Who's afraid of the big bad wolf? We're taught from an early age to be afraid - is that a good or a bad thing? It depends on how you learn to use and apply it in your life I suppose. This has been written to help those of you who find yourselves being crippled by fear to understand it a bit better and in doing so, find some freedom in which to feel better.
What is fear?
Fear is defined as "an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain or harm." So fear is an emotion? Well thats good, because luckily we know where our emotions come from and more importantly, how to change them. Because it doesn't make us feel good, fear understandably gets a bad rap but in fact, its a very positive part of us...theres just been a misunderstanding. Its actually a natural defence mechanism, designed to keep us safe and free from harm but it is also a double edged sword though - a bit of a catch 22.
Where does it come from?
I won't go into the biochemistry of it because thats not my field, but what I do know is that fear is a byproduct of reacting to stimuli, or cause and effect. When we're reactive we aren't really in control of ourselves...we are not "in the moment" and able to make an informed decision based on logic and reasoning. Basically, we're focused on getting the hell out of there and we leave our faculties behind. Sound familiar?
Why am I afraid?
Because you're trying to stay alive! The whole reason for us being here is to evolve, and that would be pretty hard to do if we just wandered around without fear. People would be walking into oncoming traffic, off cliffs, swimming with crocodiles...without fear we would cease to exist. You see, fear used in the right dose and in the right situation is very healthy. If you find yourself walking through the jungle, you probably want a bit of fear flowing through your veins to help kick the fight/flight response into gear when you hear the bushes move.
Why is fear a problem?
In a nutshell? Because we stop living how we want to live, and that sucks. Society in general has evolved to the point where we are inhabiting houses and buildings instead of caves, so we are now more removed from the natural dangers like lions and tigers and bears (did you just say "oh my!" in your head?) This desensitisation has made us feel more safe and secure as a whole, but when we see a spider for instance, we tend to lose the plot and it creates a chain reaction. Our beliefs create our thoughts, our thoughts generate our feelings, or feelings impact on the decisions we make and our decisions ultimately create our behaviour.
In that moment you see a spider, you believe your SURVIVAL has been compromised so you go into flight/fight mode which is reactive. When you're reactive, you lose your FREEDOM to think and act the way you want, and you start flapping your arms and squealing which is never any FUN. You also feel very alone so lose that sense of BELONGING and all of this combined adds up to you feeling you have no POWER or control. All in all, a very disempowering experience.
How do I get rid of it?
I hear from clients all the time "Nick, can you just get rid of this fear please" and my answer is always the same thing - NO. I totally understand why people ask me that - fear can be debilitating to the point where it has such a negative ripple effect throughout a persons life it becomes unbearable, but "getting rid" of the fear isn't the answer. Instead, I teach them about fear and more importantly, how they are using it in the wrong dose and in the wrong situation.
How do I manage it then?
Be afraid of things that you should be afraid of, and not the rest. Ok, so this may be easier said than done, but essentially thats what needs to happen. Imagine if you will....inside each and every one of us is a tank filled with the 'fear' chemical and also a part of us whose sole purpose it is to decide when and where to use that fear. Throughout your life you have learned or been programmed to use fear in addition to the natural use of it so you need to go and work with someone who can help you to unlearn what you don't need, or to change your beliefs.
The best tool I know.
"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom." - Vikor Frankl, Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor
Similarly to Viktor Frankl, I believe that at the intersection of freedom and knowledge lies our power to choose how we live. In my work, I teach people how to step into the space between stimulus and response, therefore proactively managing themselves instead of reactively needing to cope and in turn, become disempowered. Like anything it takes practice, but the more you do it the easier it becomes until one day you don't even have to try and do it, it just happens on auto pilot.
This is something you can't try on your own but I suggest for a faster and more effective measure to go and see a qualified, accredited and experienced clinical hypnotherapist to assist you.
If you do decide to go it alone, here are the 4 keys on managing yourself:
- Be patient - learning takes time. If you can accept that you won't get it straight away then that will help negate any additional negative feelings.
- Be mindful - learn to be "in the moment". Its time to choose how you think and feel but first, you need to be present in order to challenge and change any old, outdated beliefs.
- Be kind - don't beat yourself up. If you find that there are times when you're still reactive, welcome to being a human! You're not perfect so please don't expect too much of yourself.
- Be flexible - adaptability will take you far. Remember that we're here to evolve? Being flexible in the way that you think is the secret to change, so stop being stubborn or "strong minded" as some people mistakenly believe.
So there you have it, a brief but hopefully informative guide to fear. I could go on and on and on about it, but I think thats the main gist of it in a nutshell.