How to Make Friends with Fear
Have you ever stopped to think about the impact that fear has on your life? What are you most afraid of? Does it prevent you from succeeding in life or stop you from experiencing new things? Does it limit the people you meet or the conversations you have?
Fear can be one of the most debilitating emotions. I learned this at a very young age. It robs us of our power and can leave us feeling helpless. The emotion can arise even if the threat we’re experiencing is imagined.
But, fear isn’t always bad. It has a purpose and can be useful when the threat we’re experiencing is real, as it stimulates the necessary adrenaline to propel us into action in dangerous situations. But since so much fear comes from imagined peril, it can become disempowering rather than bene?cial.
In earlier civilizations, fear was one of the keys to survival.
With only basic tools for protection, humans relied on their own abilities to see when their lives were at risk. The fight-or-flight response, which is triggered by fear, produces adrenaline that helps humans run faster, fight harder, and escape danger. In the past this was instinctual: Our thoughts and emotions were aligned with the present moment. But somewhere in our evolution, fear shifted from being essential to our existence to extremely debilitating.
As societal structures were built to look after our immediate safety (such as emergency services, police, well-constructed buildings, locked doors, etc.) our fear was transferred to future happenings or imagined danger. Today it’s considered a negative emotion that prevents us from succeeding, and even causes sickness in our bodies. Most of us don’t want to feel afraid but often aren’t sure how to shake this response.
When the feelings of fear are based on something imagined, the adrenaline that’s produced creates a sense of discomfort— rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms, and stomach-ache, for example.
Since what we’re afraid of isn’t real, we’re unable to take the action necessary to escape it, and thus the chemicals created to propel us into action begin to debilitate us.
What we experience are feelings of agitation, anxiety, and discomfort. Instead of reacting, we try to address the fear in our minds, which often creates an endless loop of thoughts that keep us focused on a hypothetical situation that may actually never occur. The more we focus on the fear, the more helpless we feel.
It’s difficult to say for sure how the dread of future events became so prevalent in humans. Perhaps as our world became more complex, people began to feel intimidated by what they didn’t understand. As the pace of life began to quicken, and change happened at such a rapid rate, many individuals no longer felt as if they could keep up or remain in the present moment. The fear of the unknown has been around for a long time, but the more intricate and complicated life gets, the scarier it becomes. I believe that the human desire to be in control, coupled with our inability to predict the future, has intensified fear overall.
In order to protect loved ones, friends and even offspring, we tend to share our apprehensions with them, passing along all the associated negative emotions. If you’re a parent, when was the last time you expressed one of your fears to your children? Maybe you told them not to drive at night, to stay away from large crowds, to only travel to safe destinations, and to never talk to strangers.
How often have you instilled anxieties in your children that have made them so afraid that they lose the courage to be themselves?
I know my parents did this to me, and I’m still trying to undo the impact that it’s had on my life.
The cycle needs to stop! Instead of resisting or fighting our fears, we need to embrace them. Instead of raising our youth to fear failure, we need to show them how to embrace it and the lessons that come with it. Instead of conditioning them to be scared of getting sick, we need to teach them that they have the power to heal themselves. We still want them to learn how to be cautious and discerning, but not slaves to fear!
If we are going to empower the next generation to make friends with our fears, we need to start by leading a more positive example ourselves.
Take Action Challenge
Do you let your fears get the better of you? Do you pass your fears on to others in hopes it will protect them or even ease your own discomfort? The more that you resist your fear, the more it will persist. The more that you give your power to the imagined peril, the more real your fear will feel.
I propose we try a 7-day “Make Friends with Fear” Challenge!
For the next week, take a look at your greatest fears and see how many are based on future stories or past memories. If you feel any fear that is not RIGHT NOW, let it go.
Choose to substitute your fear thoughts with faith thoughts every time a new fear thought pops into your head.
It helps to write down all your fear thoughts as often as you can. Then write down new feel-good, faith thoughts right beside them. This will re-condition how your mind will work.
Another method to increase your awareness of your fear thoughts is to say the fear out loud every time a fear thought pops into your mind. This awareness will give you the power to change it to a faith thought.
And, the more you empower your faith thoughts, the more liberated you will feel!
Part of this blog is an excerpt from Michael’s new book Empowered YOUth: A Father and Son’s Journey to Conscious Living (Hay House).