How To Overcome Fear And Benefit From It. Let me start up with a story about fear that will teach you what fear is all about and How To Overcome Fear, Be In Control And Benefit From It
There was once a town where the thing everyone feared the most was getting lost at night in the “Cave of Fear”. No one had ever returned from there, and whenever anyone got lost and ended up there,the last that was heard was a great cry of terror, followed by a few enormous guffaws. The townsfolk lived in terror that one day the monster would leave the cave. So they regularly left gifts and food at the mouth of the cave, and these always soon disappeared.
One day, a young man came to town, and, as he heard about the situation with the cave, he thought that it was unfair. So he decided to enter the cave and confront the monster. The young man asked for some help, but everyone was so afraid that not a single person approached the mouth of the cave with him. He went inside, finding his way with a torch, and calling out to the monster, wanting to talk with it and discuss the situation.
At first, the monster had a good long laugh, and the young man followed the sound of the monster’s voice. But then the monster went quiet, and the young man had to carry on, not knowing in which direction to go.
Finally he arrived at a huge cavern. At the bottom of the cavern he thought he could make out the figure of the monster, and as he approached it, he felt that something hit him hard on his back. This pushed him forward towards a hole in the rock. He couldn’t avoid it, and fell through. Believing that he was about to die, he let out one last cry. Then he heard the great guffaws.
-“Darn it, I think the monster has swallowed me,”
he said, whilst falling.
However, as he fell, he heard music, and voices. They got clearer, and when he made a soft landing at the bottom, he heard a group of people shout:
Hardly believing it,he found himself right in the middle of a big party. The partygoers were all those people who had never returned to the town. They explained to him that this place had been the idea of an old mayor of the town. That mayor had tried to accomplish great things, but was always held back by the fears of the people around him.
So the mayor invented the story of the monster to demonstrate to people how such an attitude was so limiting. So the young man stayed there, enjoying the party and the company of all those who had dared to approach the cave.
And what about the town? In the town they still believe that to enter the Cave of Fear is the worst of all punishments…
Each time I meet a client that has fear and anxiety, I usually come up with this story and there is a second story I love to tell when I realize that the fear is too much to handle which I will also tell you the second story.
You know what it’s like to be afraid of something, whether it be thunderstorms, a trip to the dentist, a stranger at your door, or losing someone dear to you. Fear is a normal reaction that warns our bodies to be careful. Anxiety is a type of fear, dealing more with worry and the future, rather than fearing something that is present.
When fear and anxiety become a pattern in our lives, they become a problem. If your plugged drain in the kitchen sink is a problem, do you ignore it? Of course not. You call a plumber or try to fix it yourself. When fearfulness causes harm to your physical and mental stability, and you find yourself avoiding things that might create more fear, don’t ignore it. When anxiety becomes a debilitating thing that leaves you cowering and sick, don’t try to push it away.
It is human nature to avoid emotions that scare us. Who wants to walk directly into what promises to be a painful experience? Except that by continually avoiding looking at the ‘boogeyman’ within, you become hostage to the monster. Typically this involves hiding from any potential stressor that might cause upset and engaging in endless distractions.
Alas you are also hiding from potential challenges that can lead to growth and joy. Plus, you can’t hide forever from fear. It’s going to strike, despite your best efforts to suppress it. And it is likely that it will strike at a time when you most need emotional equanimity.
The good news is that once you face your fear—and give the boogeyman air—rather than shove it into a distant compartment of your brain, it begins losing the ability to rule you and dictate your decisions.
What scares you? Learning how to overcome fears of failure can be challenging for everyone.
Fortunately, all fears are learned. No one is born with fears. Fears can therefore, be unlearned by practicing self-discipline repeatedly with regard to fear until it goes away.
The most common fears that we experience, which often sabotage all hope for success, are the fear of failure, poverty, and loss of money.
These fears cause people to avoid risk of any kind and to reject opportunity when it is presented to them. They are so afraid of failure that they are almost paralyzed when it comes to taking any chances at all.
