We are all afraid of something
I have yet to meet a completely fearless person, but I meet brave ones all the time. The ones that move through the fear or who feel it and act – no ‘ifs’ or ‘and’ or ‘buts’. They are the people who do what needs to be done. So… for us mere mortals, let’s look at fear and some of the fears that hold us back.
It’s a survival thing
Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger. If people didn’t feel fear, they couldn’t protect themselves. We have been looking over our shoulders for millennia – we weren’t always on top of the food chain. However, today we often fear situations where the stakes are not life or death, but our bodies and brains still treat the threat as lethal and so a disproportionate fight-flight-or-freeze response is triggered – we are anxious, stressed, afraid. In other blogs I have written about what goes on in our brains during these times – we are hardwired to survive to run away from threats and seek safety.
Fear is a normal and powerful human emotion. It alerts us to the presence of danger.
Fear has a biochemical/physical response and an emotional response. The physical one is universal, while the emotional response is highly individual.
We can get to know our personal fears and responses and understand them in a way that gives us strength and motivates us towards growth.
Similar to other animals, we very often learn fear through personal experiences. For example, being bitten by a dog, or observing other humans being bitten by a dog will most likely make us afraid of dogs. However, an evolutionary unique way of learning in humans is through instruction and imagination! We can learn fear from images and words and we can learn fears from our parents and peers without having experienced it for ourselves.
In my coaching I find that fear holds people back. They avoid certain things such as doing something new, making bold decisions or forming relationships because they are afraid. Usually this fear is based on something in the past and it is good to know that we can learn to overcome fear. We can learn to read signs and rationalise; we can let go of old patterns and fears that are holding us back.
Fear of success
The quote below was pinned above the photocopier at work. I wanted it to inspire and challenge. Read it over and over and let it sink in. Feel its truth and strength. Feel your truth and strength.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
― Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”
Above my Expectations – Gareth Mon Jones at dawn in Snowdonia.
Fear of the unknown
Leaping into the void, opening that mysterious door, walking a path we don’t know. All this is scary and it is a perfectly rational and normal thing to be afraid of the unknown. The main reason it becomes a paralysing fear though is because we imagine the things that can go wrong instead of being curious and excited.
Children are happy because they don’t have a file in their minds called “All the Things That Could Go Wrong”.
― Marianne Williamson
Public speaking, making a fool of ourselves, being alone, changing jobs, moving house, aging, getting sick, failure, loosing loved ones, becoming a parent, ending a relationship, starting a relationship … the list is endless!
These fears paralyse us, like rabbits in headlights we can’t move – we’re literally stuck, our lives go on hold. We can become anxious, depressed and become stuck in fear. The answer is in healing and in getting support, in sharing your fears and working through them – sometimes with professional help.
The things that keep us up at night can range from the deeply personal – money worries, relationship worries, to worrying about cyber-terrorism to government corruption and B……
Afraid of our own shadow and things that go bump in the night?
All fear is real even if we are afraid because we are imagining scary things and situations. What we need to do it to recognise the physical signs of fear and our triggers and – provided there really isn’t a lion chasing us – then stay with it. Every time you do this, the fear becomes smaller – it is eroded until one day it will disappear. We might need to work with someone on this, it is not easy to overcome long held fears or phobias.
There is always an upside!
Some people like scary movies and get excited by fear!
Because fear involves some of the same chemical reactions in our brains that positive emotions like happiness and excitement do, feeling fear under certain circumstances can be seen as fun, like when you watch scary movies. Some people thrive on extreme sports and other fear-inducing thrill situations – they are adrenaline junkies. Others have a negative reaction to the feeling of fear, avoiding fear-inducing situations at all costs (me!). Although the physical reaction is the same, fear may be perceived as either positive or negative, depending on the person.
Getting over the fear of feeling afraid
This is the title of the first ‘self-help’ book I read. I re-read it recently and still think it is an excellent and practical book by Susan Jeffers. She gives you insights and tools to help you live your life the way you want – it is empowering, moving us from pain and parlysis to energy and action though using our innate power and enthusiasm.
The Five Truths About Fear – by Susan Jeffers
FEAR TRUTH #1
The fear will never go away as long as you continue to grow!
Every time you take a step into the unknown, you experience fear. There is no point in saying, “When I am no longer afraid, then I will do it.” You’ll be waiting for a long time. The fear is part of the package.
FEAR TRUTH #2
The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and…do it!
