Updated: May 29, 2020
There is a dark, oppressive energy that exists in all of us; the sentiment of fear. It has the ability to swallow us whole but we can disentangle ourselves if we can learn to overcome fear.
In order to free yourself from the menacing power of fear, you must first understand what it is and where it comes from. You can also create greater self-awareness by examining how fear is expressed.
Deconstructing the emotion of fear can make it more manageable so that it does not overwhelm you. And in befriending this emotion, you can gain control over it and use it to your advantage.
1. Understanding The Enemy
By definition, fear is an emotion that alerts us when we are in the presence of danger or threats. Fear can be divided into two reactions; biochemical and emotional.
The biochemical exhibition of fear is an evolutionary, endurance mechanism in humans; it’s a universal response that is key to our survival. The emotional expression of fear is far more subjective and individualized, depending on the specific person.
Fear can morph itself into other conditions, such as phobias, anxiety, and/or panic disorders. This is where fear can overcome and paralyze us, inhibiting our skills and our ability to make reasonable and rational decisions.
When disorders overpower our rational mind, we stop seeing fear as an emotional response that is separate from our being. Instead, we embody our fears, constructing an inseparable identity around them.
Understanding issues such as panic attacks and overcoming fear is possible once you understand your influence in the situation. Since emotional fear is created by you, inside of your mind, you also possess the power to dismantle it.
2. The Origins of Fear
Scientific studies have shown that fear is rooted within our amygdala, which is a part of the brain that creates memories of specific-and typically emotional-events. Biochemical fears are developed in response to the associations that are created by the amygdala, which help us to recognize dangerous threats.
Emotional fear is rooted in our social interactions. “Fear can be learned through direct experience with a threat, but it can also be learned via social means such as verbal warnings or observing others.”
From a young age, we are taught what we should fear; this can sometimes take on an abstract form, such as fearing failure or fearing that we will not be liked. The social lessons of fear can also extend themselves to social or cultural norms that are deemed acceptable.
For example, the abstract fear of failure does not present immediate danger to our lives. But if we have internalized past experiences with failure as something to avoid, we have now created a negative association between action and nonsuccess.
Negative memories accompanied by unpleasant emotions can further perpetuate emotional fears. These fears can then lead to inaction and/or the avoidance of life events.
4. How to Overcome Fear and Anxiety
Once you learn how to control fear and anxiety, it will no longer possess the ability to govern your life. One such way is to change the narrative in your head.
1) Changing the narrative entails removing barriers created by your mind that impede your success. It first involves deciding what you want to change and then ‘rewriting’ your script to create a new truth. For example, if you wish to overcome your fear of public speaking, you will need to commit to change. Instead of allowing your fear to dictate your path, set a goal to speak in a public forum.
Now that you have decided what you are going to change, you will need to determine how you will achieve your goal. Break your fear into smaller, manageable pieces so that you can tackle the barriers that are in your way.
2) You can transform your story of fear by altering your beliefs. Below are three steps that you can take, to change the narrative of fear:
Take the time to carefully examine your fears
See your fears as lessons, rather than problems
Make proactive choices, as the creator of your destiny
3) Another helpful tool in overcoming fear is through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT can be used to help manage fear by dismantling your current thought patterns.
CBT looks at the connection between your thoughts, emotions and beliefs around a feared situation. With guidance from a therapist, you are taken through a series of small, incremental steps that slowly alter the way that you perceive your fear.
For example, if you want to learn how to overcome a fear of conflict, a therapist may suggest that you write a letter, expressing your frustration. Then perhaps you may be instructed to read the letter out loud to a friend, to find your voice, and to gain control over your fear.
4) Mindfulness meditation can also offer relief in overcoming fear by increasing your self-awareness. Instead of becoming overpowered by fearful thoughts, meditation helps to ground you within the present moment.
Irrational fears, such as phobias, can take us out of reality, convincing us of a destructive, future outcome. Meditation allows us to focus on the ‘now’ with an objective view of our thoughts as separate from our true being.
Your fear and anxiety do not define who you are; fears are constructed by your mind. By observing your thoughts from a place of non-judgement, you can gain mastery over the mind, separating fears from your actual reality.
Fear is a natural emotion, caused by perceived danger or threats. Fear can be useful-even critical- to your survival as a human being.
However, fear can become a burden when you allow it to control your life and to have influence over your future path. Irrational fears can cause unsubstantiated anxiety, leaving you feeling crippled by your thoughts.
The good news is that you can overcome fear by understanding the intricacies of this emotion. Empower yourself by befriending emotions that once had control over you. Face your fears and do it anyway.
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