There are many other fears that interfere with our happiness.
- People fear the loss of love or
- People fear the loss of their jobs and their financial security.
- People fear embarrassment or ridicule.
- People fear rejection and criticism of any kind.
- People fear the loss of respect or esteem of others.
- These and many other fears hold us back throughout life…
Fear is one of the most powerful emotions after anger as I mentioned earlier. It has a very strong effect on your mind and body.
Fear can create strong signals of response when we’re in emergencies – for instance, if we are caught in a fire or are being attacked.
It can also take effect when you’re faced with non-dangerous events, like exams, public speaking, a new job, a date, or even a party. It’s a natural response to a threat that can be either perceived or real.
When I traveled from Asaba to my state (Akwa ibom) I was very hungry so when we got to the park, I took a taxi to Plaza that night where I can enter keke home. Getting to plaza some boys approached me and asked me to shake their hands, I knew if I do, my pockets will get exposed so I disagreed, they threatened to attack but what saved me was anger and starvation.
I was hungry and angry at the same time so I don’t know what made me challenge them in such a manner unlike me. Normally fear would have set in and I would have succumbed to them but I didn’t allow my fear to overshadow my courage.
I remember telling them that they shouldn’t threaten me with dagger that they don’t know what weapon I was with. This actually put fear in their mind because they were thinking in their mind that this guy would be with a gun and the last time I checked, a gun is more dangerous than a dagger.
Anxiety is a word we use for some types of fear that are usually to do with the thought of a threat or something going wrong in the future, rather than right now.
Fear and anxiety can last for a short time and then pass, but they can also last much longer and you can get stuck with them. In some cases they can take over your life, affecting your ability to eat, sleep, concentrate, travel, enjoy life, or even leave the house or go to work or school.
This can hold you back from doing things you want or need to do, and it also affects your health.
Some people become overwhelmed by fear and want to avoid situations that might make them frightened or anxious. It can be hard to break this cycle, but there are lots of ways to do it. You can learn to feel less fearful and to cope with fear so that it doesn’t stop you from living.
What makes you afraid?
Lots of things make us feel afraid. Being afraid of some things – like fires – can keep you safe. Fearing failure can make you try to do well so that you won’t fail, but it can also stop you doing well if the feeling is too strong.
What you’re afraid of and how you act when you’re afraid of something can vary per person. Just knowing what makes you afraid and why can be the first step to sorting out problems with fear.
What makes you anxious?
Because anxiety is a type of fear, the things we’ve described about fear above are also true for anxiety.
The word ‘anxiety’ tends to be used to describe worry, or when fear is nagging and persists over time. It is used when the fear is about something in the future rather than what is happening right now.
Anxiety is a word often used by health professionals when they’re describing persistent fear. The ways that you feel when you’re frightened and anxious are very similar, as the basic emotion is the same.
What do fear and anxiety feel like?
When you feel frightened or seriously anxious, your mind and body work very quickly. These are some of the things that might happen:
- Your heart beats very fast – maybe it feels irregular
- You breathe very fast
- Your muscles feel weak
- You sweat a lot
- Your stomach churns or your bowels feel loose
- You find it hard to concentrate on anything else
- You feel dizzy
- You feel frozen to the spot
- You can’t eat
- You have hot and cold sweats
- You get a dry mouth
- You get very tense muscles
These things occur because your body, sensing fear, is preparing you for an emergency, so it makes your blood flow to the muscles, increases blood sugar, and gives you the mental ability to focus on the thing that your body perceives as a threat.
With anxiety, in the longer term, you may have some of the above symptoms as well as a more nagging sense of fear, and you may get irritable, have trouble sleeping, develop headaches, or have trouble getting on with work and planning for the future; you might have problems having sex, and might lose self-confidence.
Why do I feel like this when I’m not in any real danger?
Early humans needed the fast, powerful responses that fear causes, as they were often in situations of physical danger; however, we no longer face the same threats in modern-day living.
