Fear response is ingrained in us. It saved our ancestors and allowed them to make life and death decisions quickly. But in today’s world for most of us our fears are much less dangerous than say, a saber-tooth tiger.
Today our typical fears involve finances, public speaking, spiders, claustrophobia, and the like. It seems most people’s fears, are generally perceived fears. Our “worst case scenarios” and situations we’ve made up in our heads. In reality seldom does the average man face actual fight or flight dangers. Truthfully, most of us have very little to fear in life and have never really faced any mortal danger.
Although we don’t face death on the daily, our fear response is still there, ready to kick in at a moment’s notice. Fear is a powerful human emotion. It’s both biochemical and emotional. The biochemical response is pretty much universal. However, the emotional response can be highly individual.
We all know fear is a natural and primitive emotion. A survival mechanism. When confronted with a perceived threat, our bodies respond in specific ways. Our physical reactions include sweating, increased heart rate, and high adrenaline levels that make us acutely aware of our surroundings.
The emotional response to fear is typically personalized. Because fear involves a few of the same chemical reactions in our brains as positive emotions, like happiness and excitement. Feeling fear in certain circumstances can be seen as fun, for instance, when you ride a roller coaster or visit a haunted house. This appeals to the “thrill” side of our emotions and can give us a small but enjoyable endorphin and adrenaline rush.
While some people feed off this emotional high, like the preverbal “adrenaline junkie”. Others may have a completely negative reaction to the feeling of fear and will avoid fear-inducing situations at all costs. Although our physical reactions can be same, a small amount of fear may be seen as positive or negative depending on the persons emotions.
So, what causes fear?
Fear is an incredibly complex emotion. Some people’s fears may be a result of their life experiences or trauma, while others fear may represent something else completely, such as a loss of control of a situation. Some people may even experience the onset of physical symptoms, such as feeling dizzy, nauseous, and a weakness in the knees. For some, trying to avoid these symptoms alone is enough to make them avoid fear inducing situations.
As we discussed earlier fear is hardwired in your brain with good reason, so feeling fear is not a sign of weakness. The capacity to be afraid is part of your normal brain function.
I tell you these things because I need you to understand how fear works. Fear is a primitive response and survival mechanism that we have not lost. The human brain is efficient and can imagine all manner of terrible outcomes and scenarios and we can actually begin to fear a range of stimuli that are not scary or not even present. We get scared by what’s called “anticipatory fear” because of what we imagine could happen, and through a process called potentiation, your fear response can be amplified, especially if you’re already in a state of fear. So, the more frightened you are, the scarier things will become and because this is uncomfortable and crippling it is easily used to control or manipulate you.
Fear can dictate the actions you will take. Actions motivated by fear, are typically knee jerk and made hastily and are not always decisions based on all the evidence. While a quick reaction to jump out of the way of a moving vehicle that just ran onto the sidewalk is simple survival, making snap decisions based on perceived fear is not always good.
With all that’s going on in the world today It’s easy to let fear grip us and leave us in a sedentary state overwhelmed with anxiety, fear and invented doomsday scenarios. As men we must learn to leverage our fears and make them work for us. So, let’s turn our fear into a motivator. Let’s flip fear on its head. Allow it to push us to achieve our goals. Allow it to take us from a state of inaction to one of consistent positive action.
Look, I’m no motivational speaker. I’m no life coach or professional mentor. What I am is a guy who’s been down a few times. A guy who’s had the rug pulled out from underneath him more than his fair share. In short, I’m just a man; like you. I’ve seen some shit; I’ve been through some shit.
So, if you’re not sure how to move forward, or you asking me how do I get there? How do I turn this fear from an immobilizer into a motivator?
Well, I can only answer from experience. If you’re anything like me you’re definitely on the fight side of the “fight or flight” scale. For me fear typically makes me angry or ready to fight.
If that’s not you, perhaps it’s time for the worm to turn.
Like I said, I’ve overcome many fears and tragedies in my life. Some very powerful fears that in my mind I made out to be way worse than they were. When I was down this is always where I started to pick myself back up.
START BY DOING:
DO SOMETHING! ANYTHING! Get your mind off the bullshit and start working. Pick up that woodworking project you put off, get on that diet you forgot about, dust off those dumbbells and lace up those running shoes. Just get moving.
BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF:
Be honest about what you fear. In order overcome your fears, you must be honest about what you’re afraid of. How can you ever overcome something that you won’t to admit to yourself?
Admission of your own fear is difficult. Probably one of the most difficult things you can do. When you’re honest about your fears, it causes a change in your thoughts. It will expose what’s hidden in your subconscious and move it to your conscious mind. When we do this a powerful shift in our thoughts occurs. It allows us bare witness to our fears and take control over them instead of allowing them to run wild in your head.
It may help to write these things out and organize them. List the fear with both worst and best case scenarios. This will take some of the power away, and once you really begin digging you might just come up with some interesting solutions or outcomes to your problems or fears.
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF AND STOP MAKING EXCUSES NOT TO ACT.
This is pretty self-explanatory. If you perpetually think your life is shit, then it will be. Start celebrating the positive in your life. Enjoy the good people you know, your family your friends and start doing for others.
And keep in mind, nothing good ever came from feeling sorry for yourself & wallowing in despair.
J. M. Shoemaker
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