Principles for Overcoming Fear in Your Life
My Interest in Fear
This is a fascinating topic for me and to be able to write my ideas and thoughts about fear is exciting. Fear is an emotion shared by everyone and I do mean everyone. There is not a single person on the face of this earth now, in the past or in the future that has not discovered the grip fear can have. Not all people are readily able to recognize the feeling but I guarantee you it’s a common human trait. As a Christian I am told in the Bible that we are not given a spirit of fear but of power and courage and this is true.
My experience understanding emotions and feelings can be traced back to my earlier years as a substance abuse counselor within the Indiana Department of Corrections. I counseled some of the hardest most violent criminals in the prison system and learned a lot from those experiences which have carried with me over the past 7 years. I still work in corrections however my work is now more supervisory and administrative work.
What is Fear?
The first thing we need to understand about fear is what it is, physiologically, psychologically and environmentally. When we understand those components then we can make some assumptions about how to deal with it and even be able to change it into something useful and beneficial for the situation.
The physiological effects on the body caused by fear create an enhanced sensory experience along with heightened awareness of the environment. Fear can create what’s known as tunnel vision where all of the body’s senses and attention are focused directly on the threat and less on other environmental cues. Fear can cause headaches, diarrhea, vomiting, dry mouth and throat, increased adrenaline flowing throughout the body which causes other chemical reactions to take place. A person experiencing fear will probably report “butterflies” in the stomach which is a chemical reaction in the gut. There are many other chemical and biological changes the body experiences but this article will focus on the ways to overcome fear.
The psychological effects can be just as serious as the physiological ones. A person experiencing a strong sense of this emotion may avoid any type of stimulus that may cause that emotion to arise again. Depression, stress, anxiety, insomnia due to re-living triggers and events, irritability, aggression and the list goes on. To say the least, fear can create significant long lasting effects.
Scientists claim fear is an essential emotion for animals as it helps with survival. That assumption is then transferred to humans. They say we have evolved fear as an emotion for survival and so it has become natural and hard wired in our brain. I disagree.
Fear is an emotion that can be harnessed and changed into courage and power. Many people act heroically in times of great fear and this must be considered as this is how we are separated from the animal kingdom. For instance, the fireman and police officers that responded to the Twin Towers in New York City on 9/11/01. Many of them acted selflessly seeking out others to help and remove from the threat. This threat was immense and death was right around corner for these brave men and women every time they went back in to help more. The fear was stuffed down and courage rose to the surface and because of that courage, many lives were spared. Yes, other animals can act in incredible ways to protect their offspring and others but nothing like humans can do on a consistent basis.
3 Simple Steps to Overcome Fear
In order to overcome fear you must be willing to assess the threat or issue as it is. Denial will be your worst enemy and will cause more harm than good. You have to be able to recognize that if you don’t succeed at eliminating the threat, serious consequences will occur. Once you’re able to do this, you can move on to the next step.
The assessment is completed (in under a few seconds) and now it’s time to craft a plan. I say craft because it may involve using an enormous amount of brain power and creativity to eliminate the threat or problem in a short amount of time. The plan will should also only take a few seconds or less to devise and will probably come from your experiences and abilities your body will tap into. Once the plan is developed, implement it immediately because if it doesn't work you may have a chance to try something else. If this is a threat that doesn't require immediate action, but does require some kind of action relatively quickly, I would craft 3 different plans to eliminate the threat.
The final step is the plan working and the threat or problem has been eliminated. Congratulations, you just used the emotion of fear and acted in courage. You used your wits and possibly your braun to remove the threat and restore balance. Now, would you be considered a coward if ran instead of stayed to face the threat? Absolutely not! Your plan may be to flee and that may be the best option at that time for that situation. The key is to take some kind of action to avoid the consequences.
Great, so we’re done, right? Wrong. These principles work well for a situation requiring immediate physical action, but what about people that continuously experience fear spiritually, psychologically and physiologically? What about those that may suffer from a fear of success or are fearful of failure? These same principles can be implemented as well for those situations of sustaining fear however it we must tweek our formula a little.
First of all, most fear comes from the unknown. We can worry ourselves into a nightmare because as humans we want to know what’s ahead. We want to have control over everything in our lives, but that’s not possible. So, we must learn to give up control in situations where we know we have no control. I personally choose to give up control to Jesus Christ because he’s been my rock and I have never be let down. He has worked some pretty incredible miracles in my life and so that is where I place my trust. The same basic principles apply here as mentioned above. First you must assess the situation for what it is and come to grips with it. Denial once again is not your friend here.
You must next devise a plan that will help you overcome your fear. Most of the time in my own life, that means I must relinquish control over circumstances or people I cannot control to Christ and face the reality that I have no idea what will happen next. Giving up that control releases me from oppression, bondage and worry. The next task is to develop a plan. The plan does not have to be massive and overwhelming. Taking little steps will help and at least you’re taking action.
After your plan has been implemented, track your success. Create little goals if necessary and relish in your accomplishments as this will serve to reach further and higher. The sustaining fear is the type of emotion the Bible states we are not to surrender to. We have been given power and glory to accomplish great things for God or whomever you choose to worship or not to worship. Fear is a state of mind that can be controlled but it can only be controlled by giving up the illusion of control. We really have no control over anything except ourselves and attitudes. We are simply stewards of everything else.
Fear of success, failure, public places, snakes, spiders, or your in-laws can be managed and controlled by giving up control, facing the fear head on, creating a plan or several, implementing the plan(s), and tracking successes. Make sure to recognize the failures and make adjustments as needed but focus primarily on your accomplishments and enjoy true freedom!
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