We all experience fear. Without it our species could not have survived, but the days have long since passed when we need to fear being eaten by predators. We might still fear other men, and often with just cause, but many of our fears nowadays are irrational overreaction to change. We are terrified that something will rock the boat, disrupting our placid existence.
We are given free will, and the choice of how fear will impact our lives. We may let fear form boundaries, ensnaring us, keeping us from growth and change, or we can face fears, turning them to opportunities to try new things, go new places and live life differently.
I am not speaking of rational fears or heightened awareness to dangers. Taking precaution and safety seriously is never a bad thing. What I am referring to is allowing fears from perceived or imagined threats to cloud the mind and judgement.
Fear may only serve to exacerbate, adding stress to a situation that, when approached logically, is merely a minor obstacle to be conquered. Fearing what you cannot control, such as how others might perceive you, has detrimental impact on our lives.
I am prone to social anxiety. I over-think situations and often succumb to irrational fears. I hypothesize what could go wrong, how others might negatively interpret my words or actions.
Prior to perceiving any actual stimuli, I develop irrational fears based on what could happen. These stimuli have not yet occurred but I conceive them. In doing so, I become apprehensive and predisposed to fear the mere possibility of a negative outcome.
These fears I have manifested then trigger over-reaction and panic to non-existent, hypothetical threats. I work very hard to cope with this in my life on a daily basis.
Techniques for calming and controlling fear
1. No one is without fear.
It is part of our psyche, evolved over millenia to enable our species to accurately assess threats and initiate the fight-or-flight response.
2. What am I afraid of? Why am I afraid?
Separate yourself from your anxiety. Approach your circumstances from a logical perspective. Accept only facts, known to be true in the current situation. Meditate and relax your mind. Clear your thoughts and realign your focus and perception of your situation.
3. Shift focus away from negatives and think how you might benefit.
What are the benefits of living without fear? What would you do, who would you meet without your apprehensions holding you back? What do lose by eliminating your fears?
4. Gradually reduce your apprehension and fear
You won’t suddenly overcome fear overnight. It is a gradual process. Slowly introduce yourself to circumstances or situations you fear. Inch by inch you will realize that your fear is irrational; you won’t suffer greatly or come to mortal harm. You will become more comfortable facing obstacles in your life. Start small. Practice and persist. Soon you will surpass your fears and see them only as challenges or opportunities.
5. Don’t think. Act.
I sometimes find that acting without thinking helps me reduce apprehension. I was required to take a public speaking course. This was exceedingly difficult for me as a freshman in a new school, knowing no one. I found that the prepared speeches were far more challenging than informal talks in front of the class. I would have time to brood and worry with the impending deadline growing closer for the formal speeches. In contrast, when I was called on randomly to speak in class informally, I was quick witted, jovial and apparently had good humor. I didn’t have the time to over-think, to worry about what might go wrong. I was forced to act and not to think.
Sometimes it is best to just jump in with both feet. You never have the time to worry about how cold the water will be. You never have the slow agony of shivers as you immerse yourself gradually.
1. Heacock, Doug. “Five Great Ways to Conquer Your Fears :zenhabits.” :zenhabits. Web. 30 Jan. 2012.