When you do it often enough, you will no longer be afraid in that particular situation. You will have faced the unknown and you will have handled it. Then new challenges await you, which certainly add to the excitement in living.
FEAR TRUTH #3
The only way to feel better about yourself is to go out and…do it!
With each little step you take into unknown territory, a pattern of strength develops. You begin feeling stronger and stronger and stronger.
FEAR TRUTH #4
Not only are you afraid when facing the unknown, so is everyone else!
This should be a relief. You are not the only one out there feeling fear. Everyone feels fear when taking a step into the unknown. Yes, all those people who have succeeded in doing what they have wanted to do in life have felt the fear – and did it anyway. So can you!
FEAR TRUTH #5
Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the bigger underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness!
This is the one truth that some people have difficulty understanding. When you push through the fear, you will feel such a sense of relief as your feeling of helplessness subsides. You will wonder why you did not take action sooner. You will become more and more aware that you can truly handle anything that life hands you.
Are we being too careful?
In all my life I have never heard a mother call out to her child as he or she goes off to school, “Take a lot of risks today, darling.” She is more likely to convey to her child, “Be careful, darling.
Dealing with Fear
Work on it with a coach
You might want to work through fear with a coach. A few sessions is all it takes to eliminate or reduce fears so that you can live with more freedom, ease and joy.
Get into your left brain
As a coach I work with clients who get stuck in fear – the emotion overwhelms them. This is where working with the body help – breathing techniques, moving, awareness. Once the client is grounded we can get specific – writing work, visualizations, questioning, journaling and other focused tasks.
Being present – being in the moment – being with the reality of now! (Which is usually OK) is one of the best ways of dealing with fear,
Do this with someone if you can – a counselor, good and wise friend or a coach. It can be helpful to get your fear out of your head, and into words or on paper, so you can put the circumstances in the right perspective.
- What are you afraid of?
- What, specifically, is it that you are worried is going to happen?
- What’s the (realistic) worst-case scenario? Are you really at risk?
- Why does a certain experience provoke fear in you when it is happening?
- What is the probability that the thing you fear will actually happen?
- What can you do to make the situation less scary, or to make you feel better?
Sometimes there’s a good reason for your fear you might be in a dangerous situation. In that case, you need to evaluate what course of action you need to take. In most cases, though, things aren’t as dangerous as they feel.
Fear is normal and relatively common
When clients are sharing with me how terrified they are of something, whether it’s a job change, a calculated risk, or an unfamiliar obstacle, I’ve found it helpful to tell them that it’s normal or common, it’s to be expected.
When you are in a situation that triggers you, it helps to remind yourself that you are not alone, others to have this phobia.
Hypnotherapy can help with this. In my coaching I use deep relaxation hypnosis so that the conscious brain get out of the way and the unconscious, whose primary purpose is to look after us and keep us safe, can be ‘re-programmed’ in line with the person you want to be.
We are often embarrassed when we are afraid – that makes it worse, as now we are judging ourselves for being weak or cowardly. Let it go, and let it be okay that you’re scared. Be kind to yourself. Accept this part of you, it’s OK.
Don’t avoid what you’re afraid of
When you’re afraid, the fear centre in your brain gets the message that a certain thing or situation is a threat. If you run from what you’re afraid of, this reinforces the belief that you should be scared. If you successfully face what you’re afraid of, you weaken that link in your brain between your fear and that situation, you’ll be less likely to be scared next time, and you’ll become more confident too.
Fear can focus you
Being successful relies to a large extent on knowing how to leverage fear. When we know ourselves and our fear responses we won’t let them stop us; we leverage it for extra energy and drive.
So you’re scared.
- How might that be preventing you from reaching a really important goal?
- What do you need to do, to make sure that your fear doesn’t stop you?
- Can you put your fear behind you, and keep your eyes on that important thing that needs to be done?
You can train yourself to observe your fear – to see it from a distance. Get curious about it and learn things about it that will empower you instead of holding you back.
After all you are so much more than your fears.
Adapted from Dr Susan Biali Hass – Psychology Today
Nos Calan Gaeaf Hapus
How to overcome fear and anxiety from the Mental health foundation – free download – https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/overcome-fear-anxiety
Pittman, C. M., & Karle, E. M. (2015). Rewire Your Anxious Brain: How to Use the Neuroscience of Fear to End Anxiety, Panic, and Worry. New Harbinger Publications.