Despite this, our minds and bodies still work in the same way as our early ancestors, and we have the same reactions to our modern worries about bills, travel and social situations. But we can’t run away from or physically attack these problems!
The physical feelings of fear can be scary in themselves – especially if you are experiencing them and you don’t know why, or if they seem out of proportion to the situation. Instead of alerting you to a danger and preparing you to respond to it, your fear or anxiety can kick in for any perceived threat, which could be imaginary or minor.
Why won’t my fear go away and leave me feeling normal again?
Fear may be a one-off feeling when you are faced with something unfamiliar.
But it can also be an everyday, long-lasting problem – even if you can’t put your finger on why. Some people feel a constant sense of anxiety all the time, without any particular trigger.
There are plenty of triggers for fear in everyday life, and you can’t always work out exactly why you are frightened or how likely you are to be harmed. Even if you can see how out of proportion a fear is, the emotional part of your brain keeps sending danger signals to your body.
Sometimes you need mental and physical ways of tackling fear.
What is a phobia?
A phobia is an extreme fear of a particular animal, thing, place or situation. People with phobias have an overwhelming need to avoid any contact with the specific cause of the anxiety or fear. The thought of coming into contact with the cause of the phobia makes you anxious or panicky.
There once was this criminal who had committed a crime (Because, hey, that’s what criminals do. That’s their job!)
Anyway, he was sent to the king for his punishment. The king told him he had a choice of two punishments. He could be hung by a rope. Or take what’s behind the big, dark, scary, mysterious iron door. The criminal quickly decided on the rope.
As the noose was being slipped on him, he turned to the king and asked:
“By the way, out of curiosity, what’s behind that door?” The king laughed and said: “You know, it’s funny, I offer everyone the same choice, and nearly everyone picks the rope.”
“So,” said the criminal, “Tell me. What’s behind the door? I mean, obviously, I won’t tell anyone,” he said, pointing to the noose around his neck.
The king paused then answered:
“Freedom, but it seems most people are so afraid of the unknown that they immediately take the rope.”
I love how this story encourages people to overcome fear.
It offers a powerful reminder about the dangers of clinging to the familiar.
Yes, unfortunately, too many of us live our lives choosing the familiarity of our rope (aka: familiar pain, familiar struggle, familiar patterns).
Too many of us are far too fearful about the unknown.
But if you want to live your best life, you must embrace the freedom of picking new choices for being and doing.
After all, it’s these new choices which can open the door to your ultimate happiness.
We’re a planet full of folks walking around with metaphysical ropes around our necks, wondering why we feel a bit emotionally and spiritually dead to the world around us.
Today decide to have the courage to push past your fears!
Make the decision to finally take off those ropes that bind you – and blind you!
Start bravely opening up those doors which lead to the unfamiliar.
Recognize: When nothing changes, then nothing changes.
Plus know: If you keep doing what you’re always doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re always getting.
Remember: Opening up doors to the unknown is the only way to ensure you’re headed towards new opportunities, freedom, growth, and greater joy. You’ll see.
It’s easy to ignore or deny your fears, even to yourself. But courage can’t come into play unless you have a fear to face down. By owning your feelings you’ve taken the first step toward gaining control over the situation.
Name your fear. Sometimes fear makes itself known immediately, clearly, and other times it’s more difficult to name those anxious feelings lurking in the back of your mind. Let your fear rise to the surface and give it a name. It may be concrete (like a fear of cats) or situational (like a fear of being called on in class).
Don’t judge your fears. Acknowledge what comes up with no attachment to “good” or “bad.”
How To Overcome Fear, Be In Control And Benefit From It
Understand your triggers.
Is it something obvious, like the sight of a snake on a trail? Maybe passing your career counselor’s office door sends your mind into a downward spiral when you walk down the corridor in your high school. Figure out everything that triggers your fear. The more you can understand your fear, the better.
Question the power the fear holds over you.
Does your fear cause you to stay in bed instead of getting up and going to a class you’re afraid of failing? Do you avoid visiting your family in another state because you don’t want to get on a plane? Figure out exactly what power your fear has over your mind and behavior.
