Don’t let fear hold you back

Fear has its place in our emotional toolkit, but it can immobilize us too. Learn how to have a healthier relationship with fear.

I have a theory about life.  To me, life is an exercise in learning to overcome fear.  It seems that every major lesson I learn has to do with overcoming fear.

Fear that I am inadequate. Fear that I will be hurt. Fear of change and fear of success. Fear of failure. Fear of other people. Fear of love. Fear that nobody likes me so I may as well eat some worms. You get the idea.

Some of this fear is rational. Some isn’t. Having been a victim of a stalking, I think some fear is quite rational. I read the book The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker and it really changed my life. I came to understand what fear does well for me and how it can get out of whack and what to do about that.

It turns out that, as hard as it seem, you can actually choose to override your fear instincts. It takes a combination of thinking and physical activity to do – but it can be done. Through therapy I learned how to interrupt a panic attack in process. Having experienced daily panic attacks for a couple of years, that was nothing short of amazing.

To me, the technique I was taught is very much akin to the practice of freethought and skepticism. When I feel fear and panic rising, I have to consciously acknowledge it. And, Only then can I do the breathing exercises that help calm me down. Once I am calmed, I can then question myself about why I was feeling the fear and panic. I can’t always identify it, but it always seems that once I do I lose the fear almost immediately. Granted, figuring out what makes me afraid requires me to be totally honest with myself and that can take some time, which is why talking to a therapist is so helpful.

Once I figure out what is making me afraid – I can then decide what to do about it. I have several options. I can confront it. I can avoid it. I can ignore it.  What I decide to do depends on whether I think the thing I am afraid of poses an existential threat or not. In other words, if I think whatever it is might kill me – I avoid it. If I think it won’t – I often decide to do the very thing I am afraid of just to get over my fear.

I’ve come across very few real threats to my life and limb when considering fear. Most often, it’s just social fear. Confronting those social fears has made me rather fearless.

If you find you suffer from fear that is immobilizing you, do something about it. Figure out if the fear is rational or irrational. If it is rational – avoid whatever it is. If it is irrational, confront it.  If you can’t tell or if you are really suffering and really immobilized by your fear – seek professional help! You will be glad you did.

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