Sunday, December 4, 2016
Facts about Fear
Fear can be as much an ally, as it can be an enemy. And, fear of fear can keep you locked in a cage of insecurity.
Fear can be uncomfortable and crippling. But eliminating it would be the equivalent of taking down your home alarm system because it sometimes makes loud and irritating sounds.
Being fearless does not mean eliminating fear. Being fearless means knowing how to leverage fear. And to do that, you need to know a few things about that with which you are dealing.
Fear is Healthy
Fear is hardwired in your brain, and for good reason: Neuroscientists have identified distinct networks that run from the depths of the limbic system all the way to the prefrontal cortex and back. When these networks are electrically or chemically stimulated, they produce fear, even in the absence of a fearful stimulus. Feeling fear is neither abnormal nor a sign of weakness: The capacity to be afraid is part of normal brain function. In fact, a lack of fear may be a sign of serious brain damage.
Fear Comes in Many Shades
Fear is an inherently unpleasant experience that can range from mild to paralyzing—from anticipating the results of a medical checkup, to hearing news of a deadly terrorist attack. Horrifying events can leave a permanent mark on your brain circuitry, which may require professional help. However, chronic stress, the low-intensity variety of fear expressed as free-floating anxiety, constant worry, and daily insecurity, can quietly but seriously harm your physical and mental health over time.
Fear Is Not As Automatic As You Think
Fear is part instinct, part learned, part taught. Some fears are instinctive: Pain, for example, causes fear instinctively because of its implications for survival. Other fears are learned: We learn to be afraid of certain people, places, or situations because of negative associations and past experiences. A near-drowning incident, for example, may cause fear each time you get close to a body of water. Other fears are taught: Cultural norms often dictate whether something should be feared or not. Think, for example, about how certain social groups are feared and persecuted because of a societally-created impression that they are dangerous.
You Do Not Need To Be In Danger To Be Fearful
Fear is also part imagined, and so it can arise in the absence of something scary. In fact, because our brains are so efficient, we begin to fear a range of stimuli that are not scary (conditioned fear) or not even present (anticipatory anxiety). We get scared because of what we imagine could happen. Some neuroscientists claim that humans are the most fearful creatures on the planet because of our ability to learn, think, and create fear in our minds. But this low-grade, objectless fear can turn into chronic anxiety about nothing specific, and become debilitating.
The More Scared You Feel, The Scarier Things Will Seem
Through a process called potentiation, your fear response is amplified if you are already in a state of fear. When you are primed for fear, even harmless events seem scary. If you are watching a documentary about venomous spiders, a tickle on your neck (caused by, say, a loose thread in your sweater) will startle you and make you jump out of your seat in terror. If you are afraid of flying, even the slightest turbulence will push your blood pressure through the roof of the plane. And the more worried you are about your job security, the more you will sweat it when your boss calls you in for even an uneventful meeting.
Fear Dictates The Actions That You Will Take
Actions motivated by fear fall into four types: freeze, fight, flight, or fright. Freeze means you stop what you are doing and focus on the fearful stimulus to decide what to do next (e.g., you read a memo that your company will be laying off people). Next, you choose either fight or flight. You decide whether to deal with the threat directly (tell your boss why you shouldn’t be laid off) or work around it (start looking for another job). When the fear is overwhelming, you experience fright: You neither fight nor flee; in fact, you do nothing—well, you obsess about the layoffs, ruminate, complain, but you take no action. Being continuously in fright mode can lead to hopelessness and depression.
The More Real The Threat, The More Heroic
We react differently to real and imagined threats. Imagined threats cause paralysis. Being scared about all the bad things that may or may not happen in the future makes you worry a lot but take little action. You are stuck in a state of fear, overwhelmed but not knowing what to do. Real threats, on the other hand, cause frenzy. When the threat is imminent and identifiable, you jump to action immediately and without flinching. This is why people are much more likely to change their eating habits after a serious health scare (e.g., a heart attack) than after just reading statistics about the deleterious effect of a diet based on fried foods. If you want to mobilize your troops, you have to put yourself in danger.
Coping with Fear
If you’re a human being, chances are you experience fear. These bodies we live in are built for survival, and fear is the gatekeeper. It protects us, keeping us safe and secure by making us wary of any potential threat that might come our way. Fear breeds caution, vigilance, and suspicion. Which is fine if a hungry lion is chasing you. But if your intention is to live in the abundance that is always here, to lead with the heart, to be open to the depth and breadth of what might be possible in your life, then fear deserves your attention.
Simply said, running from fear does not work. If we avoid turning to face it, it will nip at our heels forever. What does this mean? We live a fear-led life, choosing partners, jobs, and friends out of fear. Habits and addictions run wild because we are afraid of meeting our feelings. We feel separate and alienated, while deep inside, we recognize the echo of truth whispering softly.
Fear-motivated thoughts are all about “can’t.” They create a negative, imagined scenario about the future. Here’s the truth: you don’t know what is going to happen, so these thoughts can’t possibly be true. Buy into these thoughts, and you are inviting limitation. Let them float on by, and you will see what is actually true for you.
Fearful thoughts are designed to keep you safe and limited. They are not wisdom, and they are not truth. You get to choose what to follow.
Fear always includes physical sensations. Learn to recognize these, and receive them as they are with an open heart. Channel the energy of fear into excitement and enthusiasm.
Fear makes us think that something negative will happen, when the truth is that we don’t know what is going to happen. Become comfortable with not knowing so that fear doesn’t rule you.
Resisting fear strengthens it. The antidote is awareness which is being willing to directly experience fear as it appears to you in the moment, recognizing the thoughts and physical sensations.
The goal is not to get rid of fear, as you don’t have the power to make this happen. But you do have the power to change the way you relate to fear. Learn to receive it with curiosity and a loving heart, get to know how it spins thoughts that deflate the things you are enthusiastic about. But don’t feel like something is wrong or you have failed if it continues to appear. Simply meet it lovingly every time.
A surge of fear tends to arise directly after a moment of truth. Say that an idea appears in your mind about something you’d love to do. Soon after, you might notice that your mind is filled with reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t do it. Recognize that this is fear speaking.
Recognizing the presence of fear allows you to make conscious decisions. You have the clarity to see what fear is guiding you to do, and you can consider what you really want.
Fear is not the enemy. It can be the voice of reason, caution, and practicality that serves you well at times.
It takes energy to resist fear. Getting to know it and allowing it to be lets your body and mind relax, as the fight is over. This opens a space for creativity, wonder, awe, love, beauty, inspiration.
Quotes about Fear
The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.- Mark Twain
Don't let fear or insecurity stop you from trying new things. Believe in yourself. - Stacy London
Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free. - Jim Morrison
The key to success is to focus our conscious mind on things we desire not things we fear. - Brian Tracy
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. - Marianne Williamson
We have nothing to fear but fear itself. - President Franklyn Delano Roosevelt
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. - Nelson MandelaNothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. - Marie Curie