Lessons in Understanding Fear

Understanding Fear

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Listen to what you know instead of what you fear.
— Richard Bach

This is the first of a two part series about fear:


What is Fear?

Fear can be defined in a number of different ways. Each definition helps unlock specific clues that will help you to eventually conquer your fears.

As you go through each definition of fear, ask yourself whether it applies to your situation:

Irrational Beliefs

Fear is a set of irrational beliefs you have about objects events or your actions. Your beliefs control what you focus on and pay attention to. These beliefs also control your decisions and actions. As a result your life is ruled by beliefs that probably don’t have any basis in reality. They are irrational, or in other words they are made-up beliefs that you use as a safety mechanism to protect you from potential pain. The moment you let go of these beliefs and instead replace them with a set of rational empowering beliefs that are based in reality, the sooner you you take back control over your fears.

Sense of Uncertainty

Fear is a sense of uncertainty you have about future outcomes or circumstances. You don’t know what will happen next, and as a result you fear whatever is hiding and waiting for you around the corner. In order to move through this you need to gain relevant knowledge, information and support that will help you to gain more certainty.

Uncertainty is nothing more than a lack of information or perspective you have about something. Simply find the information that is lacking, and your fear of uncertainty will likewise disappear.

Distorted Expectations

Fear is a set of distorted expectations you have about future consequences. Instead of using your imagination to create a frightening future, use your imagination instead to think about all the positive outcomes that may result from your actions. Quit telling yourself all these stories about what could go wrong, and instead get into the habit of telling yourself stories of how things might work out in your favor.

Distorted Memories

Fear is a set of distorted memories you have about past experiences. You are essentially using your imagination to exaggerate past events in a way that promotes fear in the present moment. Choose instead to think about your memories differently — in a way that will help empower you rather than discourage you.


Negative Consequences of Fear

Living in fear has only one main advantage: it keeps you very alert. However, there are no saber-tooth tigers or mammoths hiding around the corner threatening your livelihood. It therefore absolutely makes no sense at all to live in fear during the 21st century. Fear will only stifle your motivation, prevent you from growing emotionally and from developing new skills that can help you to make progress in life.

Fear can also stifle your intellectual growth and will certainly lead to very poor decisions. In fact, the poorest and most irrational decisions are always made out of fear. These decisions often lead to unfavorable consequences that could have easily been avoided if you learned to overcome, or at least to better manage your fears.

Finally, fear often breeds destructive behavior, resistance and insecurity. It will literally rob your of your livelihood, and prevent you from doing what is necessary to make your dreams a reality.


Fear of Failure

Fear of failure is one of the two major fears that you must work to overcome if you desire to accomplish anything of significance in your life. Carefully read the following symptoms of the fear of failure in order to determine how much of a hold it has over your decisions and actions.

Fear of failure has a hold over your life if you are:

  • Indulging in the habit of perfectionism. You get lost in all the details in order to drag things on for as long as possible. As a result you don’t essentially get around to doing what is really important because you’re afraid of failing.
  • Feeling like losing control or essentially feeling powerless to take any sort of action that will move you a step closer to your desired outcomes.
  • Trying to avoid failure at all costs and therefore spending time over-planning and essentially getting nowhere because your persistent and obsessive thoughts about failure are constantly getting in your way.
  • Suffering from low self-esteem or low self-confidence. You simply don’t believe in yourself or in your ability to become successful. As a result you lack the willpower and discipline to do what is necessary to make your dreams a reality.
  • In a state of uncontrollable worry and anxiety. You constantly worry about the unknown future. And because you don’t know what could potentially happen, you fear that you might fail. And so you continue to worry about all the things that might go wrong. This paralyzes you emotionally, and as a result you make little progress.
  • Unable to take risks or try new things. You may very well have big lofty goals, but if you are not willing to step outside of your comfort zone, then this indicates that you are afraid of failing.
  • Unable to commit wholeheartedly to the attainment of your goals and objectives. A lack of commitment indicates that there’s some kind of fear holding you back from doing what is necessary to attain your desired outcomes. The most likely culprit is the fear of failure.

Fear of Success

Fear of success is one of the two major fears that you must work to overcome if you desire to accomplish anything of significance in your life. Carefully read the following symptoms of the fear of success in order to determine how much of a hold it has over your decisions and actions.

