Have you ever feared for your life?
I’m not talking about the thrill of driving through the game park and the lion jumps on top of your well-protected vehicle, or wondering if the roller coaster might derail as you loop around.
Have you ever felt like your life was hanging by a thread?
A few summers ago I was hiking with my twin daughters near Invermere, British Columbia. We were all alone, and no one knew where we were. The mosquitoes were insane so I decided to turn back and find a different trail.
That’s when I came face to face with a grizzly bear. He was silently following us. A mere 30 feet away.
I looked at him, and he looked at me. In those seconds, no one moved.
I felt the fear rise in my body. It started at my feet, rose up and made my knees weak. Up further and I needed to go pee. It finally hit my head. I immediately decided: NO! I cannot let this bear smell my fear. I mentally pushed the fear back down, and felt it drain from my body. I regained control of my bladder and stood strong.
What I felt was real, intense, primeval fear.
I will ask you again – have you ever felt real fear?
Most people will have to admit no, they haven’t experienced that kind of fear. Yet who hasn’t been paralyzed by fear? The fear of giving a speech, so palpable you think you might vomit. Fear of standing up to your boss. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of what others will think of you. Fear of standing out. Fear of blending in.
Fears of all kinds that keep you penned up. Fears that prevent you from following your dreams. These are manufactured fears. Fears you make. Fears that won’t actually kill you. Ok, the manufactured fear won’t kill you, but the resulting stress might!
The purpose of ‘real’ fear is to keep you safe. It forces you to make a decision (fight, flight or freeze) and then quickly gets you moving.
The purpose of manufactured fear is to hold you back. It is a construct of your brain and your subconscious. There are parts of your brain, like the amygdala, that scans your environment for danger. When there is no real danger, because we live in a generally safe society, it gets bored. Really bored. So bored that it will create a fearful moment from an otherwise benign situation.
If you believe that the world is a scary place, then you inadvertently train your subconscious to seek out fearful situations to reinforce this belief. This keeps your brain busy and happy, but it wreaks havoc on your life.
Everyone does this, so don’t beat yourself up. The first step is to recognize that you are doing it. Bringing it to conscious awareness is key.
Next, think back to all the times you conquered your fears in the past, and write them down. My list includes overcoming my fear of speaking in public, standing up for myself, people looking at me, sending out an e-newsletter to clients, and flying in a small plane in crazy weather.
Finally, when fear rises in your body, take a moment to recognize it as a manufactured fear, then recall your list of conquered fears. This is exactly the same ‘type’ of fear. You conquered it before, you can do it again. Feel the fear leave your body, just like I felt it leave mine when facing down the grizzly bear.
Do I still have fears to work through? You bet, but that’s ok, because I have this plan.
What if you have a real stubborn fear?
Fear is an emotion, and all emotions are states of energy that flow through your body. If the fear energy doesn’t flow through, then it gets stored in your body. Not good.
One technique to deal with a stored fear is Active Memory. It finds the source of the fear or phobia and clears it out of your system.
I work with your belief systems to help remove the need to be fearful in the first place. We can also retrain your subconscious to stop scanning for the potentially fearful situation and instead look for the safe path.
Don’t worry, this will not in any way affect your ability to deal with real fear. If you are walking all alone downtown at night and some dark figures approach you, and your ‘spidey senses’ start to tingle – pay attention and get yourself out of there.
Learn to use fear as it is meant to be used, take back your life, and live your dreams.