usually needs professional help, but always remember that which has been learned might not be the truth or reality anymore. If that’s the case, perhaps it’s time to begin overcoming fear by teaching yourself some new beliefs.