Imagine the outcome you desire.
Now that you better understand your fear, think about what exactly you want to change. Think about yourself experiencing life without your fear. How do you feel? For example:
If your fear is commitment, imagine yourself happily with a partner.
If your fear is heights, imagine yourself conquering a tough hike. Connect with the feeling of accomplishment.
If your fear is spiders, imagine yourself seeing a spider and feeling neutral.
FACING YOUR FEARS
My online Client *Victoria suffered one of the worst traumas imaginable—her twin sister committed suicide. Fourteen months later another tragedy occurred: *Princess, a cousin to whom Victoria had once been extremely close, jumped off a bridge to her death. Victoria dreaded—and feared—the mourning process.
She was afraid of losing herself to overwhelming grief. Instead of dealing with her emotions, she found what felt like the perfect coping mechanism: non-stop solo travel to the far corners of the globe. During her rare periods at home, she felt lonely, but found numerous reasons to not attempt forging friendships.
After one particularly adventurous trip, she sent me an email. “Johnny, I hiked in the Amazon and had a session with a shaman and yet it felt so hollow. I wanted to share the experience with someone…with Princess.”
Victoria’s distress convinced her that it was time to stay home for a few months (her bank account would thank her!) and devote herself to what she feared most: facing herself.
I suggested she might make new connections through a social networking like Facebook or Instagram. A few times she registered for an activity, but at the last minute experienced anxiety symptoms so intolerable that she stayed home.
During one session on chat, I asked, “Why does letting someone become close scare you so much?”
She paused for some time and after a few minutes’ of contemplation said, “If I let myself be vulnerable, it will kill me when the person leaves.”
“Why do you assume the person will leave?”
“My sister and Beth left—everyone does.”
“And yet here you are still standing. You survived the worst that could happen. How could attending a pottery painting event be harder?”
The next day she dropped me a message on my mail inbox saying she registered for a group hiking event. At our next session she confessed the morning of the hike she experienced such severe anxiety symptoms —sweating palms, shaking lips, heart palpitations—so uncomfortable, she almost didn’t go. “I told myself, ‘Sherry says fear is a momentary emotion. If I run from it I’ll feel worse later.’’’
She had such a fabulous time on the hike she impulsively volunteered to arrange the group’s next outing. Victoria recalled, “As soon as I got home I got so anxious that I reached for the phone to rescind my offer but I made myself breathe and continued to go about my day.”
Soon Victoria had an active social life for the first time in years. Yes, she still experienced anxiety, but now she had coping mechanisms that allowed her to find relief and overcome the anxiety. “I’m still really afraid of losing people, but I’m more afraid of ultimately never finding what I really crave—community.”
Many fears are based in false beliefs just as what happened in the story that was told earlier on or catastrophic thinking. When you see a spider, you may immediately have a belief that says that the spider will harm you, and that you will die.
Identify these patterns of thinking, and start to question them. Do some online research and understand your actual risk versus perceived risk. Recognize that the worse-case scenario is highly unlikely. Begin to re-structure your thoughts to not engage in catastrophic thinking, and start to talk back to those thoughts.
When your fear arises, pause and reflect on your actual risk. Talk back to your negative thoughts or false beliefs and say, “I recognize that some dogs are vicious, but the vast majority of dogs are gentle. It is unlikely I will get bitten.”
Try gradual exposure.
After you have confronted your false beliefs, begin to expose yourself to the fear. Oftentimes we’re afraid of something because we haven’t been exposed to it very much. “Fear of the unknown” is a commonly used phrase to describe the automatic aversion people feel to something that’s different.
If you’re afraid of dogs, start by looking at a badly drawn doodle of a dog done in silly colors. Look at it until you feel no fear response.
Then, look at a photo of a dog, then a video of a dog. Examine it until no fear response exists.
Go to a park where you know one or a few dogs will be on-leash and watch them until you feel no fear.
