“The fears we don’t face, become our limits” ~ Robin Sharma
By Elena Sabelnikova
Fear is often a controversial subject among scientists and people, whereas the experts tend to support that fear is in our imagination, does not exist and we should push ourselves hard in order to get over whatever frightens us.
Well, that’s not quite the case!
Fear is 100% real and can heavily affect you psychologically. At any given time, there are things or situations in your life that scare you and can control your behavior at home, work and personal relationships.
The very fact that you are afraid takes away your opportunity to fully experience emotions, live magical moments in life, learn something new or even just live. These fear steals away the things you want from your life.
If you are afraid of airplanes, this will greatly limit your ability to travel and see the world. If you are afraid of public speaking, this limits your ability to express yourself and share your thoughts, ideas and miss out on the opportunity to see them become a reality.
If you are afraid to talk with management and ask for a pay raise, this will directly limit your income, motivation and ability to happily do what you like. Also, what if you always wanted to start your own business, or have already started it, but you are afraid to talk to people and advertise your business to others. How far will your business go?
Fear can stop every single one of us in achieving our goals.
Fear is real; however, it should not be something to derail you from your goal path.
However, before you begin your research on tools to defeat your fears, you need to understand what fear is.
Fear is a physiological reaction of the body, completely identical to the emotion of excitement. That is, fear and excitement are two identical physiological conditions of the body: heart palpitations, sweating, small stomach cramps, cortisol, etc.
Roughly speaking, this is how your body enters into a state of heightened consciousness, alertness and prepares itself to act. But what is the difference between fear and excitement?
The answer is actually very simple. The only difference is what your brain does at the time of physiological reactions to prepare for action.
If you are excited, your brain goes like this: “Oh yes! How great! This is so much fun! I can learn so many new tricks on that skateboard!”.
And if you are afraid, your brain screams, “Oh no! I will not do it! It’s too dangerous, I will break my legs! Throw this board away now!”
Therefore, it is your brain that assigns meaning to your current situation, and this meaning creates an emotion / feeling of fear or excitement.
You may have heard the phrase “Even if you are afraid, transcend your fear and do it anyway.” Or maybe you were advised to calm down, breathe, think positive… Such recommendations rarely work, don’t they?
And there is a reason for this.
When you are constrained by fear, your body is under a lot of stress, all your senses are tensed, ready for action, your heart beats fast, breathing is shallow, pupils are dilated, your blood pressure is elevated and your body is oversensitive. What happens to you when you are relaxed? Your body is relaxed, your breathing is deep and slow, maybe you are leaning back on the sofa and your eyes are half closed.
It is quite difficult to switch from the state of excitement to the state of relaxation in a minute. It’s like trying to stop a train at full speed with a rock, throwing it on the rails. You will not stop the train and you might cause an accident or an explosion.
Studies have also shown that if you try to ignore your fears, it is very likely they will return even stronger.
So, what should you do? What if you need to talk with your boss about salary raise? What to do when you need to get on a plane, but you suffer from a phobia? What if you need to make a presentation, and you are afraid of public speaking?
You need to use a widely used strategy to overcome your fears and help you become a stress-resistant person.
What you need to do is train your brain to rephrase body signals from fear to positive excitement.
First you need to find a thought – an anchor that will help you stop overstressing the situation and turning it into a panic attack or into a situation where you simply cannot function properly. Your chosen anchor thought will help you maintain control over your thoughts and behavior.
It is very important to choose a phrase – a thought related to the experience that you are about to go thorough. For example, the process of flying in the airplane when you are afraid of flying. This thought should have the ability to evoke emotions of happiness, joy and recreate pleasant memories associated with it.
Maybe you are going on vacation to Greece and the thought that is connected with this trip and which makes you happy will be about how you walked on the seashore with your loved one and talked about your feelings for each other.
If you need to talk with your boss, choose an anchor thought related to how you will feel when you will have the talk and after he gives you the raise you wanted.
So, now that you have the anchor thought, you are already equipped with what’s necessary to defeat your fear.
Now, let’s go back to the airplane though.
You are in the airplane in the air, and suddenly there is a turbulence. Your body will begin to shiver, you will become nervous, your heart will beat faster. You may not be able to influence the course of physiological processes, but you can determine what is happening in your head, what thoughts you choose and how you behave.
At first, you get a bit nervous. Stop and count to five. This will give you time to awaken your consciousness, change the speed of thinking and give you the opportunity to take control of your mind. Thus, you will interrupt your fear and give time to your brain to bring the anchor thought in front.
So, you counted to five, now you insert the anchor thought that you came up with before the flight. You begin to think about how you walk along the promenade and the warm wind plays with your hair, and you feel the gentle touch of your loved one and remember all those warm feelings and thoughts that this picture brings you. And you will begin to say to yourself, “I am so glad that I can walk with my husband along the promenade again, I am so glad that we can be together again and remember our first kiss.”
And something wonderful will happen here. You interrupted your fear, gave yourself time to take control of the situation and inserted an image that is absolutely logical for your brain (I’m flying to the sea for the holidays), your brain takes your thought for the joy of flying as the only true one: “Oh “Lena is happy and excited to go to Greece and by plane!” Because the state of fear and excitement are physiologically identical, the only difference is what your brain says to itself. The meaning that it attaches to the situation. Only you can fool your brain and make it think those thoughts that you need and help you get what you want!
In this way, you can turn thoughts of fear into thoughts of excitement.
Fear is real. You cannot control the physical reactions of your body, but you can always control your thought process and your behavior.
So, the next time you feel fear: count to 5, insert your anchor thought and tell yourself that you are very happy and excited and cannot wait for the moment to take action!