Fear of success has a hold over your life if you are:

  • Feeling as though you are not worthy or deserving of attaining your desired outcomes. This is mainly due to a set of irrational beliefs that are influencing your choices and decisions.
  • Feeling guilty about achieving success or happiness. This again stems back to the fact that you don’t feel you deserve to be successful or happy.
  • Persistently indulging in destructive behavior that is continuously sabotaging your progress. In such instances you might very well make some huge strides along your journey, and then suddenly you will do something really stupid that will prevent you from attaining your desired outcome. This is a clear indication of the fear of success manifesting in your life.
  • Unable to make effective decisions. This stems back to the previous point about your self-sabotage patterns. During a pivotal moment along your journey you will unconsciously sabotage yourself by making a silly decision that will take you off track.
  • Not making enough effort on a daily basis to attain your desired outcomes. This might manifest as a lack of motivation, a lack of productivity or simply within your inability to organize yourself effectively.
  • Indulging in the habit of procrastination. Even though you want to be successful, you procrastinate because unconsciously you are feeling comfortable with your life as it is at this very moment. You will therefore keep procrastinating in order to avoid doing what is necessary to achieve your end goal.
  • Imagining the negative consequences of success. Yes, of course you want to achieve success, but the future isn’t all rosy. There are consequences that you may not want, and this causes you to hesitate and doubt whether or not you really want to achieve your goal.

Understanding Fear

In order to win while playing a board game, or any game for that matter, it’s important to first understand the rules. Once you understand the rules, you will be better able to make decisions throughout the game that will help you to improve your chances of winning. The same is true when it comes to your fears. You must learn to understand your fears before you can successfully overcome them.

Here are some critical things you need to understand about fear:

Fears Are Rooted in Childhood Experience

Most of the fears you have today are actually rooted in childhood experience.

Back when you were a child things happened to you or to other people that brought about these fears. Maybe you were watching one of your parents experience a specific kind of fear, which you adopted as your own. Or maybe something significant occurred that left you feeling afraid and uncertain. No matter what it was, it left a lasting and significant impression on your brain and nervous system.

All this of course doesn’t mean that this fear makes any rational sense at all. It might all just be in your imagination and may not even pose any physical danger or threat. However, at the time you accepted the fact that this experience was dangerous and painful and therefore it needed to be feared, and as a result this created an irrational belief that you still hold onto till this day.

Fear Results From a Lack of Something

The fears you experience in your life are there because you are lacking something in one or more of the following seven key areas:

First of all you simply don’t know what to do or how to do things. In such instances ask yourself:

What don’t I know?

What must I learn?

How will this help me?

You experience fear because you simply don’t understand something. In such instances ask yourself:

What don’t I understand?

Who could help me understand?

You experience fear because you lack proper perspective. In such instances ask yourself:

How do others see this?

How else could I perceive this situation?

How could this be of value?

You experience fear because you lack familiarity. In such instances ask yourself:

What am I unfamiliar with?

How can I become more familiar with this?

Who could potentially help me?

You experience fear because you lack the necessary experience when dealing with this particular situation. In such instances ask yourself:

What experience must I gain?

How will I gain this experience?

When will I gain this experience?

Who has this experience already and could potentially help me?

You experience fear because you lack the necessary resources to take action. In such instances ask yourself:

What resources do I need to get through this successfully?

Where will I find the necessary resources?

How will I acquire them?

Finally, you experience fear because you don’t believe in your ability to take the necessary actions to attain your desired outcome. In such instances ask yourself:

What must I believe to do this successfully?

What must I believe to overcome this fear successfully?

You can use this list as somewhat of a checklist that can help you to progressively begin feeling more comfortable with your decisions and actions. In fact, by keeping these questions at the forefront of your mind throughout the day, will help you to think more rationally and thoughtfully about your fears. Who knows? This list could be all you need to begin creating positive momentum towards the attainment of your goals and objectives.