Go to a friend’s house who has a dog and watch him interact with a dog until no fear response is elicited.
Ask a friend to let you touch or pet his dog while the dog is restrained by your friend until you feel neutral.
Finally, be near a dog and spend one-on-one time with a dog.
Practice engaging with the fear.
The power to label your emotions is beneficial for self-understanding and emotional intelligence. It also appears that engaging with a fear and verbalizing your fear has incredible power to help you overcome fears and regulate emotions.
Researchers had spider-fearful individuals exposed to a spider, and participants that labeled their fears (“I feel very scared of this spider”) had a lower fear response the following week when exposed to a different spider.
Running from fears never improves the way you feel about a fear. Next time you experience a fear, verbally engage the fear, using words that describe your fear and anxiety.
HOW TO BENEFIT FROM FEAR
Make your fear a source of fascination.
The same things we fear also incite feelings of exhilaration and even passion. That’s why people enjoy extreme sports, horror movies, and swimming with sharks on vacation. Try to re-frame your fear in a positive light and acknowledge the thrill it can offer. When you start seeing fear as a source of energy, you might even embrace its role in your life.
Harness the power of fear.
Fear can have incredible power in life-or-death situations. People report the sensation of time slowing down, senses becoming highly acute, and having the ability to instinctively know what to do. While other communication within our bodies takes about half a second to reach awareness, the fear system works much more quickly. Fear also deadens our awareness of pain.
Understanding the positives of fear can help you use it to your advantage. For instance, many people experience stage fright, yet the fear leading up to a performance can help you be in the moment and focus intensely on what is before you. Learn to acknowledge the fear and then direct it to where it will be most beneficial
Most people experience fear prior to an event, yet experience no fear when in the middle of a situation. Remember that fear heightens your senses so that you have the ability to perform efficiently and powerfully.
Start seeing fear as an opportunity.
Fear can be used as a tool to help us identify problems and solve them effectively. It’s a guidepost, a red flag that warns us when something needs attention. Once the discomfort of the initial wave of fear passes, examine it more closely to see what you can learn.
When you feel fear of something unfamiliar, take it as a sign that you need to get to know a person or situation better.
If you feel a flash of fear about an upcoming deadline or event, make it an opportunity to make a plan of action to get fully prepared, whether that means getting started on a paper, rehearsing for a play or practicing a speech.
Visualize Yourself As Unafraid.
By visualizing yourself performing with confidence and competence in an area where you are fearful, your visual image will eventually be accepted by your subconscious mind as instructions for your performance.
Your self-image, the way you see yourself and think about yourself, is eventually altered by feeding your mind these positive mental pictures of yourself performing at your best.
Practice Acting “As If”.
By using the “act as if” method, you walk, talk, and carry yourself exactly as you would if you were completely unafraid in a particular situation.
You stand up straight, smile, move quickly and confidently, and in every respect act as if you already had the courage that you desire.
Move toward the Fear.
When you identify a fear and discipline yourself to move toward it, it grows smaller and more manageable.
What’s more, as your fears grow smaller, your confidence grows. Soon, your fears lose their control over you.
In contrast, when you back away from a fear-inducing situation or person, your fear grows larger and larger.
Soon it dominates your thinking and feeling, preoccupies you during the day, and often keeps you awake at night.
Deal With The Fear Directly.
The only way to deal with a fear is to address it head-on.
Remind yourself that, “Denial” is not a river in Egypt.
The natural tendency of many people is to deny that they have a problem caused by fear of some kind. They’re afraid of confronting it. In turn, it becomes a major source of stress, unhappiness, and psychosomatic illness.
Be willing to deal with the situation or person directly.
As Shakespeare said, “Take arms against a sea of troubles, and in so doing, end them.”
When you force yourself to face any fear-inducing situation in your life, your self-esteem goes up, your self-respect increases, and your sense of personal pride grows. You eventually reach the point in life where you are not afraid of anything.
Would you like to talk to a therapist concerning your phobias and fears?
Find A Therapist at Hisparadisetherapy.com
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