Are you gamophobic (afraid of marriage), or perhaps a pedophobic (afraid of children)? Perhaps, you are among those who fear facing an audience, dread interviews, or suffer from hundreds of other fears. Well, you are not alone. The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health says that there are over 10 millions in America alone suffering from various degrees of fears.
But what is fear? It is a distressing emotional condition triggered by impending threats, real or imagined, from injury, humiliation, and physical or emotional pains. Excessive fear is called “phobia”.
The emotion of fear is the body’s natural defence mechanism for self-preservation. However, too much of it can be disastrous and debilitating. It can be paralyzing to its victims thus disabling them to function normally.
Unless you are a super being, you fear a thing or two in your life that upset you or make you feel uncomfortable. The focus of your fear may not necessarily be an object but could also be a situation or an event such as talking to strangers or participating in a group activity, etc.
Whatever your fear is, it can hinder you from taking action like pursuing your goal or from being productive. Here are some tips to conquer what you are afraid of — how to overcome your fear of fears:
- You become what you think
Many of your fears stem from what you perceive of what might happen because of what you are. If you are frozen stiff of the thought of being ridiculed when speaking before an audience, it is because you lack the self-confidence you can do it. During this moment of deep anxiety, your exaggerated fear of being laughed at goes beyond reality. To overcome, therefore, your fear of facing an audience, think positive that you have the capability to talk to them. Forget the fear that you would be laughed at. Believe that you are an authority on what you would talk about and know more about your topic than your listeners do (or they would not have been invited to speak, in the first place). Do not allow your imagination get the best of you – remain positive and you are likely to stay calm.
Perhaps, hiding from what is inevitable may work at times, but not always, especially when you know that it will be always be there despite all your efforts to make it disappear. Running from what you fear would just delay it from coming or might make it worse. While waiting for it to happen, you are living in constant fear and you exaggerate its effect in our mind. The inevitable is not always about death. It could be as simple as being confronted by someone you slighted or you owe something. You know that sooner or later, your paths would cross and you dread that moment to happen. However, instead of letting your anxiety and fear haunt you constantly, a better option is for you to initiate the meeting and get over it sooner. The reaction you might get is not as bad as you imagine it would be. Your initiative to come out first might even dissipate the other person’s animosity about the incident. Remember that burying your head in the sand is never the answer to resolving your fear. The thought of it happening would just make your fear grow beyond reality and unnecessarily suffer from it.
As regards death, there is no way anyone can escape it. In most cases, people are afraid to die because they dread leaving their loved ones. It may sound heartless but why trouble yourself with others’ problems by your leaving them? Everyone should take care of his/her own problem, your loved ones included. Let them realize that you could not always be there for them so they could prepare themselves for the inevitable. Teach them how to take care of themselves, to learn how to be strong in life. Early preparation is the only way you can meet death calmly and fearlessly – for yourself and for the people you will leave behind.
- Face your fear
Running away from what you fear is not the way to get rid of them; facing them squarely is. In some cases, your fear will still be there, but not as strongly as prior to facing them. For example, your fear of deadly snakes or crocs may be justifiable but cringing at the sight of them even in films and pictures is taking it too far. However, in less hazardous instances, you can see them in zoos and learning more about them through their caretakers, or by learning more about them in books and films.
If you dread heights, getting up tall buildings or looking down from a safe observation ledges will help decrease or remove your fear. If you fear insects or reptiles, watching them at close range in a bottle or even touching them should do the trick.
Not only is fear a natural animal emotion, it is also needed for self-preservation. Being completely fearless is a myth (unless you were Superman). If you do not run away from a burning building or evade speeding cars, you are lucky to reach your teen years. Accept your fears but do not let them dominate your life that they hinder you from pursuing your goals or make you unproductive. Denying your fear to expose your vulnerability will not make it go away. Instead, it can slowly creep into your subconscious where it can do further damage to your mind and result to undetectable anxiety and other mental or psychological problems. By the way, even Superman fears krypton.
- Look at your fears from a different angle
You may find it rather odd but modern psychology says that fear can be pleasurable. Take the case of roller coaster riders, bungee jumpers, or gliders. Most of these adventurers fear the dangers their activities entail. However, instead of being cowed by their fears, they face them and eventually take pleasure in them.
Fear, like any emotions, is only a bodily state of arousal, of readiness for fight or flight. Humans have many ways of managing this state besides fighting or fleeing. They let themselves feel the fear because they are able, at the same time, to watch themselves actually doing it, rather than to completely get caught up in it. Hence, experiencing and watching what they fear makes them pleasurable instead of painful. They are more thrilled and fascinated in facing their fear than being afraid of it. By considering your fear as a positive source of energy, you can gradually accept and conquer it.
- Appreciate you effort to conquer fear
Getting out of your deeply ingrained fear requires great effort and dedication. Recognize and reward the effort you exert to encourage you to do more. Even the small steps you take can be effective in slowly erasing your fear until you free yourself from its clutches.
- Use your natural defense
Mentally count quickly up to 7 to clear your mind and take a breath in. Breathe out quickly as you count up to 11. Repeat the process until you calm yourself. This may probably take a minute or so. Feeling your lungs fully and emptying them completely is an excellent method to clear your mind and a powerful tool to allay fear. Fear can cause your brain to shut down that makes your body to react passively, thus paralyzing you to act. Deep breathing can short circuit anxiety in your brain. It calms down your body regardless of what your brain is causing you to think. This is an effective way of relaxing your mind and body to overcome the situation at hand.
- Discuss your fear
Acknowledge the fact that you are not alone in suffering from various fears. Psychologists recommend that their patients keep tract and document their feelings every time they experience fear. These will help in pointing out the triggers behind their inner fears. By going to the root cause of the fear, the chances of finding a cure for it improves. The advantage of expressing yourself is to help you vent out your fear and enable you to grab hold of the situation.
Everybody has fears to overcome. Letting them defeat you and rule your life can be disastrous. By practicing these tips, you are giving yourself the opportunity to maintain a brave front against your fears.