Fear Doesn’t Like Change or Uncertainty

You are experiencing fear because there is some unknown element that is waiting for you around the corner. You don’t know what is hiding there or what could potentially happen. This uncertainty stimulates your imagination and leads to uncontrollable irrational thoughts and beliefs that immediately lay down worst-case scenarios. This consequently creates even more uncertainty, and as a result you become emotionally paralyzed — unable to take the necessary actions to get yourself out of this emotional mess.

The same is true when it comes to any kind of unexpected change. Life can change suddenly and rapidly. These changes can bring about uncertainty, and as a result fear begins to creep into your life.

Fears Are Part of the Human Experience

Because life can often be uncertain and unpredictable, it’s easy to see the value of fear. It’s there as a protective mechanism that keeps as safe and helps us avoid potential pain.

This fear response has been ingrained into our psyche going back to our earliest ancestors who used fear as a survival mechanism that kept them alert and ready to fight or run at a moment’s notice.

These days, while living in the big cities, we don’t often confront animals who want to eat us for supper. However, even though this is true, fear does still have a place in life today — even in the big cities. But what’s of primary importance today is that you don’t get caught up in irrational fear where you lose all control and sense of reality. Instead you must see fear for what it is: a protective mechanism — sometimes of an illusory nature — that you must understand and utilize to your advantage.

Fear is Only Temporary if Challenged

Have a think about all the fears you have experienced over a lifetime. I think it would be safe to say that you have overcome some of these fears successfully, while other fears have probably tended to hang around like a bad smell. The fact is, that the fears you overcame successfully were the fears that you challenged head-on. However, the fears that tend to persist in your life right now have probably never really been challenged — or at least you never really followed through completely with your actions.

Each of the fears you have in your life right now are only temporary, if they are challenged. However, if they remain unchallenged, then they will continue to influence your choices and decisions until the moment you decide that things must change.

Fears Are a Warning Mechanism

Fear is nothing more than a warning mechanism of potential drawbacks, risks and negative consequences that might be waiting for you around the corner. These are of course all valid reasons to be wary and cautious, but not afraid. Being wary and cautious means that you think things through rationally and lay down an effective plan of action that will help you to minimize the risks and maximize the potential gains.

If on the other hand you are making these decisions from a position of fear, then you will likely make irrational choices — most of which will be filled with excuses of why you shouldn’t go through with your actions. Therefore it’s absolutely critical that from this day onward, you are always wary and cautions, but never get caught up in fear.

Fear Indicates You’re About to Learn Something

Fear often presents you with a perfect opportunity for growth. When it crops up in your life, it’s a clear indication that you better get ready because you’re about to learn something new and different that could potentially change your life for the better. Therefore instead of resisting fear, embrace it and see it as an opportunity that can help you to grow exponentially as a person.

Fear Often Never Materializes

How many times has your fear actually materialized in the way that you imagined? Probably not very often. Maybe even, never! The reality is, that you will often imagine the consequences of your actions as being far worse than what is likely to happen. This creates increased levels of doubt and uncertainty, and as a result you get caught up in your fears, and nothing positive happens.

Instead of fearing what could potentially happen, it’s better to just expect that your fears will probably never even materialize, and if they do, they will never be as bad as you imagined. Hopefully this can give you the confidence to begin moving beyond the fears that stand between you and the attainment of your goals and objectives.

You Can’t Control Everything

Not only are you unable to control everything, you also will never know everything, and you will often never have all the information required that you need to eliminate the uncertainty you feel moving forward. And this is perfectly okay.

You don’t need to know or control everything to venture into new territory. And you certainly don’t need to wait for the perfect moment to take action, because there is never a perfect moment. But if there was a perfect moment, then that perfect moment would be right now. And stepping into the unknown is the perfect thing you can do because you will immediately begin to desensitize yourself from the experience the moment you decide to confront your fear head-on.

Fear is No Match for Bold Action

Whenever you take bold action towards your desired objectives consistently over time, you will progressively break down the walls of fear. This will help you to build courage and certainty. It will also lead to new perspectives, understandings and knowledge as you continue to make progress along your journey — boosting your confidence along the way. Then eventually the discomfort you initially felt when you originally stepped into your fear will turn into comfort as you successfully expand your comfort zone.

Taking bold action and being willing to risk stepping into uncertainty is often the quickest and surest way to overcome all your fears.


Time to Assimilate these Concepts

Understanding Fear

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