Everyone has fears. Fear is a normal response to living as it triggers specific behavioral patterns alerting us when we are in danger that threatens our well being or survival. Fear is the foundation of many of the uncomfortable emotions such anger. As such, anger is driven by fear. While fear pushes us to run away from the situation or the predator that risk us, anger push us to get closer and attack what threaten us. Anger and fear area natural and healthy emotions that exists to protect us, yet they have become a dominant emotions that paralyze and prevent us from living life to its fullest. Now anger and fear are hunting us and deterring us from achieving things that we want and should be able to attain.
Fear is not only physical, it is also psychological, a physiological and behavioral state. We can face fear in situations like public speaking, an exam, an interview for a new job, a date, a party or anything that might be challenging in some way.
Fear is a a great manipulator, and an exceptional storyteller. It always knows the defenses you’re building against it to overcome it, and so it knows how to direct your attention towards the possible loopholes in your plans so that you will fail. Once it has your attention, it creates and direct the most solid, powerful and paralyzing tales , ones that would put every director kneeling in shame.
Fear traps us within ourselves, in our own illusionary mind, where change is not accessible, where we are stuck in our history and judgment that inform our limited dreams, and consumed with limited ideas, but more importantly a place where we are unable to take any action.
How Do You Face Fear?
So how do you face fear and its companions?
Fear has companions, yes — sadness, anxiety, anger and despair, to name a few.
Here is a 6-step process:
- Recognize Your Fears
- Investigate Your Fears
- Harness Your Fear
- Share Your Fears
- Be Mindful of Your Fear
- Face Your Fear with Courage
1. Recognize Your Fears
It is difficult to conquer your fears if you’re unable to be honest with yourself in the first place about what exactly those fears are. Think of everything that you fear, or have feared in the past years, months or weeks.
Journal them; write them down.
This will give you a clear idea of everything that drains your energy, and holds you back. Next, add details to each fear. Be very generic about it, there is no need to get the specifics right just now. Add details including:
- Situations where you experienced it — e.g. group gatherings, one-on-one interactions, new opportunities, personal change, etc.
- Circumstances where you experienced it — e.g. when forgetting to do something, responding to an accusation, responding to a comment/question about you, explaining something, voicing your opinion
- The level of fear – make it a scale of 5 (moderate) to 10 (intense)
- The frequency with which you’ve experienced it —make it a scale of 5 (sometimes) to 10 (daily)
Once you have added the details, you might see patterns e.g. dominant fears, circumstances, situations or the people that trigger your anger, etc.
2. Investigate Your Fears
Once you know the fears you have been experiencing, understand how you reacted or responded to that fear.
For instance, you realized that you have a fear of being left out of a conversation, of not being heard or listened to, of failing to communicate yourself properly, or fearing that the other person might (or has) misinterpreted what you have said. How did you respond? With proactive reflection and understanding the situation, , you can investigate your fear and realize why it happened. For instance, your fear has made you a fast talker who tries to communicate as much as possible in the “short attention time” you have? How can you overcome it?
Analyzing your fear requires you to be critical with yourself, yet be careful not to be too harsh with yourself, so do it with softness and compassion. At times, this process requires external aid and support from people you trust and at times a professional psychotherapist.
3. Harness Your Fears
Harness your fear rather than deny it.
Fear, like other “negative” emotions, promotes becoming stuck– but if you can harness your fear, figure out what is behind it and then tap into the underlying energy it generates, you can utilize its power to move forward toward the person you want to become.
Harness the power of fear by knowing it fully. Accept your fear and meet yourself where you are. And, when you are ready, face it with courage and tunnel it toward where you want to go.
4. Share Your Fears
All fears, no matter how big or small are worse when we face them alone. Share your fears and talk about them with your trusted friends. Often times we are too hard on ourselves, and a friendly and a objective perspective can tone down the cynicism and self-criticism.
We also tend to resist admitting our fears because we are afraid that others will think less of us, that they will laugh or make things worse. Your true friends have observed your behavior and accepted you as you are. They may be able to help you see what you are afraid of in a new light and they will be there to stand by you and encourage you to take the steps to face your fears. Their insights can help you see the strengths that you have and how to utilize them, while at the same time motivate you to overcome your challenges.
5. Be Mindful About Fears
Once you know and understand your fears, you have to limit their power over you. Fear informs your vulnerabilities and insecurities, and can prove empowering when allowed to exist mindfully.
By practicing mindfulness, you can observe fear as a passing emotion without letting it control you. You allow yourself to experience your fears and the thoughts associated with that without judgment. When you practice mindfulness, you train your mind to stay with your fear, observe it and reflect on it when it arises, instead of reacting to it.
6. Face Your Fears with Courage
Finally, the last step is to actually face your fears with courage.
Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher, believed courage to be the most important quality in a man. He wrote “Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible.” To build a courageous character, the muscle of courage must be continually strengthened. Courage is an ethical habit that we develop by repeatedly practicing acts of bravery. This is by simply doing the right thing regardless of contradicting feelings.
Remember, facing your fears is a slow gradual process that requires you to be patient and committed. Focus on the process and not on the results.
The Bottom Line
Fear, like any other emotion, contains information and energy that can be very useful to you. If you understand what fear is all about and where it comes from, you can learn the tools to direct, utilize, and dissipate it. You can harness the power and energy of fear to be in a better place.
By understanding, investigating and facing your fears you will realize that they simply are for understanding yourself and opportunities for self growth.